Government behaviour tsar calls out ‘contradictory’ Ofsted report


Ofsted criticism of school leaders who “extensively controlled” pupil’s behaviour with sanctions “disproportionate to infringements” has been labelled “contradictory” by the government’s behaviour tsar.

Just last week, education secretary Gavin Williamson told school leaders they have the “full support of the government to impose discipline in classrooms” to create “calm and nurturing” teaching environments.

A few students thinking the school is a little strict is not a secure platform of evidence

However, an Ofsted report at King Charles I School in Kidderminster, published on Monday, found while pupils “behave well, they feel like they are not trusted… Parents have raised concerns that the system is too strict and is having a detrimental impact on children’s well-being.”

While it found the school continues to be ‘good’, the report was critical of its behaviour policies.

Inspectors said “behaviour is controlled to such an extent that it is not making pupils’ self-discipline better and does not create an environment in school that is conducive to learning. Not all sanctions are proportionate to the infringements committed.”

Gavin Williamson

Tom Bennett, the government’s lead behaviour adviser, was “extremely concerned” about the report’s language.

“On one hand it praises the school for good behaviour and that the students are safe and free from bullying. On the other hand, it seems to criticise the school for having a clear, well-executed behaviour policy with high standards and expectations.”

The school’s behaviour policy, published online, includes walking in single file, being calm in corridors and bringing the correct equipment to each lesson.

It runs a consequence system based on five core standards, including punctuality, focus on learning and correct uniform.

The policy states teachers will “consider the student’s circumstances”, such as age and SEND needs, before “determining the consequence”.

A spokesperson for the school said the behaviour policy created “quiet classrooms where teachers can teach and pupils can learn” and reduces “workload stresses” on teachers by managing punishments centrally.

Bennett said the policies are “completely ordinary” and seen in “thousands of other schools”.

“A few students thinking the school is a little strict is not a secure platform of evidence”, he added.

“Furthermore, the fact that some students are routinely removed from lessons is a sad but necessary feature of a school trying to keep students safe and lessons undisturbed.”

But the Ofsted report claimed the system is “not working for pupils whose behaviour is not good enough, because these pupils continue to reoffend and often spend time being isolated from lessons. This slows their learning”.

The “minority” of pupils misbehaving are mostly disadvantaged or have SEND needs, and these pupils “miss out on their learning” when sent to isolation.

Under the system, pupils’ behaviour is “extensively controlled”, Ofsted said. They told leaders to ensure their policy “addressed effectively” the behaviour issues of those who are “falling short of leaders’ high expectations, while not disadvantaging those who generally behave well.”

Williamson last week said he wants the school culture created by behaviour policies such as silent corridors and banning mobile phones to “be the norm”.

He said the country’s best schools all had discipline “in common”, praising “Michaela – Britain’s strictest school” for conducting reading and writing exercises in silence and giving pupils “demerits for things like forgetting their pens or slouching in class”.

Williamson said such measures improve pupils’ outcomes, and improve teacher morale and retention.

“Teachers deserve better, and they have the full support of the government to impose discipline in their classrooms and create calm and nurturing environments for teaching,” he added.

Mark Lehain, chair of Parents and Teachers for Excellence, said Ofsted should examine behaviour closely, but government guidance states schools are “free to determine their approaches to behaviour as they see fit” and “heads must be free to create the culture they want”.

Ofsted said it doesn’t have a “preferred way for schools to manage behaviour. We want to see that a school’s policy is implemented consistently, that it’s well understood and ultimately, that it works.”




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  1. Of course, schools need to be places where everyone feels safe, valued and committed to ensuring that effective learning is not hindered by inappropriate behaviour. That said, there are good reasons for supporting behaviour management practices that do not alienate pupils, as seems to possibly be the case at King Charles 1 school.

    It’s wonderful that Ofsted declares, “We want to see that a school’s policy is implemented consistently, that it’s well understood and ultimately, that it works.” The problem is, it has to work for everyone in the school environment where most people, including the students themselves, understand that the balance of ‘power’ always operates in favour of the school. This is why those who observe or comment on school behaviour need to draw on robust data which details how a school’s discipline policy actually impacts on students as well as staff.

    In this context, I question Tom Bennett’s observation. He declares, “A few students thinking the school is a little strict is not a secure platform of evidence”. Is he making a general observation, or is it a specific comment about the school under review? Assuming the latter, then my question to him would be, how robust is the evidence collected by the school in question to support his assessment? If his is a general observation, I would be interested in examining the available data on the frequency and quality of the evidence coming from such internal review.

    In this instance, on balance, I would suggest that inspectors had some such evidence at their disposal. If that was the case, then we would assume the evidence available supported the conclusions they arrived at. Out of interest, the only other question we might wish to ask is whether the views of students who felt the school’s behaviour management was a problem for them counted equally with those who expressed the opposite view.

  2. Kirsten Crossman

    It is clear that punative one size fits all approach to discipline doesn’t work especially those with SEN.This can be evidenced by the increasing numbers of Children who cannot manage in a Mainstream School without reasonable adjustments being without a School Place for years in some cases.Also the rise in Children being offrolled & those with increasing PTSD from Schools with a rigid inflexible behaviour policy.Inclusion rarely works for Children with SEN & is evidenced by the amount of time some Children spend there.Mentioning de merits for slouching is one such example or forgetting a pen.For a Child with SEN who has sensory issues or poor executive functioning this would not be something they necessarily have control over.Ultimately it leads to pooe self esteem & an increase in anxiety & depression.Schools need regular training on a range of SEN issues.There are many ways to manage a Childs behaviour other than Victorian Disciplinarian values.Working with Parents closely & communicating regularly to manage change & any issues as they crop up.Building a Childs self esteem by giving rewards for achievements both inside & outside school.Holding regular assemblys on bullying & Disability awareness.Involving Children in School decisions so they feel like they are a part of the School not just a number.It is possible to have punishments for bad behaviour as well as thinking about why a Child has misbehaved & making allowances or adaptions for SEN.For instance keeping a stock of ties in School so that if a pupil can’t find there tie in the morning they can borrow one for the day.It’s about having a nurturing,caring,respectful attitude towards each other but not worrying about the small things that really have no ladting consequence.Most of us are not controlled in the same way in our workplace as Children are in School.
    Schools are noisy challenging overwhelming places for many Children & we should remember that “Children do well if they can”.
    Some Schools have got it right & value their pupils & their contributions & treat them as Individuals & stll have “Good ” Behaviour.We need to stop exam factory mentality & understand that every Child is unique & learn differently & develop at different rates.To be truly inclusive we need to praise those Children who come to School despite huge challenges.
    Until the Government & Schools acknowledge this & stop this lip service to Inclusivity without truly practising it then exclusions & mental Health Conditions in Children will increase.As a large number of those Children have SEN it is clear we are failing a whole generation of Children.
    It’s not hard to make simple changes for Children with SEN but awareness is key.

    • A E Loan

      Kirsten -I agree 100 percent. I have a 16 year old who cannot now return to school. They never made the small adjustments we repeatedly requested over 3 years , like making sure she has the homework down , didn’t forget her bag from class etc. Then when she had a breakdown they freaked out and couldn’t cope with her anxiety. And now with PTSD, she is finding life too hard and may not sit any GCSEs at all. If they had just taken my requests seriously instead of continually discriminating, she might have stood a chance .

  3. Yvette Sexton

    I feel sick reading this. Government have their agenda in creating robots, but do we want 1984 Big Brother rukes i our schools? Where is the roo for creativity and where is our celebration of difference? If schools are allowed to oot out of teching students who dont have middle class parents, they will all end uo in colleges on entry level or level 1 programmes having been failed by the school ststem. I now understand why my intelligent well behaved 12 year old granddaughter is coming home from school feeling demotivated and depressed. As a leader in Further education, I am horrified to read so many accounts of our young people being systematically bullied as “the norm”. Are we not trying to reduce the levels of anxiety and depression in young people? What happened to safeguarding? These schools are focussed on educating only the middle class “normal” kids and letting the rest fall by the wayside. This is an unintended consequence of the Education I spection Framework and Ofsted are right to criticise schools who are overstepping the mark to make their life easier and shirk their responsibilities. As parents and grandparents we MUST stand up and demand that schools treat our kids with care and respect. I am sickened and angry. Just one example. My granddaughter is mortified for having a single demerit point for missing one homework (despite the many merits). She is now excluded from all benefits at the end of the year. She has now lost all motivation as there is no way to win this back. This is ridiculous.