Learn crowd control

10th June 2005 at 01:00
UNDER THE THRESHOLD: Techniques for handling pupil behaviour are out there

How would you deal with a child who told you to "Fuck off" and then claimed that he suffered from Tourette's syndrome so no one had a right to tell him off? What about the Year 9 boys who try to flirt with the young new female teacher?

Eleven to 14-year-olds are expert in the art of winding teachers up and newly qualified teachers are seen as fair game. The Teacher Training Agency's 2003 survey found that only 60 per cent considered their initial training good in helping them establish and maintain good discipline. The TES website is full of horrific examples of teachers having to cope with exceptional behaviour despite induction guidance from the Department for Education and Skills that NQTs should not face acute or especially demanding discipline problems.

As David Bell, the Chief Inspector, says in his annual report: "There is nothing more dispiriting for a teacher than to see his or her efforts diminished by disruptive behaviour." Having your school put into special measures has a dispiriting effect on teachers as well.

So what's the key stage 3 strategy for behaviour and attendance doing to help new teachers? None of the NQTs I spoke to knew. Ditto the induction tutors. Most don't even know who's in charge of the strategy at their school, let alone at their local education authority.

Marilyn Toft, KS3 strand director for behaviour and attendance, emphasises that the strategy is about organisational change not quick fixes: a whole-school approach to consistent behaviour involving everybody.

Behaviour for learning is the phrase - behaviour management is out - so that not only staff but pupils see that there are benefits for everybody.

Ms Toft admits that the strategy has been prescriptive so far "in order to give a very focused message", but promises that it is moving towards a more flexible approach, encouraging local networks and creative ideas. Local authority key stage 3 behaviour and attendance consultants target the schools and groups of staff who need help most in following through their action plans: training individual teachers and departments and modelling good teaching. This is crucial because the most saintly of students will go off task if the teaching is poor.

However, most newly qualified teachers are aware of what makes a good lesson. They don't need to watch the videos. What they have difficulty with is putting things into practice - getting the kids quiet to start with. Nor do they have much influence over the way classes are organised or the curriculum - and Ofsted reports that curriculum continuity is unsatisfactory in almost half of schools, with many Year 7 pupils marking time going over work they did during key stage 2.

The strategy has a plethora of useful and well-written materials. But there's too much. People need to use what's most appropriate for them, and finding it can be tough. Not many are designed specifically for NQTs.

The DVDCD-Rom Teaching and learning for new teachers in the secondary school: interactive study materials, is packed full of study materials, but no one I spoke to had heard of it, let alone used it. Perhaps that's because it's new - it came out a few months ago.

The DVD holds the equivalent of several weighty tomes and videos on one small disk so it will be great for somebody on the graduate teacher programme, but I can't see it going down well with NQTs - the intended audience.

Although not specifically linked to the KS3 strategy, there are some exciting projects around to help NQTs with behaviour. John Kirk is concerned that some initial teacher training providers offer little behaviour training within their courses and so works in Cumbria as a teacher coach helping leading behaviour teachers in a coachingmentoring role with NQTs who opt for such support.

David Scott, the Teacher Training Agency's regional induction consultant for East Midlands and the North, has found some excellent practice, such as Positive Solutions for Behaviour, the whole approach to behaviour that goes throughout North Lincolnshire. Consistent with the "Every Child Matters" policy, social workers, health visitors, school nurses and child and adolescent mental health personnel are trained too so that all professionals working with children speak the same language and use consistent strategies.

Two or three people from each school are trained as lead behaviour teachers who coach others, so NQTs not only benefit from working in schools where approaches are consistent but also get positive feedback on their teaching and well focused professional development.

In the words of Peter Hyman, the former adviser to the prime minister in Downing Street who now works as a teaching assistant at Islington Green school: "What is required on the front line are consistency, partnership and freedom to innovate."

The DVDCD-Rom'Teaching and learning for new teachers in the secondary school: interactive study materials' is available from DfES publications.

Tel 0845 6022260. (Ref. 0733 - 2004 DVD.)For details of Positive Solutions for Behaviour, the North Lincolnshire policy, contact Susan Kemp on 01724 297199

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