Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

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The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 2

August 4, 2018

I’ve been writing recently about how promises that the Chartered College of Teaching would be teacher led have been broken. In my most recent blogpost I wrote about how the politicians who supported the creation of a College OF Teaching, and the coalition of CPD providers who set it up, repeatedly insisted that it would be “teacher led”.

It wasn’t just them. The phrase was widely used to describe the project.

As it became clear that non-teachers would be allowed to join in some capacity (which does not appear to have been in the original blueprint) the phrase “teacher led” began to be used to emphasise who would be in charge.

For example:

As a teacher-led movement for change, the Chartered College has a growing network of over 1,300 regional Advocates

From  the Chartered College website.

It aims to be a voluntary, teacher-led organisation which will support professional development, promote and share evidence-informed practice, and recognise excellence.

From a TES article announcing the opening of the Chartered College.

The College will promote teaching as a teacher-led, independent profession that envisions its own destiny.

From a TES article explaining why the College won’t be like the GTCE.

Another couple of phrases were also used to say the same thing. “run by teachers for teachers” was used to describe the College here, here and here. “led by teachers for teachers” was used here and here. Clearly the words “by teachers for teachers” couldn’t be abandoned, as when the election of the council to lead the College was announced on the Chartered College Of Teaching Website these were retained, but rather blatantly the phrase was now “driven by teachers for teachers”, which suggests that those organising the elections were well aware of what had been promised, and of the need to backtrack.

I had been opposed to allowing non-teachers to join the College, in case they did try to take over. Because of the debate over this issue, supporters of the College had made repeated claims that being led by teachers was non-negotiable. This has led to some remarkable changes of position by supporters of the College. Here’s some of the most remarkable.

From blogger “TeacherToolkit”

In 2016:

I do believe membership should be open to applicants who are teaching in classrooms only. Yes, when asked about role with the College of Teaching and asked about ‘what you do’, your first response should be; ‘I’m a teacher’ and not anything else.

A board of non-practising teachers just makes validity of any college contradictory [sic].  Of course, running such a large-scale institution, led by full-time classroom teachers makes it almost very difficult to manage , but it is not impossible.

In 2018 (here and here):

The notion that a @CharteredColl should only be made up of “teachers” is a sign of cognitive dissonance….

…I stand by what I said.

If teachers believe that “only teachers” can be part of @CharteredColl then a) that’s an insular view and b) it’s a sure sign of cognitive dissonance.

From blogger Tom Sherrington:

In 2015:

Any College of Teaching that ended up not being led by teachers for teachers would fail because few people would join; everyone involved knows this and, therefore, they will make sure that at every opportunity decisions are made to ensure this is what we get.

In 2018:

 Isn’t it in the name? Chartered College of Teaching? It’s not the Chartered College of Teachers.  To me, that’s a significant difference.  We already have unions – with vast memberships – giving teachers a voice as teachers and leaders a voice as leaders.   But the College is for teaching – it’s teaching as a profession that needs an independent, professional voice spanning across roles so that teaching has a collective voice in the political landscape.  This, to me, is more than word play.  There are plenty of people with a role in making teaching an effective evidence-informed confident profession – including people who run schools or groups of schools and whose main work is to train teachers rather than teach students.

But most incredible are those who have gone from a position of defending the College of Teaching on the basis that it would be teacher led, to standing for positions on the board, despite not being teachers. Two of the current candidates stand out in this regard. Professor Sam Twiselton had argued in 2015:

But I think to view the College of Teaching – a membership organisation by teachers, for teachers – as part of a “web of control” is wide of the mark. The independence of the organisation will need to be ensured through the open election of teachers to a body that is led and overseen by teaching professionals, not government officials.

Some may question whether the College will have any real power if it is not able to set policy or operate as a regulatory body – but we need to remember that there are other professions, mainly in medicine, where chartered status is an accepted standard.

As a teacher-led independent body, it’s actually more likely than not to be quite fiercely independent. There is often talk of trusting teachers, but little follow-through. The College presents a great opportunity to do that and do that well. I see no reason to doubt that this body cannot work in this way if the profession has an appetite to take it seriously – and there are early signs that it does.

But the person who stands out for having made the most repeated commitments to the idea that any College Of Teaching be teacher led, and who is now standing against teachers to be on the board, is David Weston.

Also worth listening to this debate here:

A lot of the response I’ve had to raising this, has been people arguing that non-teachers should be allowed to run the professional body for teachers or that “teacher” means “anyone who once qualified to teach” or “anyone whose job involves some teaching”. To even address those would be to reopen a debate that has already happened. It was settled that the College Of Teaching was teacher led. It was settled that teachers were “employed to teach children or young people 0-19 yrs”.

The issue is not that old debate, the issue is the broken promises. A professional body is meant to have ethical responsibilities and it is meant to help improve the standing of the profession. The current Chartered College Of Teaching is one big broken promise. It simply cannot be our professional body when ethically, it is dodgy as hell. And it cannot improve our standing when it has not treated the profession with respect.

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The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1

July 21, 2018

I’ve been writing recently about how the Chartered College Of Teaching, the new government funded professional body for teachers, is not to be teacher led after all. It has been suggested that, as people change their minds, and plans changed, this is not a big deal. So I thought I’d write here about how integral to this whole project was the idea that any new body be led by teachers.

The politician who first suggested there be a new professional body to replace the GTCE, was Neil Carmichael, then a member of the education select committee. In January 2012 he raised the idea with a number of people interviewed by the committee [my emphasis].

Neil Carmichael: That is a really interesting point that you have just raised about the parallel between teachers and doctors, and indeed lawyers. The one thing that teachers do not have, which the others do have, is a professional body to represent them and effectively corral the very things you are talking about. Have either of you thought about the fact that the teaching profession might benefit from having an effective professional body looking at the issue of training and professionalism and career development on their behalf for them, rather than allowing teachers effectively to be subjected to a huge variety of options and possibilities, as currently happens?

 

Neil Carmichael: You are making the assumption that this would be something created by Government for teachers. It does not necessarily need to be, and perhaps should not be, created by Government. It should arise from teachers wanting to have a professional body to look after their profession, in their interests, and obviously, as Graham quite rightly pointed out, the interests of pupils too. Fundamentally, this is a question of how teachers themselves want to see things happen.

 

Neil Carmichael: We seem to be heading in the right direction, because there is a strong consensus developing that we do need to go down a professional approach to teaching, and a professional body to represent teachers. It would be best if that were organic through teachers.

And at a later session he asked the schools minister, Nick Gibb about the idea, who replied:

I think generally professional bodies are better if they emerge from within the profession-the royal colleges. My own professional body before I became a Member of Parliament, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, arose from within the profession itself. Should such a body arise from within the teaching profession, that can only be beneficial.

For some reason, many supporters of the College have tended not to emphasise the fact that it was suggested by politicians, and have instead emphasised the fact that one of the main points of discussion at the Princes Trust Headteachers Conference in 2012 was:

It is time to demonstrate that, like other professions, teachers are capable of self-accountability that is robust and responsible. … A logical extension of this idea of professional autonomy would be the creation of something like a Royal College of Teaching that was not a government agency but was run on the same principles as The Prince’s Teaching Institute: by teachers for teachers.

For a time it looked like a College might be set up without government support, but after crowdfunding failed, the government stepped in offering support to “Claim Your College” (a coalition of CPD providing organisations who, apparently unaware of the huge conflict of interest, took on the task of founding the college).

In December 2014, education secretary Nicky Morgan wrote about her support for the idea of a new College of Teaching, saying:

It is crucial that this body should be created and led by teachers,…

In March 2015 David Cameron said:

I’m delighted to announce that we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching

The government announced that they would:

… mak[e] significant funding available to the ‘claim your college’ consortium – a coalition of leading organisations in the education sector – to support them in their endeavour to establish an independent college of teaching, which will be owned and led by the teaching profession

and also wrote:

It is remarkable that teaching remains one of the only professions in this country whose members cannot benefit from being part of a professional body promoting high standards of practice and development. We, along with many teachers and school leaders, believe that this situation should be rectified – by teachers for teachers, but with Government support where appropriate.

We are therefore delighted to be able to support the establishment of a new teacher-led, College of Teaching – fully independent of Government – through the “Claim Your College” consortium of leading educational organisations. The College of Teaching is expected to be fully independent of Government, established and led by teachers.

And when Claim Your College published proposals for what was to be founded they said:

It will be led by teachers, enabling the teaching profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny, set its own aspirational standards and help teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve…

…There is widespread agreement that a College of Teaching must be:
• Independent.
• Voluntary.
Run by teachers for the ultimate benefit of learners.
• Subject to a governance model that ensures no single interest group can dominate….

…We share a determination that this campaign is just a stepping stone to a teacher-led future and that we will not allow anything or anyone (including ourselves) to impose their will on the long term future of what must be a profession-led College.

Schools minister, Nick Gibb, was asked about the College Of Teaching by the Education Committee in late 2015. His response echoed his previous comments.

Mr Gibb: Yes. It is important to have a similar professional body that reflects the type of qualities and institutions they have in other professions. It is important that it is a profession-led organisation and not a Government-led organisation. We had the problem with the GTCE previously, and the reason why that did not succeed in the end was that it was simply part of the Government’s machinery. All the other professions have these royal colleges which were established centuries ago. That is what makes them successful; they have come from within the profession. That is what I hope will happen with the College of Teachers.

The politicians committed themselves to a teacher led College Of Teaching. The proposal they supported also said it clearly. Promises have been broken.

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Another note on those Chartered College Of Teaching elections

July 15, 2018

Just a quick post here, but something on Twitter reminded me of another problem I’d talked about when the College of Teaching was proposed.

Back when discussions were underway about the Chartered College Of Teaching, one thing I argued for was more controversial than all the others although, of course, even the things that were more clear cut were completely ignored by the non-teachers who set up the Chartered College. This controversial suggestion was that senior managers be treated differently to teachers who weren’t senior managers. I didn’t mean excluded completely. Of course, they should be involved, but I was particularly concerned that the College would end up dominated by headteachers, not the frontline. I thought it vital that there would be some positions, indeed a majority of positions that heads couldn’t run for. I thought the best way of drawing the line would be to have some positions where only senior managers could stand and some where senior managers couldn’t stand. This is in no way a perfect solution. The nature of being a senior manager (or even a head) varies massively between schools. In small primary schools, headteachers, let alone deputy heads and assistant heads, can have a basically full teaching load. But I cannot and still cannot see any way it can ever be fair for a full time teacher to have to compete with a headteacher in an election. The opportunities to campaign, to network and to raise one’s own profile are just not the same. In a post entitled What Would Make Me Join A College Of Teaching? I argued:

Distinction should be made between involvement of SMT and non-SMT in decision-making and representation. So ballots of members should record votes from SMT members and non-SMT members separately. Positions in the organisation should be elected on separate ballots for SMT and non-SMT. This is not a minor point, or SMT-bashing, it is just an observation that there are some SMT (obviously not all) who seem to have such flexible working arrangements and great connections, that no classroom teacher could ever compete fairly against them in an election. Ending up with domination, not just by SMT, but by headteachers, is a a very real possibility and the structures of the organisation should take this into account.

Of course, this concern is perhaps a minor one now that non-teachers have been not only permitted to stand, but massively advantaged in the structures of the College and two non-teachers are now going to be elected unopposed to the two most important positions. But I thought back to this when I read the following reply to me on Twitter yesterday from a headteacher who is standing:

That’s right. This headteacher’s school has paid for all the teachers he is in charge of to join the Chartered College. I am not saying this is corrupt; there is no guarantee they’d vote for him (although people generally tend to like voting for people they know) and if the vote is not close it probably won’t make a difference.

However, this is not a level playing field. An ordinary classroom teacher cannot ensure that all their colleagues join the college for free. If this is allowed, heads have a significant advantage. I suspect that this will be nothing compared to some of the unfair advantages the non-teachers have, and it is obviously better to elect a headteacher than a non-teacher. But this can only serve to make it harder for classroom teachers to have a say. And it raises other questions. How many of the headteachers standing did this? Did any of the MAT CEOs standing pay for all the staff in their MAT to join? Given that the Chartered College has utterly failed to meet its membership targets, how many of the small number of teachers who joined were actually signed up by their schools? And, following other parts of my conversation with this candidate, it’s hard not to wonder how many of the headteachers standing don’t teach a single lesson.

There is a very real danger that the leadership  of the “teacher led” College Of Teaching will be utterly dominated by people who already have a platform; already have power over teachers, and don’t teach a single lesson in the average week.

The government needs to think about empowering teachers, not spending millions on giving a new platform to those who already tell teachers what to do.

 

 

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I was wrong about the Chartered College Of Teaching. It’s worse than I thought it would be.

July 13, 2018

 

I keep resolving not to blog about the Chartered College Of Teaching. Obscurity will probably stop them getting public money faster than infamy will. Then some new information comes out, or they do something, that I cannot ignore. It’s now three posts in a row about them, but I couldn’t ignore this.

Just to remind you, this was meant to be a new professional association for teachers. It was made clear right from the start that it was meant to be teacher led, with David Cameron as prime minister promising:

…we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching

The heavy involvement of CPD providers in how it was set up always seemed suspicious. Lots of non-teachers were allowed to hold interim positions before there were elections. But the promise always was that eventually it would be teacher led.

My position was that a new professional association could only develop us as professionals if it empowered ordinary classroom teachers, rather than simply giving another platform for those who already tell us what to do. I thought there were real dangers that it would end up formally run mainly by teachers who were senior managers (and particularly heads) and that the non-teacher associates would be able to build up a lot of informal influence, through networking and through encouraging teachers they have influence over to get involved.

I was wrong. The take over by the education establishment has been far more blatant than that.

First non-teachers were appointed to the board of trustees. Then a category of members called “fellows”, which included non-teachers, was created. Then the majority of the positions on the ruling council were reserved for fellows.

And this is where we are now. The organisation that was meant to re-establish us as professionals, is selecting its officers and council members under rules that favour non-teachers.

The candidates list is here. It’s remarkable how far away the Chartered College is from being a teacher led professional association for teachers.

The position of president (reserved for fellows) has one candidate. That candidate is the chief executive of a MAT and an executive principal.

The position of treasurer (there was some confusion over whether this was reserved for fellows or not) has one candidate who is an accountant and makes no mention of ever having been a teacher (and no, I don’t know how that is possible under the rules).

The position of internal vice president (reserved for fellows) has 4 candidates who based on their own descriptions are:

  • The founder of a MAT who implies they are not currently teaching.
  • The managing director of a school improvement company who makes no mention of ever having taught.
  • An author and founder of an education organisation (which appears to be another consultancy). This one I think is a teacher, assuming that’s what they mean by “I am an accomplished member of the Senior Leadership Team” but that’s inferred rather than stated clearly.
  • A leadership consultant.

The position of external vice president has 7 candidates who, based on their own descriptions, are:

  • The CEO of a MAT.
  • A National Leader of Education/Headteacher/director of a MAT.
  • Somebody who has been a school leader and implies they might still be.
  • The Executive Director of ITT for 126 primary and special schools.
  • Somebody who doesn’t state what job they do but implies they are involved in research (they are actually a professor of education).
  • A teacher.
  • A Lead Practitioner and Research Lead in a school.

The other 8 positions reserved for fellows on the council has 60 candidates who, based on their own descriptions, are:

  • 12 working in ITT/education research/lecturing in education and either not school based or not based in a single school
  • 8 members of SMT (but not headteachers)
  • 1 barrister
  • 2 consultants
  • 11 headteachers/principals
  • 1 director of music at a school
  • 3 CEOs of MATs/executive headteachers who aren’t identified as being headteachers as well
  • 1 retired teacher
  • 1 teacher/ITT lead for a teaching school
  • 11 teachers (mostly in promoted posts, but not obviously SMT)
  • 1 founder of a MAT
  • 1 “works across” a MAT
  • 1 former headteacher
  • 4 unclear (including 1 who explicitly says they are no longer a teacher)
  • 1 professor in a teaching hospital
  • 1 CEO of a (CPD) charity

There are 33 candidates for the 10 members’ positions. Again, this is SMT heavy and there are a few in there who don’t actually appear to be what you would normally call “teachers”, but it is a bit more reflective of the profession than the other categories.

But looking across the candidates, this is not looking like an organisation that will enable teachers to reclaim their professionalism. This looks like an organisation run by people who already tell teachers what to do. Beyond that, there is the issue of people who are allowed to stand because they are fellows, who seem to have very little connection at all to teaching, while actual teachers who aren’t fellows would be banned from standing. Worst of all, there can be no excuse for consultants, people who have an explicit commercial interest in CPD, being able to vote, let alone stand, in these elections. This is an organisation receiving substantial public funds to spend on CPD. That seems like a clear conflict of interest.

We already know that the top two leadership positions will go to non-teachers. It will be up to the electorate to decide the rest. But there is no clear path from this mess to a genuinely teacher led organisation that is based on advancing teacher autonomy. Worse, those of us who remember the GTCE will live in fear of politicians giving this education establishment quango some real power and claiming they are giving it to teachers.

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The Chartered College of Getting It Wrong

July 7, 2018

Last week I wrote about how, after repeated promises that the new professional body for teachers would be teacher led, the upcoming election to its council would not only allow non-teachers to stand (and to vote) if they were “fellows”, but that most of the positions on the council, including that of president, were restricted to fellows. A category of membership that includes non-teachers is being advantaged over ordinary teachers.

There were a variety of responses. As ever there were plenty of people who aren’t currently teachers asking to be recognised as teachers which perhaps says something about the strange culture of education. There were people who interpreted any suggestion that non-teachers shouldn’t be fully involved in the professional body for teachers as representing personal antipathy towards non-teachers. To them, it was a personal insult that teachers could ever ask for something to themselves or to be treated as a distinct profession. Perhaps most bizarrely of all, were those who suggested that all organisations were flawed and so objecting to the flaws in this one – one that is being subsidised by government to the tune of £5 million – was unnecessary.

None of this seems to adequately explain the fact that by removing any expectation that the organisation be teacher led the College has abandoned a key commitment. As far as I can tell it seems to have done so without any consultation with its members. When I was criticising the College for allowing non-teachers to join, I was repeatedly told by enthusiasts for the College that they would only be non-voting “associates”. None of the people who told me that have apologised for misleading me, although I think some have said that they do object to the new system and have promised to vote for teachers in the elections.

The Chartered College Twitter account did start a thread on Twitter defending its position, and explicitly arguing that the powers and privileges of fellows are about “recognising their contribution to their profession”. Of course, this makes sense if the point of the Chartered College was to recognise the great and the good in the education sector, but originally the purpose was to empower ordinary teachers, not recognise those who already had power and influence.

During this thread, the account pointed out that:

The Council is going to be split with 10 Members & 8 Fellows. While the President and two Vice Presidents will be a Fellow, the Treasurer can be a Member or a Fellow

This is about the most positive spin that can be put on a system that means 13 positions for fellows, 10 positions for ordinary teachers, and 1 position that can be either. Previously I had been under the impression that the treasurer also had to be a fellow, so I asked if this was a change and was told it wasn’t.

It does indeed say in one place on the website that the treasurer can be a member. However, this also contradicts what was being said by the twitter account a week earlier.

Q) How many positions will be elected?

A) Council will be made up of 10 members, 4 elected officers (who must be Fellows – President, 2 Vice Presidents and Treasurer) and 8 other Fellows

And on another page on the website it said.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter whether the split between fellows and ordinary teachers is 13:11 or 14:10. Muddling up the rules in an election where the rules are already outrageously biased against ordinary teachers, is a minor mistake. But again, and again, one of the justifications for giving non-teachers a role in running the Chartered College has been that they have “expertise” in running organisations that teachers don’t have. Yet under the control of the experts, the College seems particularly error prone. As well as messing up communication of the rules for its own elections, it has badly missed its membership targets and the peer review system for its journal turned into a farce. I would have thought these were the sort of things that outside experts would get right, even if they failed to represent the profession the College was set up for. At the moment, we seem to have the worst of both worlds. Teachers are sidelined for not having the expertise to run their own professional association, but those who do run it are making amateur mistakes anyway.

It will be interesting to see who runs for the council positions, and who wins. There seems to be an optimism among teachers in the membership that they might be able to gain control, at least for the first year. And no doubt, if plenty of the elected fellows are teachers, people will say that the organisation is teacher led after all. However, this is still a system where most teachers who are members were excluded from leadership positions and those who weren’t excluded will have been pre-approved as fellows by the College and had to stand in elections where non-teachers could stand. Even if every position is held by a teacher, this will still not be about empowering teachers; this will be teachers asking for permission to be treated as a profession.

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The Chartered College Of Not Actually Teaching

June 30, 2018

You may be aware that there is a government subsidised “Chartered College” that was set up to help develop teacher professionalism.

However, unlike some professions, the teaching profession’s biggest obstacle to being treated as professionals, has been working in a system that treats non-teachers and managers as the experts about teaching, and teachers as in need of being told what to do.

Right from the start, any new professional body for teachers was going to need to exclude non-teachers (particularly education lecturers and consultants) and, while including teachers in management positions, make sure senior managers, and particularly headteachers, could not dominate. It would also need to avoid ranking or classifying teachers. Otherwise it could not hope to represent teachers, only those who already had power over teachers, and most classroom teachers would see it as just another group of people claiming to speak for us but actually telling us what to do and judging us.

In the end, classroom teachers didn’t have a hope of being the dominant voice in the Chartered College. The education establishment was too powerful. The Chartered College of Teaching was set up by CPD providers, run by a former headteacher, and based on tiers of membership with non-teachers allowed to join, not just as “associates” but as “fellows” a category that gives them extra recognition for their expertise.

The one possibility that teachers might still be the main voice in the Chartered College was in the repeated promise that the organisation would be “teacher led”.

When it first looked like there would be government support, this was emphasised by the organisation itself:

When the government announced they would support the organisation the prime minister, David Cameron, said this:

…we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching.

However, a couple of years ago they appointed a non-teacher as vice chair (as I reported here). Now they have got round to holding elections for their council. Incredibly, fellows, those in the category of membership which allows non-teachers, are deliberately advantaged in the elections:

The Council will be made up of 4 elected officers who must be Fellows of the Chartered College of Teaching (President, 2 Vice Presidents and Treasurer), 8 other Fellows, and 10 Members of the Chartered College of Teaching.

There are fellows who are teachers (although judging by Twitter on the day when people were confirmed as fellows the teachers who are fellows are either a small minority or just much quieter than the non-teachers). But even those teachers who are fellows have been approved as fellows by the organisation, and I am not aware of one single fellow who has been willing to speak out against the direction of the college and in favour of a teacher led professional body for teachers.

We shall see if actual teachers among the fellows do unusually well in this elections, despite the system. If you are a member, please vote only for teachers. In theory there could be a fight back and the Chartered College may end up being “currently teacher led” if not committed to being teacher led. But as things stand this is not set up to be the “teacher led college of teaching” that was promised. The money given to this organisation has been done so on the basis of the lie that it would be teacher led. That cash should be returned and spent on developing the teaching profession, not on yet another education establishment quango.

Incidentally, while I was looking into this, I saw a tweet from a former teacher saying she had free membership of the Chartered College for being a PhD student. I looked into it, and this did seem to be true. If you quit teaching to do a full time qualification in education, you get free membership. A great plan if this was the Chartered College for Educationalists. An absolute disgrace if you remember this organisation was meant to encourage people to remain in the profession, not reward them for leaving.

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The Progressive Narrative on Behaviour Part 3

June 23, 2018

Previously I have discussed two important parts of the progressive narrative on behaviour:

  1. The idea that children are liberated by a lack of discipline.
  2. The idea that children are not responsible for their behaviour.

The third and final strand of progressive thought on discipline can be summarised as “teacher blaming”. The idea is that bad behaviour is caused by individual teachers in the classroom doing the wrong thing for individual students. Slogans used to express this philosophy include:

  • “you make the weather in your classroom”,
  • “good behaviour management is based on good relationships”,
  • “perfect planning prevents poor behavior”,
  • “he/she always behaves for me”.

Teachers do have a responsibility to enforce discipline. We cannot absolve a teacher who refuses to enforce the rules or who undermines their colleagues by lowering expectations. Where a school behaviour policy is clear and workable, any teacher who doesn’t follow it, is making behaviour problems worse, even if only by making life harder for the teachers that do. We all have our part to play if a school behaviour system is to work well.

However, beyond this, you cannot run a school’s behaviour system on the basis that where bad behaviour occurs, it is the fault of the teacher, not the student. There are several reasons for this.

  1. We all make mistakes. We are only human; we all mess up on behaviour management sometimes. If you are relying on every teacher to get it right every time, for 23 lessons a week, you will be disappointed.
  2. Kids coordinate their behaviour based on more than what a teacher does. A teacher may get bad behaviour because they are new, because they are the wrong race/gender/sexual orientation, or because they teach an unpopular subject. Sometimes a teacher will get a lot of bad behaviour just because one ringleader among the children randomly takes a dislike to them.
  3. Some classes are just tougher than others. Your bottom set of 30 year 9 boys is not usually going to be as good as your class of 5 girls doing A-level. Blame the teachers for the bad behaviour, and you create incentive for those with power to use it to get the easiest classes and dump the tough ones on the powerless.
  4. A lot of the strategies for “avoiding” bad behaviour, are actually forms of appeasement. If you get good behaviour by winning over the ringleader among the kids, by making sure the content of the lesson is fun, or by never asking a kid to do something they don’t want to do, you may avoid confrontation, but it will be at a significant cost to their learning. This should not be encouraged.
  5. If teachers will be blamed for bad behaviour they will live in fear of a child “kicking off”. Kids will notice this and exploit it. In the worst schools, kids set the expectations not the teachers, and teachers are deterred from trying to raise expectations.
  6. Many “behaviour management strategies” are only useful at the margins. No matter how skilled you are with them, they cannot change the whole culture of the school in one lesson. If a sufficient mass of kids want a classroom to be in chaos, no amount of phrasing your instructions as a choice, or meeting the kids at the door with a smile will change that.

Working behaviour systems come down to making it easier for all teachers to enforce the rules. If all teachers know exactly what to do about behaviour and the school has the capacity for them to do it, behaviour improves for everyone.

When it comes to behaviour management, the most common criticisms of teachers (other than enforcing rules in the first place which has been covered by my first post) are:

  1. Shouting (and/or showing your emotions). We have all been there, either losing one’s temper, or just raising one’s voice and when that doesn’t work, having nowhere to go with it. No advice is worse for teachers than “remain calm”. If you still have a choice about being calm, then you are calm. This is all just a way of criticising teachers who are upset by bad behaviour, in order to blame them for the bad behaviour. And we all know at least one “shouty” teacher who has perfect behaviour.
  2. Having boring lessons. It may well be the case that if you just showed the kids cartoons instead of making them do quadratic equations, their behaviour would have been much better. So what? We are there to teach, not to entertain. And even then, it’s a lot easier to make a lesson enjoyable if you can trust the kids to behave.
  3. Having “bad relationships” with kids. Some teachers rely on being able to charm the kids into submission. This works to an extent, but often only by appeasement. However, most of us actually find that for the most part it is good behaviour that leads to good relationships and bad behaviour that leads to bad relationships. You can’t take the effect and make it the cause.

Things do differ between contexts. Primary teachers spend a lot more time with the same kids and have more of a chance to set expectations than secondary teachers. Also, the length of time you are at a school seriously affects the chances of being able to set expectations for your classes regardless of what happens elsewhere. Starting at a new school is often enough to quickly learn how little difference one teacher can make to behaviour. It is staggering how often those who claim that an individual classroom teacher can get perfect behaviour in their class without a supportive behaviour system are not themselves classroom teachers. Anyone who thinks they can turn around 9Z6 on a Friday afternoon just using their own personal classroom management skills and good relationships, has a moral obligation to be a classroom teacher in a tough comprehensive in the place of us mere mortals.

Strangely enough, they rarely are.

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