Left alone to do battle
Teachers are struggling against worrying trends in pupil behaviour. That is the conclusion contained in the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) report launched in the Senedd yesterday.
The 160-page report exposes the inadequate way the Assembly government has tackled rising truancy and bad behaviour in Wales by children as young as five.
A lack of investment in training and research, along with the absence of all-Wales guidance on physically restraining pupils, means staff are battling to keep control of classrooms.
And while schools will undoubtedly face criticism for a rise in unofficial, even arranged, exclusions, it is evident that a lack of support from the top is behind the trend.
The report, which has taken two years to complete, has been hailed as the most comprehensively researched in UK history.
Schools and teachers in Wales can pride themselves on its conclusion that most are well-ordered. This is despite teachers feeling "increasingly threatened" in the classroom, but afraid to tackle violent pupils for fear of losing their jobs.
The report says more children are being left to roam the streets, often with the agreement of heads, parents and local authorities.
Parents interviewed by the NBAR gave trivial reasons for their children being excluded - including having their hair dyed.
The report calls for schools with above-average exclusion rates to be investigated, and for a change to the law. But, unlike England, there has been hardly any investment or research into the causes of bad behaviour. Teacher-training courses in Wales are not obliged to teach a module dealing with bad behaviour, and no central budget is available for on-the-job training.
Despite annual figures being released, the report says the true level of exclusion is still not known.
"The use of permanent exclusion provides a true measure of a school's frustration with pupils' behaviour," it concludes.
There is also no additional central funding for schools to manage exclusions, in contrast to England.
A lack of action to prevent children leaving primary school unable to read or write is believed to be the trigger for unruliness and absenteeism among Wales's teenagers.
In England, the cost of this, in terms of future unemployment and even imprisonment, has been estimated at as much as pound;53,098 per year for each person up to age 37.
Elsewhere, disaffected pupils interviewed by NBAR say they want teachers to be firm and fair; and some would prefer an "army style" approach. Many supply teachers are viewed by pupils as "fair game".
Children were found to be behaving badly earlier - age five on average - and truancy is on the rise in primary schools. But primary teachers and heads are ill-equipped to deal with pupil misbehaviour.
Alcohol abuse has also increased, particularly among teenage girls likely to form gangs. The spectre of suicidal pupils was also raised after the recent spate in Bridgend, as well as the rise in social networking sites promoting violence.
Professor Ken Reid, vice-chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University and NBAR chair, said: "Problems are starting at an earlier age - in some cases as young as five."
More from NBAR, page 4.