Education secretary Gavin Williamson wants the school culture created by behaviour policies such as silent corridors and banning mobile phones to “be the norm”.
The comments follow the Departments for Education’s announcement it will be launching a new £10 million behaviour taskforce to tackle classroom disruption and unruly behaviour.
It’s the latest sign of the Conservative government making clear it wants stricter discipline in schools. Prime minister Boris Johnson has previously pledged to give headteachers the “powers they need to deal with bad behaviour”.
Williamson said this morning that the country’s best schools all had discipline “in common” and praised schools which had banned mobile phones, implemented silent corridors and teachers escorting pupils to classes after breaks.
Pointing to “Michaela – Britain’s strictest school” as an example, he said: “Reading and writing exercises are conducted in silence, and pupils are given demerits for things like forgetting their pens or slouching in class. Last summer, Michaela’s pupils – many of them from disadvantaged backgrounds – famously triumphed in their GCSEs”.
He added such measures would also improve teacher morale and retention.
“Poor behaviour is dreadful for teacher morale . . . having to deal with unruly pupils and disruption on a daily basis adds to their workload and stress and is driving many from the profession they love.
“Those 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.”
Stricter rules would also improve pupil outcomes, Williamson claimed, and allow pupils to “fulfil their full academic potential” as “it takes just one incident of bad behaviour to derail an entire lesson.”
Earlier this week former teacher-turned-Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis praised zero-tolerance behaviour polices during a Westminster Hall debate on exclusions, calling on such schools to be “unreservedly celebrated” for ensuring staff aren’t “treated as punch bags”.
But such policies have proved controversial in the sector. The National Education Union previously described them as “draconian” and “inhumane”.
The union’s national conference last year heard claims that such approaches lead to pupils being “informally excluded from classrooms” and to pupils spending “inappropriate and harmful amounts of time” in isolation.
Williamson’s text full:
Visit some of the country’s best performing schools, and you’ll notice that many of them have one thing in common: discipline. Across the UK, dedicated head teachers have been trying all sorts of common-sense solutions to curb unruly behaviour and low-level disruption in the classroom – with impressive results.
Some have banned mobile phones, asking students to place them in lockers at the start of the day. Others, like the City of London Academies, have implemented lining up, with teachers quietly escorting pupils in some years to class after break and lunch. This ensures the class stays together, lessons start on time and the corridors are silent – allowing classes to continue without disruption.
At Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford, students, with the support of their families, agree to a number of learning habits, like making sure they are in the correct simple uniform every day, that they always respond appropriately to adults and they bring all the necessary equipment to class.
And of course there’s Michaela, Britain’s “strictest school”. Reading and writing exercises are conducted in silence, and pupils are given demerits for things like forgetting their pens or slouching in class. Last summer, Michaela’s pupils – many of them from disadvantaged backgrounds – famously triumphed in their GCSEs.
These schools are achieving great things thanks in part to the calm, disciplined and nurturing environments they have created. As part of our ambitious plans to level up across the country, I want this kind of culture to be the norm, particularly in the one in three schools judged as not having good enough behaviour by Ofsted.
Improving discipline is one of our key priorities, which is why we are today inviting schools with the best records on behaviour to join a team of experts and lead a £10 million programme to improve discipline across the system.
We plan to build partnerships between schools which are leading on this issue with those who want to turn their own cultures around, allowing institutions with poor behaviour to learn from those with the best. They’ll be led by former teacher and behaviour expert Tom Bennett, along with a team of current and former headteachers with broad experience of creating disciplined environments in their own schools.
Why have we made this a priority? Well, first, because poor behaviour is dreadful for teacher morale. Our teachers are incredibly hardworking and dedicated professionals. Having to deal with unruly pupils and disruption on a daily basis adds to their workload and stress and is driving many from the profession they love. Teachers say such disruption is one of the key reasons they would consider leaving the job, while almost a fifth of those working in secondary schools said they lacked confidence in their school’s ability to deal with challenging behaviour.
Those 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.
But perhaps most importantly, instilling good behaviour in our classrooms would bring the most benefit to pupils themselves, no matter who they are or where they come from. Ill-discipline doesn’t just hold back the brightest pupils, but those most in need of attention, and those who are most likely to fall behind in school when their education is disrupted.
Like everyone else in their class, those pupils deserve to be taught in an environment where they can be challenged so they can fulfil their full academic potential. Being taught the tenets of good manners, courtesy and respect for others is also immensely valuable for pupils as they learn to cope with complex relationships in adult society. This can also help turn around local areas as the emerging generation take on leadership roles in their communities.
We already have some of the best teachers in the world, and a truly stretching curriculum. But it takes just one incident of bad behaviour to derail an entire lesson. By backing schools to tackle such behaviour, we can finally put teachers in a position to focus on what they do best – to teach.