Ill-disciplined pupils make teachers quit

24th March 2006 at 00:00
New teachers around the country are sent into the classroom with only basic instruction in behaviour management. Many complain their training courses provide only one or two lectures in classroom control.

Starr Green, a 26-year-old languages teacher, finished her PGCE at Leeds university last June. She received only two lectures on behaviour management. "They said, if you're well-organised and your lessons are well-planned, then behaviour will take care of itself," she said.

"And I was told, you can always keep misbehaving pupils for detention. But I didn't know what to do with them there. Managing behaviour is the biggest worry for new teachers."

After workload, poor pupil behaviour is the most common reason cited by teachers leaving the profession. A third of departing secondary teachers blame behaviour, as do 12.1 per cent of primary teachers. It is a particularly significant factor among those teaching fewer than five years.

Last year, the Teacher Support Network received 291 calls from teachers facing problems with discipline and classroom management.

Zoe Wood, a 23-year-old science NQT, was told by a pupil to "fuck off, you bitch", two days into her new job. She had received only a single hour-long lecture on classroom management during her PGCE at Bath university: "They said, keep everything interesting and there shouldn't be any problems. But there are so many points when I go home in tears, so many moments when you think, they'll never respect me, I don't want to teach."

Many new teachers find that a lack of classroom management training forces them to reconsider their suitability for the job. Sarah Neary, 27, who trained in Edinburgh, was among them: "You start doubting yourself and questioning your ability as a teacher. As the kids get noisier, you raise your voice, and the classroom just gets louder and louder.

"I learnt the majority of behaviour management strategies through talking to colleagues, asking what you do when this or this happens. What you might do instinctively isn't necessarily right."

Andrew Martin, a 31-year-old maths teacher, agrees. He received only a single lecture at his West Midlands university, followed by a seminar in which students discussed behaviour strategies, without tutor input.

"On the PGCE, you write assignments on obscure things you never use in teaching," he said. "I don't remember writing one thing about discipline.

Children behave worse in the afternoon than the morning. And the weather affects their behaviour. No one explained these things to me."

But the Training and Development Agency for Schools insists that new teachers are sufficiently prepared. Graham Holley, executive director, said: "The idea that behaviour management training is left to chance is unfounded. If there were any course in the country where teachers weren't being prepared properly, it would lose its accreditation."

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