Why behaviour is a problem in our schools…

I read on Twitter recently that one user was upset that somebody had claimed that behaviour needed sorting in the country and they didn’t agree because it’s “not the case for the whole country.” Whilst I am sure there are schools where the children are polite, well-mannered and well-behaved, it doesn’t take away the fact that there are plenty of schools where they are not and that there are teachers having to put up with abuse from children every day. Without something being done nationally, this is unlikely to change for those teachers as it is clear that the schools themselves cannot get a grip on this type of behaviour.

The NHS have a no-tolerance policy. If you verbally or physically abuse staff, you are refused medical treatment (or these are the signs that are all over my doctors surgery anyway). Why is is not the same in education? I understand it is more complicated to do it with education, but why is there not a zero-tolerance policy in some schools?

I understand we have to manage behaviour as practitioners. I understand the school has a behaviour policy that we are to follow. However, I have yet to see one that works just because it exists. My other half is currently at a school with a very tight behaviour system and he feels like a new person. He is one of the lucky few working in one of those schools.

I would say that our school policy is tight on paper. However, the students disregard it because they can and because they don’t know any better and it is not enforced by everyone so there are gaps.

I am currently pregnant. Everytime I am involved in confrontation from a child for something they haven’t done – like not bring in their homework – it causes me stress. This stress is affecting my unborn baby. So why can’t I have a zero-tolerance policy? Because the school system means I have to allow the child 4 opportunities to get it right before I can remove them from my room. That is 4 occasions where I am dealing with stressful situations. Usually, 4 occasions where a child is shouting, arguing or refusing to do what I’ve asked.

The students do it because they can. I am not going to raise my voice, nor am I going to argue with them. I am pregnant, my priority is my unborn child and keeping my classroom at minimal stress levels.
I would say I am quite a strong behaviour manager, I am very strict and follow the policies and have high expectations. But I still have problems with behaviour from children whom no member of staff can control – not even the senior leaders.

I was recently asked by a middle leader at our school to grade where I thought our school behaviour was. I replied I think it is a 3, requires improvement. My reasoning behind this is that there are a lot of ‘big’ names who misbehave and because of the time and attention they take up, the low-level disruptors and those who are far from perfect but not as bad as the ‘big’ names get away with it. He said ‘I think it’s a 2, because of the area we’re in.’ How is this acceptable? So, because I am not in a leafy suburb I can’t have the same expectations? I am expected to tolerate it because I don’t work in a ‘nice’ area according to some.

I expect to be able to teach without being consistently spoken over. I expect to sanction as necessary without arguments from children. I expect to be able to talk to a child about them not achieving and them take responsibility for that and say yes Miss, I am in the wrong and I need to step up.

It is tiring, day after day to fight these battles with children who do want to achieve but somehow think that it is not their responsibility to get themselves there.
I am speaking about a minority and I know there are plenty of lovely children in these schools too. Unfortunately, I think they are also fed up of them and fed up of having disrupted lessons and stressed wound-up teachers.

I am on the side of this debate that says something definitely needs to be done.

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Time is a wonderful thing… but we don’t have any in RE!

It’s the start of a new term and that usually means new topics. I love new topics, it makes me feel like there is lots of time stretched out in front of me for me to get my little kiddiewinks to understand some deep theological concepts.

I always get that ‘fresh’ feeling with a new topic like this is the one we will do justice to.

However, what also comes with a new term is an analysis of last half term’s assessment results. I didn’t conduct an assessment in RE last half term as it was the Christmas term and when it came to assessment week I realised the majority of my classes had only had 3-4 RE lessons. That’s correct, 3-4!!! This was due to various things such as trips and christmas activities, christmas lunch and so on. I am not a Grinch and didn’t stop any of these things from happening, but in hindsight I probably should have. So, what did they learn in that half term? How much could they possibly have progressed in 3 lessons? Not very far is the answer and suddenly that dream of covering deep theological topics has disappeared, gaps have been left open and I have to move on in the new term or we won’t have covered anything by the end of the year!

After chatting to Johnny Porter from Michaela quite a bit last year, I decided my curriculum would go for depth rather than breadth. This was a wise decision with the number of lessons I get weekly as it meant I could allow students to really develop religious literacy rather than moving them onto a new religion to develop the same skills (which was not many) as before. So I chose to study just 3 topics a year (1 per term rather than half term) and I chose to include the topics that often get left out. I felt this was the best decision for creating a strong foundational knowledge of at least 2 religions before the students reach GCSE.

So I am now in January and looking back on my 1st half term of study, I can honestly say that they did learn a great deal. I have pupils who are lower ability on entry than most other schools and yet they could explain to me why the Synoptic Problem is a problem. I was over the moon; but, they barely progressed in the 2nd half term and all of that was out of my control.

I feel sad. I know some would argue that I should have scrapped moving on and stuck with it, but due to school plans and assessments and exams and a child’s attention span, I just didn’t have that luxury.

I also teach History and Geography this year and they have two lessons a week. What a difference it makes! The students are more engaged, yet they have the same teacher (me) for these subjects as RE and they retain information better.

I feel like I am fighting a losing battle in RE. I really believe in the importance of our subject. I have put my heart and soul into developing a deep curriculum which allowed them to explore more within a religion rather than doing whimsical studies that are too quick for anyone to learn anything. But the time issue comes up again – how much can one really do with one 50 minute lesson a week? How much can I really do if I have seen my pupils 3 times in a half term?

It’s put me off putting in all this effort if I’m honest. I could roll out three rubbish lessons and it wouldn’t make a difference to the epic ones I planned originally.

I am not saying I will stop creating decent lessons and a healthy curriculum, but it does make me wonder about whether or not anyone really takes our subject seriously except for us teachers.