Pupils told to behave for ‘success’ rather than ‘moral value’

Setting a clear moral purpose for pupils beyond the achievement of academic success could reduce the risk of students being attracted by extremist movements, research being presented tomorrow claims.

Schools are currently telling pupils that they ought to behave because it will help them do well in exams, the British Educational Research Association will be told.

But the research, conducted by academics from Edge Hill University, concludes that schools should encourage virtues among its pupils such as curiosity, and help with setting goals for the type of person pupils want to become.

After analysing the behaviour policies of a representative sample of 36 English secondary schools,the researchers found 34 statements which said that pupils needed to behave well in class in order to support their own, or fellow pupils’, “learning and academic achievement”.

The researchers state that: “a causal link between behaviour and learning was explicitly made in most of the schools’ behaviour management policies.”

In one school the behaviour policy was called a ‘Ready for Learning Policy’ and said that pupil behaviour should create a positive climate “to allow all to succeed and fulfil their potential.”

The researchers argue that such policies fail to establish a reason for pupils to behave when they are adults, and can lead to pupils being susceptible to alternative, potentially extremist, narratives that give a basis from which to determine values.

Lee Donaghy, a teacher who worked at one of the Birmingham schools investigated over allegations of extremism, agrees that behaviour policies should develop pupils attitudes but believes this can be done hand-in-hand with a focus on results.

“Schools can’t operate in a moral vacuum, in order to achieve you have got to have the pupils coming with the right attitudes and the right frame of mind to develop the right attitudes to learning.

“I think it is very difficult to say that there is a dichotomy of teaching character and teaching academically. People sometimes wrongly assume that a school that gets really good results must be somehow sacrificing the other [character building] things.

“Good results and character building virtues essentially feed into each other.”


“Why be good? Axiological foundations for behaviour management policies in 36 secondary schools in England” is being presented to BERA by Professor Tim Cain, Helena Knapton, Jill McKenzie and Dr Damien Shortt, all of Edge Hill University, on Wednesday, September 16

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