High price of bad behaviour

8th August 2003 at 01:00
Disruptive pupils have driven some schools to call on the help of expensive consultants. Genevra Fletcher reports

SCHOOLS are paying private consultants as much as pound;400-a-day to equip teachers with the survival skills they need to deal with disruptive pupils and aggressive parents.

Permanent exclusions rose by 4 per cent last year to 9,540 and teachers are reporting an increase in bad behaviour.

A 34-year-old comprehensive teacher from Kent, who did not want to be named, said: "Come to my school tomorrow and you'll see students running, fighting and screaming abuse. You confront their behaviour and you get f-ing and blinding, not contrition."

Five years' experience has taught English teacher Daniel Carpenter how to deal with classroom disruption. The 30-year-old, who starts as deputy head of English at Ackland Burghley comprehensive in north London in September, said: "Nothing prepares you for the casual disrespect you can experience as a new teacher. I once had a student in my form who was my height and extremely hostile.

"For years the school tried to accommodate his behaviour, but it took a more forthright attempt to address the problem. One day, having been confronted with some misdemeanor, he stormed out of class, kicking the door in. Three staff had to hold him back as he yelled abuse and threatened to assault a teacher. He dragged us down the corridor, kicking and screaming.

"Extreme scenarios like that are relatively rare. It's the low level disruption and rudeness that gets you down as a new teacher."

In the past few years, 15 private consultancies have sprung up offering schools behaviour management training that draws on assertiveness and personal safety techniques.

Steve Clarke, of Personal Safety and Public-sector Training, said: "Schools are beginning to realise their legal duty to provide a safe environment for staff under the 1999 Management of Health and Safety at Work Act.

"Things like carrying out risk assessments and devising strategies for pupil violence are issues the local education authorities cannot always help with."

Warwick Dyer, of Behaviour Change Consultancy, added: "Nobody likes to feel like a failure, but quite often teachers are actually relieved and want the consultation."

Teacher-training colleges are still blamed for the fact that many teachers feel ill-equipped to deal with bad behaviour. Last month's Office for Standards in Education report on secondary initial teacher training found behaviour management training is woefully weak.

But Mr Carpenter says the Government is responsible. "Training colleges have been marginalised and the postgraduate certificate in education cut to one year," he said. "The emphasis on inclusiveness makes a pariah of schools that exclude violent students. We need a debate inclusion's implications for teachers.

"The Government must give teachers more non-contact time to plan engaging lessons. The curriculum is the main area that government and schools can do something about.Too many students feel disaffected by a mechanical exam system which rewards diligence and hard work rather than innovation and creativity."

Contact Warwick Dyer on 020 8653 9768 or at www.behaviourchange.comContact Steve Clarke on 01425 622292

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