Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Tories' Tough Talk on 'Lines and Litter' Falls on Deaf Ears

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Tories' Tough Talk on 'Lines and Litter' Falls on Deaf Ears

Article excerpt

Drive for traditional discipline isn't working, survey suggests

More than half of teachers believe behaviour in schools has deteriorated since the coalition government came to power, according to a TES/YouGov survey.

Overall, 56 per cent of the workforce believe behaviour has worsened over the past five years. Headteachers are slightly less pessimistic, with 45 per cent claiming that discipline has declined during the current Parliament.

Those most likely to say that behaviour is worse are art teachers, with 66 per cent saying standards have fallen. Music teachers follow close on their heels at 65 per cent, while 64 per cent of design and technology and science teachers say poor behaviour is more prevalent.

The figures fly in the face of Conservative claims that the government has "restored discipline" in the classroom.

Last year, former education secretary Michael Gove published guidelines granting teachers the freedom to use more traditional methods of discipline, such as setting lines and telling pupils to pick up litter.

Mr Gove told teachers at the time that the government's "message was clear - don't be afraid to get tough on bad behaviour and use these punishments".

More recently, his successor Nicky Morgan has claimed that the party's policies have "restored discipline in schools - making it easier for teachers to control their classrooms and giving heads the final say".

A change for the worse?

But according to the profession, changes brought in by the coalition have often exacerbated the problem with behaviour.

Ros McMullen, executive principal of the David Young Community Academy in Leeds and chief executive of the Leaf Academy Trust, said coalition curriculum reforms may have directly impacted on discipline.

"There has been some craziness around manipulating curriculum change by using accountability measures over the last five years," Ms McMullen said. "I would expect that in schools where students are being forced through an inappropriate curriculum, behaviour in classrooms may well have deteriorated."

Tim Plumb, headteacher of Woolwich Polytechnic School in south-east London, said extra pressures faced by teachers could make it feel as though standards in behaviour were worse (see box), but added that he hadn't encountered this himself.

"It hasn't been the case in my school," Mr Plumb said. "You wonder if there has ever been a poll that didn't say behaviour had become worse. …

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