Ofsted’s 2014 pronouncement (“Below the radar”) about low-level disruption was remarkably similar to its earlier comments on the subject.
Indeed it has been commenting on the topic since at least 2005 – and quite possibly before.
And what is interesting is that once again there was one issue missing: the discussion on why low-level disruption happens. What is the cause?
This is not a remote academic question, because normally understanding the cause of a problem is the key to solving the problem. In this case, however, it seems Ofsted thinks not.
The government office instead focusses on the notion that some teachers feel senior leaders do not understand what behaviour is really like in the classroom – and they cite PISA research which backs up this view.
In most organisations, if a problem exists and is not being solved, the issue of the cause quickly becomes the focal point. Find out why and then address the issue.
Indeed it can be argued that one of the great problems with approaches to discipline is that they are based on ideas and beliefs rather than practical experimentation which might establish whether a theory works in terms of reducing disruption and enhancing learning.
Even when such experimentation does exist, it can sometimes be the case that those who determine educational policy may set it aside when the experiment’s results don’t quite match their established political beliefs.
When it comes to behaviour and discipline there is research, the findings of which have never been countered, which shows that the key factor in determining the behaviour of pupils is not the syllabus of the school, parental expectations, nor indeed the socio-economic background of the students.
Rather it is the view of the staff within the school. In fact, where different staff hold different views on the issue of behaviour and discipline, then behavioural issues increase.
In short, when the staff genuinely agree to, and subsequently adopt, a unified policy then the problems vanish.
What makes this finding so important is that first, it puts the power to change pupil and student behaviour totally in the hands of the school and its managers, and second, it assures us all that change is possible.
This is the starting point for the volume, Improving attitudes, managing behaviour and reducing exclusions, a book that builds from the original research which proved this finding and which applies it to contemporary schooling.
The findings of the original research reviewed in the book are very clear: schools improve when all those in the school decide to improve the school, not because of government initiatives, Ofsted, or what anyone else tells us to do.
For, once a school has its own unified policy, and is able to project that policy to parents and students as an approach to which all staff agree, the unity of purpose of the school is established.
The key issue thus becomes the implementation and maintenance of the policy every day of the school year. And it is the implementation of this approach that “Improving attitudes” describes.
You can see some sample pages at http://pdf.firstandbest.co.uk/education/T1813.pdf
Publisher’s reference: T1813EMN ISBN: 978 1 86083 821 7
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