Lynn Fulford By Lynn Fulford – Associate Dean of Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences 

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers reports that there have been sharp rises in disruptive behaviour in our schools over recent years.  It is interesting that most of the disruptive behaviour is considered to be fairly low level, with 79% of staff complaining that students talked in class, did not pay attention and messed around. Some things clearly haven’t changed very much since I was in school in the sixties and seventies!

However, the ATL report also claims that there has been a significant rise in the number of children with emotional, behavioural or mental health problems and this is clearly a much more worrying issue, not just for our schools and colleges, but for anyone who cares about the well-being of children and young people.

Teachers are certainly trained to manage children and young people’s behaviour.  In 2012 83% of newly qualified teachers from Birmingham City University reported in the Teaching Agency’s Newly Qualified Teacher Survey that they felt well-trained to establish and manage a good standard of behaviour in the classroom.

However, it is unrealistic to expect teachers, particularly those new to the profession, to be able to deal with severe emotional, behavioural or mental health problems because these often require specialist support.  Unfortunately this support is no longer being provided by local authorities on the scale required – in a recent report the YoungMinds charity claims that 34 out of 51 local authorities said their budgets for children’s and young people’s mental health services had been severely cut, one reporting a fall of 76% in funding.  This impacts significantly on schools and their ability to cope with behaviour – as well as being desperately sad for children, young people and their families.

We have to understand that children and young people’s behaviour in schools doesn’t take place in a vacuum but as part of a much wider context of social change, cuts in funding to support systems and pressures on schools themselves to hit and exceed targets.  We need a more coherent approach which looks at the issues in their entirety, recognises the pressures on schools  and which supports our teachers so that all our children can be successful and happy in their formal education.   Schools, teachers and initial teacher education institutions have a part to play – but they cannot do it alone.

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Lynn Fulford

Lynn Fulford

Associate Dean - Student Experience & Quality Assurance