Fears that newly qualified teachers are insufficiently prepared to deal with disruptive pupils were among the key concerns of all the teaching union conferences held this Easter.
Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference in Gateshead presented a survey of 1,400 NQTs and trainees, which revealed that 97 per cent of NQTs rated discipline ahead of lesson planning, relations with other teachers and work-life balance on their list ofJclassroom worries.
Jan Dixon, NQT at a secondary school in London,Jtold the conference: "I found 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.
Often you have a male department head, and this doesn't help. You're asking a man to help you reinforce discipline, making you look inferior again."
Speaking at her union's Birmingham conference, Amanda Haehner, NASUWT national executive member for south London, proposed a motion calling for the Government to address the failure of many teacher training programmes to prepare new teachers to manage bad behaviour.
She said: "NQTs are taught about lesson planning and preparation. But what matters most on a day-to-day basis is classroom management. They feel increasingly unprepared for what they will face in the classroom." J Ms Haehner also called for the Government to monitor the quality of behaviour management training provided by each teacher training institution. "If they're lucky, trainees get a half-day seminar on behaviour management during the whole of their PGCE," she said. "They feel woefully under-prepared. For new teachers, any challenge to their authority can be a shock. They spend a long time preparing lessons, and then the pupils don't want to listen. When you're new to a job, that can be very discouraging. Teachers start thinking, 'Am I cut out for this?'"
Meanwhile, delegates at the National Union of Teachers conference, held in Torquay, called for the Government to invest in parenting classes to help control pupils' behaviour.
Sara Bubb, of London university's Institute of Education, agrees thatJclassroom management is a significant worry for most NQTs.
"On teaching practice, trainees will be given a class taught by a pretty damn good teacher," she said. "The pupils are already licked into shape.
But new teachers have to set everything up themselves. Often, they don't pitch lessons at the right pace. These sorts of things can escalate into behaviour problems."
But most of these, she said, could be solved through early intervention.
"Schools think they're doing NQTs a kindness by leaving them alone for a few weeks. But many NQTs try too hard not to be strict, or end up Hitler-like. They just need somebody to show them the way."