‘Wake-up’ call for schools as weeks of lessons lost to misbehaviour

Government survey finds discrepancy between leaders, teachers and pupils' views on disruption

Government survey finds discrepancy between leaders, teachers and pupils' views on disruption

8 Jun 2023, 18:25

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More than six weeks of lesson time may have been lost to misbehaviour over the last year, the government’s first-ever national behaviour survey has found.

The research, dubbed a “huge wake-up” for the sector, also revealed the health and wellbeing of 60 per cent of teachers had been impacted.

It found around a quarter of youngsters only felt safe at school on “some days” or at no point in the week before they were quizzed. 

DfE behaviour tsar Tom Bennett, who helped pen the report, said the results show “we need to refocus our efforts on making sure schools are safe for all”.

“There is a lot of learning time lost to misbehaviour. Even if the recorded data is an exaggeration the suggestion that almost 20 per cent of time is lost in a school day is a huge wake-up to the sector.

“If we could claw most of that back, then we could add a whole year of learning onto a child’s school life. I think most children could really use that extra year, especially the most disadvantaged.”

Sixty-two per cent of school leaders and teachers said poor behaviour had interrupted teaching in lessons in the week before they were quizzed last June.

On average, about six minutes for every half an hour in class was eaten up by poor behaviour.  Over the course of a normal school day, this represents 50 minutes lost. 

Our analysis found this would equate to about six-and-a-half weeks of classes that could have been lost over the academic year. 

“In June 2022, 61 per cent of school leaders and teachers reported that pupil misbehaviour had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing to any extent in the past week,” the report added.

“Of these, 7 per cent reported it to ‘a great extent’, 23 per cent to ‘some extent’ and 31 per cent to ‘a small extent’.”

Heads and teachers more likely to report ‘calm’

When asked if they felt they could access training for behaviour management, 27 per cent of teachers and a fifth of leaders answered they could not find any relevant to their experience and needs.

Ninety-two per cent of leaders also reported “their school had been calm and orderly ‘every day’ or ‘most days’ in the past week”. This compared to 70 per cent of teachers and 55 per cent of pupils. 

Two-fifths of youngsters responding to the survey “said they felt safe at school ‘every day’” over the previous week. Meanwhile, 24 per cent answered “some days” or “never”.

The study also found more than one in five children had been a victim of bullying in the past 12 months. The most common reason cited for being picked on was the way they looked. 

The DfE said the survey was designed to provide it “with a tool to monitor pupil behaviour in mainstream primary and secondary schools”.

“Understanding concerns related to pupil behaviour and engagement is a priority for us.

“The regular survey data will provide evidence to build on our programme of work to support school leaders and teachers in managing pupil behaviour and to create a positive culture.”

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  1. Gopa Gunn

    Parents should be made to attend parenting classes and take more responsibility for their child’s behaviour. There should be an automatic expectation that teachers are treated with respect but they should receive training if required. If a child has been disruptive every year through school, it is not going to be because of poor behaviour management. Resources should be available to find the root cause and parents should be forced to complete training in order to support their child more effectively. In every school, everyone knows who the strong teachers are, who the ‘pushover’ teachers are, which children continually disrupt and which parents wear rose- tinted glasses. Behaviour will only improve in schools when there is a consistent, whole team effort and a ‘ no blame’ culture.

    • Kerry

      Parent blaming is a bit of a lame duck. If there is behaviour going on in the classroom that is not helping children to learn, you need to look at the reasons behind that behaviour. Sure, in some cases it may be that the issues start at home, but in so many cases it is children that don’t feel safe in school and are overwhelmed by the school environment.

      The answer is not parent blaming or a bigger stick or carrot, it is to look at the root cause of the behaviour and what that behaviour is communicating. It needs a collaborative approach from schools, the kids and their families. Building relationships and a feeling of safety in school through being understood goes a long way to helping kids learn.

      Teachers also need much better training in SEND and how to recognise and support those kids who are struggling in a school environment. The training provided during PGCE and subsequently during CPD doesn’t even touching the tip of the iceberg and let’s both teachers and children down.

  2. Frances L

    I’ve just retired from teaching and behaviour was a major factor in that decision. It’s interesting that heads are under the impression that the school day is calm and orderly and may go some way to explain why as teachers few of us felt well supported by SLT. It’s this wishful thinking on the part of head teachers? It’s time they rolled their sleeves up and got out into the corridors and classrooms to see what’s really going on. We had CCTV in our classrooms, I don’t believe this was made good use of to see the reality.
    Kids have missed a lot of school thanks to the pandemic and I think that’s totally under acknowledged by the education sector. It’s just been carry on as though nothing’s different.

  3. Patrick Obikwu

    A SCHOOL is first and foremost a place for LEARNING. Fundamental to effective learning is RESPECT and DISCIPLINE. Without respect and discipline there is no SAFETY. Without safety there can no learning, much less effective learning, no matter how great or excellent a teacher may be. No enthusiastic teacher is eager to go into a school to be insulted, disrespected, or physically or verbally assaulted. No parent is happy to send their child(ren) to a school where they are likely to experience physical and or verbal assault. No child, no matter how intelligent or gifted, can be happy or learn effectively in a school if he or she is in constant fear in a school. Misbehaviour or disruption or unruly behaviour is simply lack of respect and lack of discipline. A school is not a ZOO. QED.

  4. Catherine Graham

    Fully funded training for all staff on de escalation and emotion coaching for all staff and pupils would help to reduce incidents. There is also a huge issue with children needing staff who can give them their time to work through issues. Teaching staff in classrooms can’t pause their lessons to do this. Detentions and exclusions won’t fix these issues – we need adequate pastoral support staff in all schools to help the young people who are struggling to manage their stress and anxiety in a different way and work through their trauma. Also the most disruptive students are usually not accessing the specialist support services they need to help them to address their issues – there’s an urgent need to increase and improve CAMHS services. The waiting lists are through the roof in every borough. No one seems to be acknowledging the impact of COVID on our young people and how instead of easing the pressure we are expected to pile more on them to make sure they “catch up”.

    • Hayley Smith

      As a Clinical Psychologist specialising for many years in supporting children and young people, parents and schools, I have ACTUAL first hand evidence and the educational background to understand the problem, which is the increasingly pressurised target/test driven school curriculum and Education System micromanaged by Central Government with a lack of consideration of individual children’s needs and an archaic behavioural approach to “behaviour management ” in schools (advised by Governmentand people like Tom Bennett), consistently blaming teachers, parents and the children themselves. We have more up to date, helpful approaches backed by research with an understanding of child development and neuroscience. Who is taking the time to look at the underlying reasons for behaviour?? There is a mental heath pandemic amongst children and young people with 1/10 children from age 7 suffering with their mental health. The biggest reason for “disruptive” behaviour in schools is unmet need and this is backed by lots of recent reliable research. If the best response we have is to put stricter rules in place in schools or to blame parents, teachers and children, its a sad affair indeed….

      This abstract is from relevant research out this month:

      “Whilst there is no single definition of
      behaviour, when talking about behaviour within an educational context, this can relate to any action that pupils take. Within a school setting, our evidence suggests that this predominantly focuses on the negative behaviours, rather than the positive behaviours that schools want to see.
      Recent research evidence consistently highlighted that behaviour is often driven by unmet need. Young people, parents, carers and professionals overwhelmingly told us that behaviour is linked to both mental health needs and to special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities. Evidence shows how unmet and undiagnosed needs can often contribute to behavioural problems within schools.”

  5. Patrick Obikwu

    All of a sudden it is dawning on the powers that be in education that student misbehaviour in (UK) schools has a serious detrimental effect on teacher wellbeing, absence and attrition, on student wellbeing and attendance, and on effective teaching learning and educational outcomes. What an epiphany!! This is more of a joke and tragedy at the same time. A SCHOOL is first and foremost a place for LEARNING. Fundamental to effective learning is RESPECT, DISCIPLINE, and RESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOUR. Where students lack respect, discipline, and responsible behaviour there is no SAFETY. Without safety there can be no learning, much less effective learning, no matter how great or excellent a teacher may be. No enthusiastic teacher is eager to go into a school to be insulted, disrespected, or physically or verbally assaulted. No parent is happy to send their child(ren) to a school where they are likely to experience physical and or verbal assault. No child, no matter how intelligent or gifted, can be at ease or learn effectively in a school if he or she is in constant fear. Misbehaviour or disruption or unruly behaviour is simply lack of self-discipline, lack of self-respect, and irresponsibility on the part of students. This was obvious to me as far back as 2002 when I trained as a science teacher. I made student discipline, respect, and responsible behaviour my defining attribute which translated into VISIBLE PRESENCE in the school. Any school where there is no discipline, no respect, and responsible behaviour is not a school. Such a school might as well be called a ZOO. QED

    • Pete S

      I have to agree with Patrick and Frances L . I worked for many years in a “tough” city school – and although there were “rewards” and “sanctions” – the staff were BLAMED if “on call” were ever used, to try to get on with learning for those that wanted or were ready to learn. The SMT stupidly gave weekly prizes ( wine or chocs) to staff, who used the on call-removal system least! In class disruption increased! Compliance time became longer and longer and more disruption ensued until inevitably – on call- had to be called for certain pupils. On appointment of a tough Scots “no nonsense” Headteacher – who did “walk the school”, at every free moment and instructed his deputies to do the same and “support” staff by looking / listening through windows randomly, asking if they could come into class politely, and sometimes asking a pupil or pupils outside and softly demanding some respect for the rest of the class and the teacher – OR- they were taken away – and for that day they were isolated at break -time and lunch-time from their mates in a room by the Heads office, with the work and texts to enable some work/learning on that lessons topic! They left school after the normal leaving time by 20 minutes. The next day they had to follow the same pattern and work was provided -and supervised by SMT on a rota . the killer for the pupils was that they came into school later -( again not with their mates )/ or registered with the Head’s PA and went to the room to wait for normal starting time – again having break and lunch at different times to their year group. They had to have a clean sheet – stay in that room and get a credit for work done ! Not a full set of credits ?- same for the next day !!! The message to those in the school who wanted or tried to disrupt was simple – There are consequences AND they are instant and non-negotiable. The same went for parents who wanted to complain – and not support the school. Options to move to another school – or to work with the school! The teachers were assured that should they need to call for support, that they would not be BLAMED, (unless of course it was for a trifling matter like “no equipment” ,” uniform transgression” or similar matter which does not stop the teacher from teaching). This new Head was “like a breath of fresh air” as one colleague commented to me, years later! So support your teachers and support staff – get the ethos right, and it will become calmer and a pleasure for all to be in schools. Key message – don’t blame the staff and offer more ever more training/CPD in behaviour management / professional support) – do something practical to show you support your staff from the very top! Recording incidents and outcomes – (sanctions /detentions etc) -often applied later -often days later, at great cost to staff time and admin time – on SIMs or similar, does nothing to solve the problem! When Ofsted arrive – why are SMT usually walking the corridoors and outside at lesson change over? !!! SO key message – No Blame and – Support your staff -every day!

    • John Davies

      I have to agree with Patrick schools should be places where mutual respect os of the utmost importance. No-one can teach in an unruly atmosphere so discipline ensures that every pupil can get a fair hearing, Responsible behaviour comes with discipline and respect.

      I strongly assert once again that very few of the “Experts ” actually teach . I left teaching over 20 years ago and can now be considered an “Expert”.

  6. E Vine

    While we have what is a factory batch production system with batches (classes) passing from department to department on a factory bell system rather than an individualised tailored project based team and individual learning system run by teachers that’s integrated with activities and programmes, projects, arts and sports run by youth workers then the regimentation and focus on terminal exams then as has been for decades motivation and discipline issues will continue to disrupt, create stress for teachers and students and for the majority of students depress their achievements. It’s why we need to fundamentally change the system and take charge to employ ed tec and AI in ways to do it.

  7. Zandra Wilkinson

    The only behaviour problems we have in school are children overwhelmed by the academic expectations and the physical environment. Some of our ASC children cannot cope with the demands placed on them in this archaic education system and struggle to self regulate. There are few settings designed for these pupils and this leaves them vulnerable, scared and lashing out at anyone near them when they feel threatened in a mainstream classroom. In 23 years of teaching, I have never seen so many overwhelmed children who need calmer spaces with less stimulation, fewer other people and less challenge.

  8. jaylee

    I have to strongly disagree with it’s all the parents & childrens fault. Have any of you recently stepped foot in an academy school? Have any of you got a child currently attending or recently left an academy school? Have any of you looked up the behaviour policy for the school? My child attended an Academy School managed by United Learning Trust. The academy behavior policy states zero tolerance to defiance & they are relentless in their punishment where any rule they state is broken. By rule I’m am talking about petty rules that when I went to school would of warranted either the teacher telling us off sometimes turning a blind eye or if being stupid sent outside the classroom for 5 mins the teacher then asking was everything okay & explaining what was expected of you when in the classroom job done. There is no explanation anymore for these kids to correct their behaviour there is no compassion for them they are labelled a disruptive child regardless. The biggest issue is the majority of teachers are not experienced & use the C1 C2 system unnecessarily for control. If a child asks ‘why’ they have recieved either one of these they are instantly removed from the classroom as they are classed as a serious risk to other students within that classroom. When placed in isolation they are in their until the lesson time they were removed from comes around the following day during isolation they are not learning classroom lessons leading to them missing out on other lessons & if in year 10 or 11 has a negative impact on their high expectation of grades. Some of these kids I know of have missed out on at least 60% of learning time in one term due to this draconian system. The values & ethos of these schools or home life do not match with the current behaviour system nor do they reflect the working & higher education world outside of school. Academies are distributing future generations of either robots or long term sicknotes. There is no middle ground, no parental involvement & no fun in learning anymore. No matter what high standards & expectations the DFE, Tom Bennett & these Academies expect from these kids the world will always need someone to box eggs not every child is academic every child learns differently as we all did growing up. This is no longer being allowed in UK schools all kids learn collectively & academies education framework is American based the same as the behaviour systems currently in place are American. We are not America & the UK education system was working fine until governments past & present purposely underfunded it to bring in the diabolical system in place now. Top & bottom of it all is schools have been replaced with what younger generations call Reform Schools older generations will refer to them as Borstal. So dont blame the parents or the kids because the behaviour systems in place are also impacting parents & their kids relationships at home.

  9. As an agency cover supervisor, I feel I bear the brunt of poor behaviour, as children often feel that a cover lesson is a green light to poor and disruptive behaviour.

    A number of schools are aware of this and will visit your class during the lesson to check, however the majority do not seem to be bothered and in some cases you se to be allocated the disruptive groups, so permnament staff do not have to deal with them.

    As a footnote I have never received any training whatsoever for this role, including behaviour management.