Unruly teens shatter young teachers' confidence

14th April 2006 at 01:00
Bad behaviour looms large at conferences, as NASUWT says new staff are 'woefully' uprepared to deal with it. Adi Bloom, Jon Slater and Graeme Paton report

Misbehaving and unruly pupils and violence in the classroom were constant themes at this Easter's teacher union conferences.

On Friday, the NASUWT, the second-largest union, will propose that the Government should address the failure of many teacher-training programmes to prepare new staff to manage bad behaviour. It is one of three motions dealing with pupil misbehaviour: more than half of those timetabled for public debate at the Birmingham conference.

The motion, proposed by Amanda Haehner, national executive member for south London, also called for the government to monitor the quality of behaviour-management training provided by each university. Ms Haehner said:

"If they're lucky, trainees are getting a half-day seminar on behaviour management during the whole of their PGCE. They feel woefully under-prepared. When you're new to a job, that can be very discouraging.

Teachers start thinking, am I cut out for this?"

At the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Gateshead this week, delegates presented a survey of 1,400 NQTs and trainees, which revealed behaviour was their key priority.

Ninety-seven per cent of NQTs rated discipline ahead of lesson-planning, relations with other teachers and work-life balance, on their list of concerns. Jan Dixon, NQT at a secondary in London, said: "The most difficult thing was trying to take an authoritative approach while being female and blonde. When you're tackling behaviour issues with 15-year-old boys who are much bigger than you, it can be very intimidating."

A separate survey of more than 800 secondary teachers by the ATL found that seven out of ten teachers have considered leaving the profession because of poor behaviour by pupils and three-quarters know someone who had.

Almost all teachers had had problems with disruptive pupils and more than a third have suffered mental health problems as a result. Alison Sherratt, ATL executive member and a West Yorkshire primary teacher, said: "Too many parents think teachers and schools should be accountable for everything that happens outside the school gate."

Ann Nash, from Thackley primary, in Bradford, told the ATL conference that the inclusion of pupils with special needs in mainstream schools was damaging the schooling of others in their class.

Graham Byers, NASUWT Nottingham branch secretary, called for every local authority to provide referral units to take disruptive pupils. He said:

"I'm all for inclusion, but often there aren't enough resources or support for disruptive pupils in the mainstream. It's other pupils who suffer. The umbrella rule is that every teacher should be able to teach, and every child should be able to learn."

The union is also demanding a national register of physical and verbal attacks on teachers.

The National Union of Teachers conference, which opens on Friday in Torquay, will hear calls for the Government to invest in parenting classes, to help control pupils' behaviour.

And on Sunday, the union's Croydon branch will propose a campaign to highlight the negative effect of anti-social behaviour orders, which they say have demonised children. Croydon delegates will claim that Asbos are "evidence of a repressive regime, rather than a supportive attitude by Government towards young people". They will also criticise the high number of pupils, particularly ethnic-minority students, excluded every year.

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

platform 15 Civilised affair: delegates arrive at the ATL conference in Gateshead.

Issues of concern this year included the exam system - ATL leader Mary Bousted told the conference that children were being "tested to destruction" - and faith schools; delegates passed a motion calling for public funding for new faith schools to be stopped by 2020

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