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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
School behaviour guide criticised
The DFES behaviour guidance tells teachers to reward good behaviour
New guidelines on how to deal with bad behaviour in schools have come under fire, with critics saying a "softly softly" approach could backfire.

The guidelines for schools in England says teachers should praise pupils five times more than they criticise them.

And they recommend difficult pupils be given special prizes or letters home if they make improvements.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson has promised a tougher stance against disruptive pupils.

"We must develop a new three Rs: rules, responsibility and respect," he told the annual conference of the NASUWT teachers' union in Belfast.

And he called on parents to "set proper boundaries" to stop their children "drifting into anti-social behaviour".

Guidance on discipline

The Department for Education and Skills has issued guidance on classroom discipline - with teachers having clearer rights to restrain pupils.

The guidance proposes that pupils should be given rewards for good behaviour - including prizes and privileges.

Any sense of ratio of five-to-one simply is a nonsense
Mary Bousted, ATL

Postcards could be sent to their parents praising their behaviour, because many parents probably only heard complaints about their children.

Teachers should also take into account a child's cultural background before remonstrating with them or punishing them, the advice says.

Teachers will now have clearer rights to restrain violent pupils - but they will not have authority to act against pupils outside school, as had been expected.

The guidelines also suggest that children who stand up to bullies should be rewarded. A union leader dismissed the idea of a rigid ratio for punishment to reward as "nonsense".


Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: "Crude guidelines which say praise in proportion to punishment of five to one simply aren't helpful.

"It's a nonsense - it takes away any sense of professional autonomy, professional respect and professional judgment for teachers.

"The principle of rewarding someone for being good... that principle I wholly endorse and support.

"But if they are behaving badly then you have to deal with that behaviour and any sense of ratio of five-to-one simply is a nonsense."

Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham said the approach being recommended might encourage perverse behaviour. Children who had previously behaved well might play up to try to win rewards.

"As a soft approach it won't work because children and their parents will soon pick up that it is false."

Strike action

The National Union of Teachers, holding its conference in Harrogate voted to speed up the process by which they could take industrial action in support of a refusal to teach violent pupils.

A union official from Calderdale, Sue McMahon, said: "My members this year have been:

  • bitten by a five-year-old
  • thumped by a six-year-old
  • kicked by a seven-year-old
  • spat on by an eight-year-old
  • punched by a nine-year-old
  • verbally abused by a 10-year-old
  • received malicious damage to a car by an 11-year-old
  • head butted by a 14-year-old
  • received a facial injury so bad it required hospitalisation and surgery."

Veronica Peppiatt from West Sussex said some school managers dismissed sexual remarks as "harmless banter" or even said it was "flattering" for explicit references to be made to a young female teacher's physical attributes by teenage boys - or younger.

"I have come across a nine-year-old boy who came up to a young teacher in a playground and said 'Miss, are you wearing a bra under that T-shirt?' then shoved his hand up to find out and went 'Phwoar'."

The conference also agreed with a proposal from the union's leadership to undertake research into the impact of social class and deprivation on pupil achievement, motivation and behaviour.

A past president of the union, Judy Moorhouse, said teachers who had been assaulted did not want "patronising homilies on classroom practice or home circumstances" trivialising their experiences.

Teachers were "beaten, kicked, stabbed and punched" and subjected to abuse on websites, she said.

If teachers believed their managements were not taking the matter seriously it must be right for their union to take action.

Teachers reflect on disciplining
11 Apr 07 |  Education
Teachers' rights law takes effect
02 Apr 07 |  Education
Teachers report violent assaults
23 Feb 07 |  Education
Behaviour tops parents' concerns
22 Feb 07 |  Education

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