Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'I'm No Sexist and I Can't Ban Anything,' Says Behaviour Tsar

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'I'm No Sexist and I Can't Ban Anything,' Says Behaviour Tsar

Article excerpt

Teacher and TES columnist Tom Bennett answers angry tweeters

Tom Bennett doesn't like the term "tsar", but he is rapidly discovering that he can't always get what he wants when it comes to his representation in the mainstream media.

The same can be said of social media. Despite his huge following on Twitter, the TES columnist and founder of the ResearchED conference has been getting a hard time from his fellow tweeters of late.

The reason? The headlines that have followed his appointment in June to the head of a government review, which will consider whether initial teacher training is adequate preparation for dealing with low-level disruption in the classroom.

In this role - which prompted the "behaviour tsar" moniker - Mr Bennett (pictured, left) has become the darling, bête noire and punchbag of journalists and politicians alike.

The latest controversy emerged this week after the unveiling of the expert panel that will be advising him in his review. The Department for Education took the opportunity of this announcement to reveal that Mr Bennett's brief would be expanded to encompass all behaviour management in schools, in a press release headed: "Impact of smartphones on behaviour in lessons to be reviewed."

The Sunday Times swiftly moved the story on for its front-page article, proclaiming that "Mobile phones may be banned in classrooms".

The coverage put Mr Bennett in the middle of a row over the role that technology should play in the classroom. He then took to his TES blog to explain his position. "Relax," he wrote. "I can't ban anything."

"I don't believe in universal bans of any items in classrooms that are legal for people to use," he told TES in the aftermath of the controversy. Mobile phones, he said, were distracting and the default should be for teachers to forbid them in lessons. But staff who wanted to use them to aid learning should make a conscious decision to do so, he added.

Later that same day, Mr Bennett was swept up in another "Twitter storm" over the gender make-up of his review panel (read more, below right).

The growth of a 'guru'

The rise of Mr Bennett's profile beyond the boundaries of social media has been meteoric. Until recently, he worked full-time as a philosophy and religious studies teacher at Raine's Foundation School in East London; he now works part-time at the Jo Richardson Community School in Dagenham, Essex.

It is well-documented that he worked as a night-club manager in the West End before training as a teacher. Yet, when he stepped into the classroom, he discovered that he was "terrible" at behaviour management. …

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