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Bad behaviour in school ‘down to inappropriate teaching'

DISRUPTIVE: Low level bad behaviour like fidgeting is usually a symptom of a deeper issue, an exclusion expert has said

PROBLEMS AT home and incompatible teaching methods could be responsible for the low-level classroom disruption, which has a “detrimental impact” on pupil’s learning and life chances, education experts say.

This warning follows an Ofsted report which found that students could be losing up to an hour of learning each day – the equivalent of 38 days a year – because of behaviours such as ‘fidgeting or fiddling with equipment, answering back or questioning instructions, using mobile devices’ and ‘swinging on chairs’.

The report claims that many teachers have come to accept some low-level disruption as a part of everyday life in the classroom and, as a result, are failing to tackle it.

It described the findings as “deeply worrying". The report noted: “This is not because pupils' safety is at risk where low-level disruption is prevalent, but because this type of behaviour has a detrimental impact on the life chances of too many pupils.

“It can also drive away hardworking teachers from the profession."

Introducing the report, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw blamed headteachers who “are blurring the lines between friendliness and familiarity and losing respect along the way.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have been clear that such behaviour should be stamped out and have given teachers the powers they need to tackle the problem.

“As a result, more teachers say behaviour in their school is good or very good than when this government came to office, and recent figures show the number of pupils persistently missing class is down by almost a third since 2010.”

But Tony Harrison, chair of governors and head of the behaviour team at Croydon-based education charity Croydon Africa Caribbean Family Organisation (CAFCO), which works with excluded students, said addressing the problem requires getting to the root causes of their conduct.

He added: “This is not something new because persistent low level classroom disruption is the most common reason for exclusions. So it is important that it is addressed.

“But what needs to be recognised is that this behaviour is often a manifestation of deeper social issues that affect the child; from coming to school without breakfast or coming to school after seeing one parent beat up the other parent. Their behaviour becomes an outlet.”

A 2013 report from the Children’s Commission found Black Caribbean boys are three times more likely to be excluded from state schools than their classmates.

Harrison urged educators to review their teaching methods.

He said: “Schools are set up to teach pupils using an audio-visual approach, but a lot of the students we work with are better suited to a kinesthetic [tactile or hands-on] learning style.

“For them, sitting down for an hour is very difficult so they rock on their chairs and tap on their tables - not because they are not listening but because it is the way they keep themselves focused.”

What is needed, Harrison added, is a multi-pronged approach. He said: “CAFCO has an excellent track record for returning excluded young pupils to mainstream education. This is because, in addition to assigning mentors and key workers to each student, our teachers make their lesson plans exciting. We make learning very hands-on so that the kinesthetic learning approach can be met.”

He is urging parents to pay attention and respond to reports which are related to their children’s education: “Once reports are written it gets read by policy-makers who can determine what happens to you and your child.”

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