Pupil conduct deteriorates as recession hits

5th December 2008 at 00:00
Behaviour and building initiative are early victims of credit crunch

The economic crisis will lead to worsening behaviour in schools as families struggle to cope with redundancies and mortgage arrears, the minister of state for schools has warned.

Jim Knight suggested teachers and heads could help by providing parents with emotional support.

"There will be uncertainty for those families going through redundancy, and for those families going through stresses around an uncertain future for their housing," he told the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust conference in Birmingham last week.

"Those stresses potentially, I'm sure - if they haven't already - will start to be reflected in behaviour in schools."

After his speech, Mr Knight said he had been told of schools where behaviour had already begun to worsen following local redundancy announcements.

"It stands to reason," he told The TES. "It reinforces the need to ensure that the relationship between home and school is sharp and positive."

Mr Knight cited a primary in his Dorset constituency where a member of support staff had been trained to help pupils and parents deal with their worries.

"She regularly sits in her office with very emotional parents, giving them support, and that in turn helps them in the parenting of their children," he said.

Jane Lees, Association of School and College Leaders president, said she remembered the last recession leading to poor behaviour when she was teaching in Southport and Skelmersdale in Lancashire.

"There was no doubt about it," she said. "When a family went into crisis because of the economic impact on the father or mother, the children often didn't want to let parents know their concern, so they took it out on the school and even on their friends."

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said he expected the behaviour of middle-class pupils to be particularly affected.

"I think the economy will cause stress in homes that are not the usual suspects," he said. "Behaviour support services tend to be aimed at deprived areas. We need to make sure the leafy lane schools are helped as well."

Mr Knight was also asked how the economic crisis would affect school budgets, but was unable to provide much reassurance for the long term.

In a hesitant answer, he said: "Obviously it's early days. One of the things that has been so stark about what has gone on in the past few months is it is quite difficult to predict exactly what will happen.

"I am certainly glad that it has come during the first year of a three- year spending settlement rather than at the end.

"I am absolutely confident that we can sustain the three-year funding settlement that we have given to schools."

l ministers want every school to take on at least one teenager as an apprentice teaching assistant amid fears they will struggle to find placements in the recession.

The Government is committed to providing an apprenticeship for every 16 to 18-year-old who wants one after it raised the compulsory age of education and training.

But two influential Parliamentary committees warn in reports published today that the economic downturn will make this difficult, and that schools are well placed to offer apprenticeships.

Privates lose, we gain, FE, page 1.

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