Lessons Not Learned (Or Why Sir Alan Steer Should Still Stick his Report up his Arse)

April 16, 2009

The most odious man in education has now released his latest report on behaviour in schools. It’s not quite as bad as expected. Here are my observations:

The Good:

The tone is very different to what Steer was saying on television a few weeks ago. He actually says in the introductory letter that “much remains to be done to raise standards” and “we must not be afraid to act and to make it plain than bad behaviour will not be tolerated”.

The report recognises that schools which OFSTED says are “satisfactory” for behaviour are still likely to have a behaviour problem that needs dealing with.

Guidelines are set for the removal of pupils from the classroom.

It is recommended that schools are reminded of their powers to deal with behaviour outside of the schoolgates.

It is also recommended that school governing bodies improve their effectiveness at excluding, and that local authorities stop setting targets to reduce exclusions.

It is requested that the DCSF review the amount of unnecessary bureaucratic requirements schools have to deal with. (Just a shame they didn’t ask for an independent review.)

The Bad:

The report still claims that behaviour is good and improving.

As per usual the report implies that it is bad teaching that is the problem, and even makes the ludicrous suggestion that this can be dealt by schools producing more pointless paperwork, sorry, by requiring schools to produce a “written policy on learning and teaching”.

There is still talk of “behaviour needs” and SEN as an excuse for poor behaviour.

The report supports the politically correct dogma that concern about the appalling levels of poor behaviour and youth crime is “demonising the young”.

The strawman of “purely punitive” approaches to behaviour is attacked. I have never yet met any teacher who demanded that all behaviour be dealt with in a “purely punitive” way. The problem is with the widespread use of purely non-punitive approaches.

The report welcomes “the consolidation of the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme”, which is at best a ludicrous waste of time.

The Ugly:

The Big Lie from the previous report (“where unsatisfactory behaviour does occur, in the vast majority of cases it involves low level disruption in lessons. Incidents of serious misbehaviour, and especially acts of extreme violence, remain exceptionally rare”) is repeated and supported through selective use of the evidence.

As ever, the only way to explain away The Behaviour Crisis is to pretend that people throughout history have always thought there was a behaviour crisis. This is, of course, not true and so we often see fraudulent evidence to prove this claim. Sure enough, the Steer Report claims Plato said:

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”

I’ve pointed out before how, (despite its widespread use) there is no reliable reference to be found for this quotation.  This time I had my Complete Works of Plato to hand and, looking up every reference to “parents” in the index, I found nothing remotely like this quotation. Of course, why would we expect a committee of headteachers and education luminaries operating under the guidance of the DCSF to be able to recognise a fraud, provide references, or do even the most basic of fact checking?


  1. http://www.bartleby.com/73/195.html is the furthest back reference I can find, and still indirect with no specific source in the text.

  2. This is an engaging post. I also read your comments on Mortarboard, the Guardian’s education blog. My most recent post is on this same issue, although I have come to different conclusions. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what I have written.

  3. Well, I read a book that said in ancient Greece the way the behavior problem was dealt with was that no student was allowed to attend class without being accompanied by a family slave. The reason for this was to keep each student behaving, so that the teacher could teach! Of course, I LOVE telling this to my third graders, and we all have a laugh about it…..

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas

  4. […] was going to look at a recent challenge to this view, but a trawl through the posts on the ‘Scenes from the Battleground‘ blog has put that on […]

  5. I’d love to read your views on what happens when parents enter the field of conflict.

  6. In my personal experience – so far – I’d agree with what the report says about serious incidents being reasonably rare. BUT, the low-level disruption we face day after day should NOT be trivialised. That’s the thing that really gets my goat in all this, the sweeping under the mat of a serious problem because it’s seen as “low level”. When you’ve ot eight or nine kids in a class causing it, it’s not low level at all.
    And as for schools having the “power” to deal with disruptive pupils… ‘e’s ‘avin’ a larf, inne?? Schools might have those powers, but very few of them exercise them to any useful effect because they’re so bloody scared of slipping a few places in the rankings.

  7. I would love a comment about this one: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/apr/29/balls-special-needs-speech.

    Specially the “20% of pupils are SEN”.

    • 20% are SEN?

      I’d say 30% need their eyes checked by an optometrist. Half of the apparent ADHD cases will then be correctly identified as ‘dyslexic destroyers’. This is an entirely new technical term coined by yours truly. Most of the so-called ADHD kids can’t see straight and need to eat organic food for 1000 days to detox all the ghastly junk infesting their nervous systems. Their dyslexia is rarely serious, it’s just that they need to concentrate to read, write and cope with their disorganised thinking. Can’t do that on a diet of caffeine, blue food colour & 5 hours sleep a night.

      A real ADHD case usually responds well to medication, routine and dietary limits. And needs good supervision to ensure compliance with their management regime.

      20%?? Some schools would be higher than this, and early years would be higher than later. But the average has got to be 5-8% at worst. (Unless you count everyone wearing glasses as SEN.)

      Is he saying that 1/5 of the population is unfit to survive in modern society without therapeutic intervention?

  8. heres a stat from one of my previous schools.
    it was an average london school which got ‘good’ from ofsted 4 years ago

    according to the hoy’s there is a serious offence in every year group every single day during their ‘best weeks’

    an offence being ‘f off’ ‘f you’, open defiance etc recorded on the referral forms

    so thats 5 a day in a school of 1300.
    or 25 a week
    some bad weeks were 75+
    remember we are not talking about low level behaviour like rudeness, lateness, lack of work, disruption etc.
    we are talking about exclusion level behaviour

    the report is a lie pure and simple. who is going to speak out about the report? is this going to inform future policy?

  9. […] always happy to see the issue raised, and I don’t want a return to the bad old days of the Steer Report when it was hard for any teachers to dare defy the behaviour denialists who insisted everything was […]

  10. […] myself, and even a reminder that the old Steer Report misquoted Plato (Old Andrew makes the point here, but Daisy Christodoulou really goes to town on it almost exactly three years later, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: