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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Unruly pupils 'turn people off teaching'
Pay and workload also discourage teachers
By BBC News Online's Gary Eason at the NASUWT conference in Jersey

Increasingly aggressive and badly-behaved children with "ineffective and apathetic" parents are said to be a major factor in driving people out of teaching.

Tony Hardman, incoming president of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said there was a need to recreate the classroom where teachers could do their work without fear.

In his speech to the union's annual conference, in Jersey, he identified pay and workload as other key factors in people either leaving the profession in England or not wanting to enter it.

And he warned the government that teachers' mood had changed in recent months to one of anger and resentment.

Shortage of teachers

Mr Hardman said he had predicted the current "critical" shortage of teachers some years ago.

As a head teacher - of Archbishop Beck High School, a sports specialist in Liverpool - he had experienced first hand how even English had now become a "shortage subject".

Tony Hardman
The incoming president has experienced teacher shortages first hand
Last autumn he had advertised for a teacher of English - and had no replies.

Pay levels were being addressed by the government only through "temporary gimmicks" such as "golden hellos" for new recruits, Mr Hardman said.

Ministers made "positive noises" about reviewing teachers' workload but new initiatives "still roll inexorably off the conveyor belt".

Scottish deal

The answer to the pay and workload issues was there for all to see, he said, with teachers in Scotland having won enhanced pay and a move to a 35-hour week.

But the other issue increasingly affecting the retention of teachers - which would ultimately affect recruitment - was poor pupil behaviour.

"As I move around the country, I am bombarded with complaints about violent and disruptive pupils," he said.

"Even in socially advantaged areas of the country, teachers are witnessing a dramatic deterioration in pupil behaviour.

"Hardly a day goes by without an incident of outrageous behaviour being reported."

Expulsions overturned

This was not a case of "whingeing teachers" - even the school standards minister and the chief schools inspector had acknowledged that the situation had become serious.

NASUWT officers had found that requests from members for action on the issue had risen from three or four a month to 15.

The situation was not helped when the decisions of head teachers to exclude violent and disruptive pupils were overturned by governing bodies or by independent appeals panels.

On Tuesday, the conference is to debate a motion calling for the abolition of schools' targets for reducing exclusions and of the appeals panels.

Mr Hardman said he was heartened by last week's High Court decision that members of the NASUWT could refuse to teach a disruptive pupil who had brought a case against the union.

"Poor pupil behaviour is a factor which contributes to many experienced teachers leaving the profession," he said.

Changing the classroom

"The violent and abusive behaviour of pupils, the constant battle to maintain some semblance of order and the lack of support from some ineffective and apathetic parents make many members question the value of what they do."

But it was important to note that teachers had the backing of most parents, he added.

The government says it is committed to tackling bad behaviour. It is currently consulting on a proposal to extend the parenting orders courts can impose to children - or parents - who behave badly in school.

Mr Hardman's blueprint to "put the smile back into teaching" was a classroom where teachers could:

  • teach without fear
  • teach without the burden of unnecessary bureaucracy
  • teach without over-prescriptive government policies
  • work reasonable hours
  • be properly paid for what they did.

"The mood of teachers has changed noticeably over the last few months.

"The feeling of anger and resentment is evident as I travel around the country.

"They see no respite from excessive bureaucracy, long hours and unruly pupils."

The settlement in Scotland was "the final insult" - but it did provide an "off the shelf" solution to the problems of pay and conditions.

It was encouraging that the government was investing more in education and recognising that it had to support teachers who refused to accept poor behaviour by pupils.

His message to the prime minister was: "Teaching can be a great life, but to teach you need to have a life."

See also:

11 Apr 01 | UK Education
15 Apr 01 | UK Education
14 Feb 00 | UK Education
01 Jun 00 | Unions 2000
06 Jun 00 | UK Education
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