Try a little tenderness

6th July 2007 at 01:00
Pupils are more co-operative if teachers understand their anxieties, says Ofsted

TEACHERS SHOULD adapt their lessons to take account of pupils' emotional needs if they want to improve behaviour and attainment, according to the schools' watchdog.

Pupils are more respectful and better at teamwork when teachers show they understand their anxieties at being in school, Ofsted says.

The inspectorate's findings come from a pilot project into developing pupils' social, emotional and behavioural skills (SEBS), which has been run in 54 schools since 2005.

Schools that made the philosophy integral to all lessons had the most success. It failed to have any effect when it was treated as a "bolt-on" to PSHE lessons, inspectors said.

Some teachers in the pilot schools were reluctant to get involved. They feared that it would create extra work and questioned whether it was their role to work on children's development.

Academically high-achieving schools were worried the approach might damage results.

However, where school leaders embraced the idea and provided extra training, teachers made quick progress in adjusting their lessons.

Christine Gilbert, chief inspector, said: "The programme has aided teachers' understanding of how to develop pupils' social, emotional and behavioural skills in a relatively short period. Ofsted witnessed changes in pupils' behaviour which will benefit them in the long-term."

Clive Bush, head of William Howard school in Brampton, Cumbria, said the approach could be incorporated in all lessons. In his school, teachers greet all pupils by name at the door of the classroom to make them feel more at ease.

In maths, teachers ask pupils how they feel about the lessons to show it is normal to feel worried when faced with difficult or new problems. At the end, pupils are asked to review their feelings about different parts of the lesson.

"If children have a sense of security in the classroom, they learn better," said Mr Bush.

"We have to develop a climate that encourages children to feel confident. It cuts down disruption and allows pupils to ask questions freely when they don't understand."

Chipping Campden School in Gloucestershire has opened a support centre that offers counselling and anger management sessions. It also features weekly aromatherapy massages to help relax pupils.

The centre costs the school about pound;90,000 a year to run, pound;60,000 of which comes out of its own budget, but Jeff Price, the headteacher, said it had improved the whole school.

The SEBS initiative was started with the aim of developing children's skills in five key areas: self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy and forming positive relationships.

While the pilot was running, the Government decided to expand its scope and re-name it secondary Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning, which now runs in about 60 per cent of primaries.

Today, the Government announced a pound;3 million package to develop the scheme. Schools found it difficult to evaluate the impact of the programme and needed clearer guidelines from the secondary national strategy to help them to monitor and evaluate effectiveness, inspectors said.

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