Poor Literacy and Numeracy Blamed for Bad Behaviour and Truancy in Welsh Schools; Pupils Tell Review of Bullying and Problems with Supply Teachers

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Byline: Abbie Wightwick Education Editor

POOR skills in the three Rs are at the root of bad behaviour, truancy and exclusion in Welsh schools, a groundbreaking study says today.

The National Behaviour and Attendance Review - the first UK study taking into account the views of pupils as young as seven - says poor teaching and learning, as well as social change and family breakdown, can be to blame for a child's worsening behaviour.

It warns: "The position on behaviour and attendance is not helped by the significant numbers of pupils at primary and secondary school whose literacy and numeracy levels are well below the average attainment targets for their chronological age.

"All the evidence suggests that more pupils with low levels of literacy and numeracy have a greater tendency to develop into pupils who develop behavioural and/or attendance problems either at primary or secondary."

The independent report, commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government, makes 19 recommendations to improve behaviour and attendance after talking to professionals, pupils and parents. The first is that no child should leave primary school without "the functional ability to read and write".

The review, which took two years to complete, says behavioural problems start as young as five and that every school should have a named senior manager to deal with attendance and behaviour.

It warns: "The fact that so many primary-aged pupils are perceived to have either, or both, an attendance and/or behavioural difficulties is a worrying trend for the future of the teaching profession and Welsh education."

As many as a quarter of 15 to 65-year-olds have poor literacy levels, the Basic Skills Agency Wales told the Western Mail earlier this year. Wales also ranked bottom in the UK in an international league table of reading standards last year.

Today's 260-page NBAR document paints a picture of Welsh education where a significant minority of pupils cause problems for teachers and fellow learners. It acknowledges that the majority of schools are orderly and well run, but says more must be done to address those that are not.

Reasons pupils give for missing lessons or being rowdy include:

Bullying;

supply teachers who don't know them and;

resentment about copying facts from the board parrot-fashion.

The report says: "The quality of teaching was an important factor in both attendance and behaviour: nearly all young people in the secondary settings, and a few in primary schools, criticised the use of supply teachers. These were seen as ineffective and powerless.

"They disrupted routine, didn't know the children and were an easy target for bad behaviour."

Bullying and teachers who can't keep order rank among top concerns for the 670 parents answering questionnaires for the study.

Teachers said bad behaviour, including violence is increasing.

Parents who don't support their children's schools and have "little or no respect for authority" are the main reasons why they cannot help pupils who fail to attend or disrupt classes.

"Too many children and their parents have little or no respect for authority or authority figures," the report warns.

It says it is not clear whether behaviour has worsened in the past 20 years, but cites social changes, including family breakdown and poverty, as reasons that affect schooling. Bullying, especially cyber bullying, is also a problem.

The document says: "There are some worrying trends. These include the recent spate of young people and adult suicides in Bridgend. Also, the effects of inappropriate internet sites which feature violent or abusive games or pornography.

"We also need to recognise the influence and growth in social networking websites and chat rooms."

It recommends training on dealing with bad behaviour and non-attendance for everyone involved in education from lunchtime supervisors to head teachers. …