Archive for January, 2020


Has there been a behaviour miracle in Scotland?

January 25, 2020

They don’t do permanent exclusions in Scotland any more. Or rather, they have reduced it to a negligible amount. The figures for permanent exclusions are literally unbelievable.

2010-2011: 60

2012-2013: 21

2014-2015: 5

2016-2017: 5 (after correction, apparently they missed 4 of these on first publication).

2018-2019: 3

The figures are collected every 2 years, so I don’t know if in the years that aren’t counted they go up. But it is clear these have been slashed.

Now, if Scotland want to either tolerate bad behaviour, or exclude in a way that doesn’t show up in official figures, that’s up to them. Unfortunately, those who oppose permanent exclusions are using the changed statistics to claim that Scotland has changed not only the practise of exclusion, but the need to exclude. In a report about the director of education in Glasgow, the TES reports that:

Ms McKenna, … says this change has not come about because of some “fancy-nancy initiative”, but because decisions in schools – and in secondaries in particular – are now made in a more “child-centred way”.

In Glasgow, she says, teachers are encouraged to see all behaviour as communication and to take into account the context children are living in when deciding how to deal with pupil transgressions.


“We don’t have any fancy-nancy initiative where I can say, ‘There’s £1 million here that I spent on that and wow, look, it reduced exclusions.’ What we have done is we made the decision to work in a more child-centred way.

“The whole agenda in Scotland around adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma-informed practice has had a big impact. Teachers are much more knowledgeable now about the context of children’s lives and behaviour is no longer looked at in isolation.

“One of the biggest achievements in Glasgow is that teachers don’t see it as bad behaviour but as distressed behaviour. That all behaviour is communication is one of our big training focuses. Now they are seeing behaviour in a different light.”

This claim has been leapt upon by campaigners against discipline in English schools:

Now, Scotland may be doing some good things. There are reports that individual schools have their own PRUs, allowing students to be permanently removed which may have benefits (although if the only benefit is that it doesn’t appear in the figures that’s still a concern).

However, what do we make of claims that in Scotland the need to exclude, rather than the need to record it in the figures, has been changed, particularly through “trauma informed” methods? Unfortunately, nobody reports accurately on the amount of behaviour in a school system. We can’t make comparisons with England. We can’t expect Scottish teachers to be able to talk about behaviour openly. We can’t say how out of control Scottish schools are. Normally, we’d be stuck at this point when talking about changes in exclusion policy.

However, the Scottish exclusion levels are so low, that if they have reduced behaviour that requires permanent exclusion to the levels claimed, they would have achieved a “behaviour miracle”. If the figures are true it would be extremely hard to find anything worth permanently excluding for in Scottish school, and this we can check. We can easily find every reason to believe that bad behaviour still exists on a scale far greater than the figures show in the years 2014-2019. The following stories are all from the period where Scottish schools were permanently excluding less than half a dozen kids. I leave you to judge whether bad behaviour that merits a permanent exclusion has been cured by a Scottish approach that we should copy.

From BBC Scotland reporting on compensation pay outs to teachers in 2019:

Three teachers who were assaulted by pupils were awarded more than £100,000 compensation between them, according to Scotland’s largest teachers union.

The EIS says one of the victims received £55,000 after suffering serious injuries.

The figures were contained in the union’s annual roundup of compensation secured for its members….

…A total of £105,000 of compensation was split between three teachers who were assaulted by pupils in separate incidents:

  • A payout of £55,000 involved a case were a pupil had shouted obscenities towards a teacher then violently assaulted them. The teacher suffered serious injuries as a result
  • A teacher who was injured in an altercation with a pupil and suffered distress received £30,000 in compensation
  • And a teacher diagnosed with concussion who was signed off work received £20,000. A pupil had assaulted the teacher, pulled their hair and headbutted them repeatedly

From BBC Scotland reporting on compensation payouts in 2017:

Payouts for incidents of violence made up £76,877 of the £469,758 secured by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) for members over the past year.

In one case, a teacher was awarded £12,452 and had to undergo an operation after a pupil kicked their kneecap off…

…payments highlighted in the EIS figures include:

  • A teacher who received £45,000 for rib injuries after being punched and kicked by a pupil.
  • Another was given a payout of £17,125 after receiving a “flying kick” that left them with injuries to the lower back and hip…

From BBC Scotland reporting on the temporary exclusion figures in 2018:

The number of Scottish school exclusions or physical assaults involving weapons or improvised weapons has risen to a five-year high.

Figures for 2016/17 showed there were 311 instances of a pupil being excluded for using a weapon to assault another pupil or member of staff.

There were a further 428 incidents involving improvised weapons.

The Scottish government said it was working with schools and local authorities on anti-violence campaigns.

The Scottish Conservatives said the increase would “horrify” parents, and demonstrated a problem with discipline in classrooms.

The statistics, published by the Scottish government, are only gathered every two years.

The total of 739 is up on the 661 incidents recorded in 2014/15, and 710 in 2012/13.

Exclusions as a result of physical assaults involving no weapon were also up, with 4,635 instances in 2016/17, a rise from 3,990 and 4,371 in the previous years.

The figures also showed exclusions as a result of physical assaults on staff increased, up 23% from 1,588 in 2014/15 to 1,990 in 2016/17.

BBC Scotland reporting on weapons in the North East of Scotland in 2017:

More than 200 incidents of young people having weapons – more a quarter of which were in schools – were recorded in the north east of Scotland in the space of a year.

Police Scotland said 207 were recorded between April last year and March this year, with just over a third involving a blade.

A total of 55 involved schools.

The average age of the children in schools was 12 ,and 93% of them were boys.

Of the schools, 29 were in Aberdeen, 15 in Aberdeenshire and 11 in Moray.

Of the 55 school incidents, 19 were recorded as a crime resulting in the youth being charged…

… Last year, hundreds of secondary pupils across Aberdeen have been given anti-weapons lessons in the wake of the killing of schoolboy Bailey Gwynne.

Bailey, 16, was stabbed during a fight with a fellow pupil at Cults Academy.

The schoolboy’s killer is serving nine years for culpable homicide.

An independent review into the death of Bailey found his death was “potentially avoidable” if teachers had known his attacker carried a knife.

BBC news reporting in 2018 on attacks on support staff in schools in Edinburgh.

Support staff have been attacked or abused by pupils 2,478 times in Edinburgh during the last three years.

Calls have been made for staff to be given more support after 1,675 injuries were sustained in attacks since 2015.

During 2017/18, 738 incidents of support staff being attacked or abused by pupils were reported – including 512 assaults that resulted in injury.

Of these incidents, 532 were against support assistants, 43 against learning assistants and 10 behavioural teachers.

The number of incidents last school year have fallen from the 1,006 reported in 2016/17 including 645 violent attacks resulting in injury.

BBC in 2019:

A 12-year-old boy has been charged over an alleged sexual assault at a high school in Glasgow.

BBC Scotland understands the complainer is a teacher at the school and the boy was reported to police on 29 August.

BBC in 2018:

Teachers at a school in Edinburgh have been sent home without pay after refusing to teach pupils they claim are violent and abusive.

A union has accused the city council of “bullying and intimidating” staff at [school name], a school for children with additional support needs.

Eleven teachers have refused to give lessons to eight pupils following physical and verbal assaults.

The council said it was wrong for staff to pick and choose who to teach.

The teachers are members of the NASUWT union, which earlier this year balloted for industrial action short of a strike by refusing to teach or supervise eight pupils who they believe pose a risk to health, safety and welfare.

Violent attacks are understood to have included chairs and signs thrown at teachers, causing injuries with police called in on some occasions.

Herald On Sunday report on racism in schools from 2019:

A GROUP of school children have told how they experience harrowing racist abuse in Scotland’s schools as a new report calls for urgent action to tackle the problem.

Secondary school pupils told the Herald on Sunday they were called the “N” word, told to hang themselves from headscarves and ordered to “get back to the jungle” by fellow students.

One young black woman said her siblings wished they had white skin, saying “our skin colour only brings us trouble.”

They spoke out ahead of the publication of a new report, due to be launched at the Scottish Parliament next week, which highlights the views of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children in Scotland.

Commissioned by Intercultural Youth Scotland, researchers asked more than 100 secondary school children from across the country their views on racism, the school curriculum and whether they felt included among their white peers.

The Herald on Sunday has obtained exclusive access to the study conducted by EDI Scotland, which show more than half of pupils didn’t think their teachers knew how to handle racist incidents, didn’t feel comfortable reporting racism to their teachers, and didn’t recognise themselves in the types of issues they were learning about in the classroom.

The majority of pupils also said they didn’t think their school would “respond effectively to any concerns raised about racism or discrimination”.

No doubt I will be condemned for compiling this information. There is nothing the anti-discipline lobby hate more than the public knowing about what happens in schools. However, as a teacher in England, I can only say that the reason our exclusion rate is much higher than in Scotland is because we are willing to use permanent exclusions to try to prevent this sort of behaviour. I can’t claim we succeed and nobody can compare the two countries, but I see no reason to look to Scotland for inspiration.

One final point, knife crime has fallen in Scotland and a number of campaigners have claimed this is a result of reducing exclusions. I can’t prove it isn’t, but before anyone accepts this as fact I will point out that the sentences given for carrying a knife in Scotland increased substantially immediately prior to the reduction. We have to ask ourselves, particularly in light of the murder of a Scottish schoolboy in 2016, whether we think that the figures are down because of kids with knives being in school, or because of what was done about those convicted of knife crime.


Isolation Booths

January 2, 2020

I won’t name names, as people shouldn’t be pointed out for being misled, but a few days ago somebody I follow on Twitter who isn’t a teacher tweeted the following:

I had never heard of or seen an ‘isolation booth’ until they cropped up this year on Twitter. What the hell is going on in our schools that this is some kind of normal practice?

Like most people, I also hadn’t heard of isolation booths before the “Ban the Booths” campaign began in late 2018. I had repeatedly worked in schools that used “internal exclusion”, i.e. where students may be removed from their scheduled lessons to work in silence under adult supervisions. Some even referred to this as “isolation”. I think some even have had dividers between desks, like in this picture here, although perhaps not ones that go all the way to the ceiling or stick out so far. But none had ever referred to “isolation booths”.

I looked at the debate that happened at the time, and saw that it was a familiar selection of people who tend to be against punishing the badly behaved, calling for:

The regulation and reporting of all children isolated for more than half a day.

This policy was explicit in the letter template they encouraged people to send to MPs and in much of what I read. However, the rhetoric and propaganda did refer repeatedly to “booths” and there were claims, such as “In a recent FOI by the BBC of 600 schools a third had isolation booths” which indicated that no clear distinction was being made between internal exclusion rooms in general and “booths”.

There are obvious problems here. The practice that the campaigners are pushing to obstruct is internal exclusion which is common. The practice they claim to object to is “isolation booths” which is not something most of us have ever heard of before they started to campaign against it and is not clearly defined in most discussions. These should be two entirely separate issues but by mixing them up, people who have a long history of campaigning against discipline can push their agenda without making it explicit.

So what is an “isolation booth”? As far as I can tell it refers to a wide variety of structures designed to insulate against noise. So, for instance, Advanced Acoustics, advertises temporary soundproof booths, known as “isolation booths” among other soundproofing products and mentions studios, cinemas and listening rooms as potential uses, but also offers “office acoustic treatments” and mentions classrooms and sports halls in this context. Office furniture companies also offer isolation booths, for instance, for call centres:

This particular company offers products for schools. One type of booth (with lower dividers between desks) is sold as a “school isolation booth” although it would appear an identical product is sold as an “office isolation booth”. There is no suggestion that isolation booths for schools are for internal exclusion rooms (even though in some schools these rooms are called “isolation”) as opposed to say, school libraries or sixth form study areas. An isolation booth is just furniture, not in itself a punishment.

What we appear to have is people who object to punishing kids trying to demonise the use of internal exclusion, by calling it “booths” implying that internal exclusion facilities are extremely confined and austere and certain media outlets going along with this for the sake of a story. The graphics used in reporting about “booths” can be remarkably dishonest. For instance, the first image above appears in this cropped form on the Independent website:

Even the image used above to advertise call centre booths is used by the BBC to illustrate a story about internal exclusion.

Does it matter if people who are proposing to regulate internal exclusion keep talking about “booths”? It does if people in policy-making positions join in. We have seen MPs and the Children’s Commissioner back campaigns against “booths”. We need an end to talk of “booths”. Either school leaders have the right to internally exclude or they don’t. If you aren’t backing that right, any attempt to make the issue about the furniture, is just misleading.


Top rated posts in 2019

January 1, 2020

The following posts got the most views in 2019. Many of them weren’t actually written in 2019, so do check the date before reading.

  1. The silliest feedback from work scrutinies
  2. Definitions of Progressive and Traditionalist
  3. Why I’m leaving the NEU
  4. Year Zero
  5. Noise
  6. The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression
  7. How to Destroy NQTs
  8. Good Year Heads
  9. A Brief History of Education Part 2: The 1944 Education Act
  10. How To Find Out If Your Teacher Is Gay
  11. Tough questions about behaviour
  12. The Top Five Lies About Behaviour
  13. Seven Habits of Highly Defective Headteachers
  14. What happens when a school listens to campaigners against internal exclusion?
  15. The Worst Behaviour In School Corridors
  16. Academic and non-academic subjects
  17. More on School Chain Shaming
  18. The campaign against discipline
  19. School Chain Shaming
  20. More popular than “Ban The Booths”

Happy new year.

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