29 Jul 10

Have you been kicked, punched, spat at or told to "**** off!" at work? School staff have.

When we go to work, many of us might expect to be busy, perhaps stressed. We might not always get on with some of our colleagues. The boss might get angry from time to time. But how many of us would put up with being been kicked, punched, spat at, having furniture thrown at us or being told to "**** off!" on a regular basis? We wouldn't, but we know that is the experience of many teachers, teaching assistants and other professionals in schools. If you were picturing rowdy teenagers in a secondary school, all of those incidents took place a in a primary school!

On the other hand, the 2009 Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research found that behaviour was improving and that "An overwhelming majority of teachers over 90 per cent believe all or most pupils are generally well behaved around the school". While it is reassuring that serious indiscipline and violence are still relatively uncommon in Scottish schools, low-level indiscipline still is a cause for concern for many staff.

Voice recently gave a cautious welcome to plans for new disciplinary and search powers in England.

Clearly greater disciplinary powers and clear guidance on their enforcement would be welcome, both to improve pupil behaviour and to protect staff, but it is essential that funded training is provided on physical restraint and that the training is consistent in terms of who provides it and what it involves.

Talking about using 'force' and 'good order' might make ministers sound macho in the media and go down well with the public, but it is crucial that staff, pupils and parents know what the powers, and that they are interpreted and used in the same away across the country, to avoid accusations being made against staff or litigation threatened by parents.

Now the House of Commons Education Select Committee has announced a new inquiry into behaviour and discipline in schools and is inviting written submissions (by noon on Wednesday 29 September 2010) on the following points:

  • how to support and reinforce positive behaviour in schools;
  • the nature and level of challenging behaviour by pupils in schools, and the impact upon schools and their staff;
  • approaches taken by schools and local authorities to address challenging behaviour, including fixed-term and permanent exclusions;
  • ways of engaging parents and carers in managing their children's challenging behaviour
  • how special educational needs can best be recognised in schools' policies on behaviour and discipline
  • the efficacy of alternative provision for pupils excluded from school because of their behaviour
  • links between attendance and behaviour in schools; and
  • the Government's proposals regarding teachers' powers to search pupils, removal of the requirement for written notice of detentions outside school hours, and the extent of teachers' disciplinary powers, as announced on 7 July.

Voice will be considering its response and, to inform that, is interested in your opinions and experiences. (You can use an anonymous username if you prefer.)

One area that is sometimes overlooked when school discipline is considered is parental responsibility. How much responsibility should parents and carers have for their children's behaviour at or on the way to, school both in terms of promoting good behaviour and in being held to account for the actions of their children? We would be particularly interested in your views on that....

Update: fall in exclusions (BBC): DfE stats Voice comment



New poll on pupil behaviour - see Voice Poll above right.

Whilst working in mainstream secondary school I suffered verbal abuse on a daily basis, had furniture, books etc thrown around the room and was assaulted for keeping a pupil behind for ten minutes as he had arrived about 30 mins late for the lesson (I was covering it)

I went off work with a depressed disc and trapped nerve. Whilst off sick I was unfairly dismissed but thanks to Voice got a satisfactory settlement.

Now I work in special ed and get the off thump, kick or spat at but this is from EYFS who are learning correct behaviour and the staff are brilliant and supportive!

Voice's Official Response now available (along with the Committee's report) at http://www.voicetheunion.org.uk/behaviourinquiry

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