Tony Curtis, teaching assistant, King Edmund Community School, Yate
“Behaviour problems in schools are on the increase and to some people this is a disturbing and alarming fact. But for many who work with such problems it is an inevitable consequence of the systematic closure of special schools, the promotion of wholesale inclusion, and the lack of funding that has followed these children into the mainstream schools they now attend.
“Children with behavioural problems, I think, fall into three main categories: those who choose to misbehave in school, those who haven’t been taught how to behave properly and those whose medical conditions cause behavioural problems. All of these children usually fall within the remit of the special needs department in some form or another, whose staff work tirelessly to support these pupils. The school’s behaviour policy will also set out procedures for teachers to follow in dealing with unruly pupils.
“In more extreme cases, outside agencies are called in and specialist places are sought for these children within organisations. But these places are like gold dust and are highly under-funded.
“There are strategies out there that work in schools, specialist places to support the pupils, and health specialists for guidance. But what is missing is the funding for more places, more resources and more manpower to increase this provision to make inclusion and support for these pupils more effective.”
Ian Vinall, strategic manager, Families and Schools Support, West Sussex Council
“Meeting the challenge of managing behaviour by enhancing the capacity of teachers and support staff cannot be done in isolation of a pupil’s wider network. It must also include providing support to parents and developing a community’s capacity to support positive behaviour.
“Behaviour is a product of context and situation affected by home, school, community and all human interactions.
We must acknowledge the impact of the educational setting, culture, organisation, and curriculum on the management of pupil behaviour.
“Those settings judged to manage behaviour well focus on pupils’ strengths, give responsibilities to pupils, provide clear rewards and sanctions, and involve parents and carers.
“West Sussex has taken the initiative, as one of the newly formed children’s trusts and as a beacon council for integrated children’s services, to address these issues in a coherent and joined up way.
“Collaboration between schools is key, as is working with other agencies to support the needs of pupils with challenging behaviour. The development of the multi-agency joint access teams, co-located multi-agency teams and the extended schools programme, together with the essential commitment of professionals to share skills and knowledge, will allow West Sussex to promote positive behaviour in school to the benefit of the young person, their family and the wider community.”
Dion Peters, parent
“As a parent, I feel very passionately that the buck stops with me regarding the final responsibility for my children’s behaviour. This is why prevention is better than cure and the demarcation of boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour must be set from pre- school. However, it appears that the sins of children are now being visited upon their parents. And some of the measures being employed to call parents to account are too extreme in my estimation.
“While I feel that parenting contracts may be deemed a necessary evil as a desperate measure for a desperate situation, penalties of fines may not be helpful to many families who are already suffering from social issues which may be the root cause of some of the dysfunctional behaviour displayed by their children. I have even heard of a case of a mother being sentenced due to her daughter’s continual truancy.
“It’s hard to put a fine point on exactly what measures might be taken in tackling issues of dysfunctional behaviour but I have observed the valuable contributions of mentors, particularly male mentors, in schools. The work of these mentors is really developing children’s self-esteem by setting and rewarding achievable targets.
“There must also be more educational support officers who liaise between parents and schools, making home visits if necessary. These measures are being proven more and more effective.”
Ray Powell, teacher, south London
“Until recently I was an English teacher in a large comprehensive school in south London. However, after much thought I resigned last year because I felt unable to meet the demands the job placed on me and, to be frank, I was heartily sick of dealing with loutish, aggressive and downright unpleasant behaviour from the pupils.
“The difficulty is not that all kids nowadays are louts. The difficulty is that a few kids are making life unpleasant for everyone around them: it doesn’t take many kids intent on causing disruption to do so, and even so-called “low level disruption” is mightily off-putting.
“The vast majority of kids, even in a challenging school, are OK. They want to learn and get on; they respect themselves and others. However, there is a hardcore antisocial element prevalent in some schools which has a disproportionate impact.
“The national curriculum is inappropriate for a good many kids, with its emphasis on academic achievement. This is fine in principle, but in practice it is alienating large numbers of kids who don’t see the relevance of studying Shakespeare to their lives or aspirations, which are often limited anyway.”
“Education is a right for everybody, but it also carries a responsibility to participate and give others a fair chance of success.”
Rameez Rahman, pupil, Preston Manor High School, Wembley, London
“In the last academic year, our school council reformed and had a totally new structure. This new system involved students having their own say in how the school ran. I held the post of chair of the school council, which involved me leading and managing meetings.
“We felt that teaching and learning and behaviour were the two areas that needed improvements so developed two projects.
“We started The Behaviour Panel Project because we found out that pupils’ learning was disrupted by low level misbehaviour. The idea of this project was to involve pupils in becoming responsible for their own behaviour. It was to be a mini-court of children, deciding on punishments for so-called ‘bad behaviour’.
“First of all we launched a poster campaign across the school to raise awareness of bad behaviour in classes. As the next step, the school council will interview pupils who wish to become part of the panel and will choose suitable candidates for the position of behaviour councillors – two from each year group. All panel members will receive mediation and conflict resolution training.
“The behaviour panel will carry out a small survey to find which areas of the school are most likely to be trouble spots for misbehaviour. They will then come up with strategies for dealing with these, and will also hopefully promote positive behaviour.
“We also developed the Lesson Observation Project. We started this as we wanted students to be more involved in their own learning, and we want to have a dialogue between staff and pupils about teaching. Members of our school council are trained in observation techniques. Teachers who consent to lesson observation will be observed by the members and given feedback.”