Is the standard of behaviour better in some schools?
Considering that there are around 4,000 secondary schools in the state sector in Britain – ranging from comprehensives to academies and grammar schools – not to talk of special schools, it would be foolish to think that the standard of behaviour is the same in all of them. However, there is a common pattern in all of them in terms of behaviour and academic performance: low expectations and complacency. As a teacher, if you happen to be teaching the top set, you are more likely to do a little more teaching than doing what may be described as crowd control, with meaningless worksheets, endless use of TV and computer, with little educational value.
Of course, the brighter and the average students with supportive parents achieve higher examination grades than weaker students or bright students with little motivation.
Two questions we may want to ask ourselves: what percentage of students achieve to their full potential or close to it? Is bad behaviour in the bad schools alone, or is it more widespread?
In a previous blog, I told a little story of my experience at a not-so-good comprehensive school, which happens to be in London. I actually taught in a worse school, which was in South Yorkshire during my teaching practice. My first teaching job in the early nineties was at a good comprehensive school, from where I moved to a grammar school and then into the independent sector.
Is bad behaviour in the bad schools alone, or is it more widespread?
My first teaching job was at a comprehensive school and the school was supposed to be one of the best around. It was in St Albans – an affluent town in Hertfordshire. Most of the comprehensive schools are really comprehensive in nature as they have students from all areas of society. In terms of students’ behaviour the behaviour standard is also comprehensive – from the most polite and decent young people, who are a real joy to teach, to the unruly, and obnoxious, whose ultimate joy is to make the teacher’s life a misery. It is common knowledge that many of the typical bog standard comprehensive schools are not so good and indiscipline and low academic performance is the norm.
Governments, over the last 15 years or so, have taken several measures to address failing schools. One of them was the introduction of academies in the year 2000 by the then labour government. The conservative government carried on with that policy by allowing more comprehensive schools that were judged as failing to become academies but in addition introduced the concept of the ‘free school’. Now we have comprehensives, academies, free schools and grammar schools.
Quoting the Chief Inspector of OFSTED – Sir Michael Wilshaw – a few weeks ago in which he said “over-familiarity towards pupils leads to misbehaviour and inattention.” He also said that: 700,000 pupils attend schools where the behaviour of schoolchildren is judged to be in need of improvement. I believe this figure from the Chief of OFSTED is extremely conservative.
My conclusion is that overall, the standard of behaviour in schools is appalling and it has not improved in the last two to three decades or so. Bad behaviour is having a significant adverse effect on academic performance and moral standards. Students in grammar schools, independent schools and a few top comprehensive schools are better behaved on the whole. In those schools where students are better behaved, the academic standard is higher and students achieve better examination results. There is a lot the teaching profession can do by accepting that students’ behaviour is an issue which hinders academic progress and seek to get the authorities to do something about it. Although I have not explored that in depth in my blogs, I feel that parental values and how much time they invest in the education of their children – seeking useful information, monitoring progress and supporting the child and the school – can make a huge difference to how the child performs academically.
What Sir Michael Wilshaw – the OFSTED Chief Inspector – says: