Classroom discipline report

15 Apr 2009

  A lot of news coverage today for Sir Alan Steer's report on behaviour in schools. That is good. This is an important subject and Sir Alan is, as ever, very sensible as you'd expect from a recentoly-retired, and succesful, head teacher. 

But  there is always a danger that people get carried away on the matter of school discipline. As Sir Alan says 'overall standards are good and have improved in recent years'. But you would not think that if you believed all the doom-mongers who suggest every state school classroom is out of control.

That is not to say that teachers have an easy job. They do not. Parents are not always supportive. And politicians have a tendency to intervene.

So two important messages from the Steer report. First, there should be no targets on the number of pupils excluded. If you remember, the Labour government set targets to reduce expulsions by one-third soon after they came to power in 1997. It was a bad mistake. Head teachers felt it limited their powers to discipline.

 The second message is for the Conservatives who would like to get rid of the appeals panels which can overturn expulsions (although in fact reinstatements as a result of appeals happen in only 1% of cases). Sir Alan says the independent panels should not be abolished. He is right. Natural justice alone requires some right of appeal. Moreover, without it, cases might only end up in the law courts instead.


User Comments

Joe Nutt - 17 Apr 2009

Teachers and Discipline.

In many ways this is the single, most important issue in UK schools today, not because the unions say so, or because the government has commissioned a report, but because in children, lack of discipline is symptomatic of a counter learning culture. But the corollary is equally true, though far less frequently acknowledged. Where teachers are either disinterested or indolent about exercising discipline, the result is exactly the same: a counter learning culture. It takes a lot of consistency and effort to be a disciplined teacher. You not only have to predict and design sanctions for a whole range of likely misbehaviours, you have to enforce them consistently and repeatedly. No policy or advice will work unless all teachers shoulder that responsibility and sadly, many UK teachers not only do not: but they even reject it as authoritarian.

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