Behaviour in school – whose responsibility is it?

In an article reviewing the 2010 Behaviour Survey  by Parentline Plus, Teacher Support Network(TSN)and the National Union of Teachers,  Sue Atkins highlights concerns that behaviour in schools has declined over a number of years. Among the statistics quoted by the educational professionals surveyed are that 70% of teachers have thought about leaving the profession because of this increase, 81% have experienced stress as a result of bad classroom behaviour and 79% feel that they are unable to teach effectively because of it.
One of the recommendations from teachers the report says, is that schools should offer support to parents on understanding schools approach to discipline. Jeremy Todd, chief executive of Parentline Plus commented: “It is vital that schools work with parents to engage them and ensure they understand their important role in their child’s education, including reinforcing the school’s messages about acceptable behaviour.” He went on to say: “Simple techniques and confidence building in parents whose children are not able to behave in class can be very effective and enable children to stay in the classroom and behave, preventing them from permanent exclusion.”
For me, we seem to have lost a step in all this. Why should schools need parents to engage in THEIR behaviour expectations? Are schools requirements of behaviour so different from those of society? Most school behaviour policies contain lists of rewards as well as sanctions for pupils meeting expectation of sitting down and listening. What is so special about these expectations? Should there be rewards and why do we need sanctions? Surely, behaving in a reasonable way is something all children should be able to do?
Moving into the anecdotal here – I remember you did not want to be told off at school because it was likely to result in another telling off when you got home (and a clip round the ear!). Schools and teachers were respected much like policemen. Are we now in a situation where behaviour at home is at odds with that expected in schools?
Surely part of parenting is to prepare children for the world they are going to join, be part of and hopefully contribute to?  That attaches a responsibility to teach them the correct rules of engagement. Yet again it seems that schools are expected to do the teaching (see a similar situation here  )
If that is the case, then parents do need to find out, sign up and promote the school’s behaviour code. However, I am saddened to think that it has come to this. In order to do their jobs, teachers need to feel safe and confident in their classrooms. Yes they need to offer a varied and interesting curriculum for their pupils so that boredom does not lead to ‘off task’ behaviour. It is the balance between this ‘chicken and egg’ situation that hopefully will keep our talented staff in our schools.


Whose responsibility is it to have good behaviour in our schools?

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  • This is a tricky one isn’t it. We try to teach good behaviour at home though it’s slightly problematic as our son is autistic so the usually parenting stuff doesn’t work. We find that Nipper is actually pretty well behaved at school and plays up mostly at home. Was the report talking about junior or senior school or just generally across the board? Unfortunately there are some people who couldn’t care less about their kids behaviour and see the teachers as just yet another set of people to have a scrap with. I do think that ‘parenting skills’ and respectful behaviour should be part of the curriculum so that if the kids aren’t getting guidance at home they may at least pick up some of it from school.

  • I agree that the parents are responsible for their child’s behaviour and some of them set terrible examples. When I worked at our local school parents used to come in, dragging their child/children behind them and berating a member of staff in front of them. I this this gives completely the wrong message to the child. If you have a complaint about a teacher, make an appointment and go and see them, WITHOUT the child!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for your comments. It is so important that adults understand how much influence they have over children without even realising it.

  • Tara

    Really interesting discussion and one very close to my heart.
    Very sad to hear Rhona’s comment but I have actually heard of this before.
    I think the problem for me as a parent is that I have never been told all the rules and expectations placed on the children so how can I enforce them at home?
    I had an incident recently where my 5 year old got herself in to trouble for not sticking to a lunchtime ‘rule’ but I wonder if she really knew it as she’d only been at school for 3 weeks and there is SO much for them to learn and take in.
    I really do lament the lack of respect and the way some parents behave like it’s a real imposition to discipline their children. Discipline doesn’t have to involve ‘telling off’. It’s about educating and reinforcing and making sure our children grow to be respectful individuals.
    Great discussion J. I feel a post of my own coming on! x

    • Anonymous

      Many thanks for your comments Tara. I had not thought about how children may not understand precisely what they are being asked to do. Something for schools to take on board I think!

    • MsWu2008

      Hi Tara, going by what you have posted any teacher/school that would make an issue of a 5 year old “not sticking to a lunchtime ‘rule’ ” needs to be reminded of the child’s stage of development. I think it is unreasonable for them to expect a 5 year old to “get it” at that age and I certainly would not be impressed if they “bothered” me with that information. If it was a year down the line then I would be all ears.

  • Nina

    My question is…’Are we talking behaviour or discipline…behaviour in itself can be detrimental. More to follow.

  • I think what is happening is that the school is recognising it is a shared responsibility. The school can’t enforce a behaviour code without the support of parents and to some extent, neither can parents, if it is about school behaviour.
    Behaviour appears to be one of the things that our school excels at. (Ofsted say so anyway). The kids do behave really well and they reinforce it from the day they set foot in class, using a traffic light system. I made it clear to Monkey (and since to Missy Woo) that I expect them to stay on the green as much as possible. As far as I’m aware, they’ve only been off the green 3 times between them.
    They were quick last year to deal with any behavioural problems. Some parents were asked to discuss their kids behaviour with the teacher or headteacher quite early on. I know they do involve parents – and they try to get one of the workers from the Children’s Centre nearby to pop in on occasion.
    There are just some parents out there that do not like to say no to their kids. I don’t understand it but there you go. Most of them are in reaction to very strict upbringings. Mine wasn’t ultra strict but it was firm and there were consequences for bad behaviour. I don’t think I am massively different to my parents but now, I’m regarded as ultra strict. I think it’s healthy to say no to my children – I don’t do it all the time and I normally have a reason that I can explain to them – but it has to be done. May be it is getting this across that school needs to focus on? Perhaps learning that saying no to your child doesn’t make you an ogre would help schools enormously because some kids do arrive thinking they can do anything they like, because no-one has never said no to them. Not necessarily their fault.
    Shocked by Rhona’s comment – the kids are allowed to go to toilet when they need to, provided they don’t all go at once so they have toilet passes by the door (so only so many can go at once) and they must ask first. They tend to celebrate good behaviour, particularly in the younger ones which is when they are laying the foundations for later in their school careers.

    • Anonymous

      Many, many thanks Kate. I must admit to being amazed at the reaction of some parents to their children’s unruly behaviour. It must be very difficult for children to understand if they are given mixed messages. It is not difficult to understand that they will choose the approach that gives them more of what THEY want! Thanks again. Quite a debate eh!

  • As I start my teaching career, classroom management is something that really worries me. Thanks again for bringing something to my attention for me to think about.

    • Anonymous

      Make sure you fully understand the procedure that the school follows and share it with the children thoroughly (see above) with parents and children. I’m sure it will go very well. Many thanks for stopping by!

  • Janice Barker

    We had a similar discussion about educating parents on our Schools discipline system this week. We came to the conclusion it doesn’t matter how many letters are sent home only a small amount of parents actually take them out of the schoolbag the rest more than likely end up in the bin so we need a better way of working with the parents to educate them to work along side the school when our disipline system is used, so that they too can back us up and work with us instead of against out school teachers.

    • Anonymous

      It is such a difficult one isn’t it? Have it changed over the years or do I just not remember disruptions in my class? Thanks for stopping by!

    • I’m not sure that is fair on parnets – at least you need to try and tell the parents! I have no idea what our school’s discipline system is. It’d be great to get a letter at the beginning of the school year and to have the policy on our website. And perhaps to have it reinforced via the newsletter (“this week we have told the children what our discipline system is and how it works. Please discuss it with them” or something like that).
      Very interesting on comments on this.
      I agree it’s always much better to have parents and teachers on the same side.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks so much for commenting Sarah. I think the idea of schools making the behaviour policy clear is vital (as Tara illustrated)and I like your suggestion of regular reminders. We have to get over this nervousness from both parents and teachers. I think this is what starts it all off on the wrong foot becasue often neither has quality time for that conversation.

  • Rhona

    My child misbehaves in school in ways she wouldn’t dream of doing at home as she knows she would not get away with it. How am I supposed to influence how she behaves when she is not in my direct care? When I was a child, the fear of my parents physical punishment if word of bad behaviour got home prevented me from stepping too far out of line but this option is obviously, and rightly, not available to us as parents now.
    My child has problems with sitting still, listening to the teacher and not shouting out the answers impulsively. She has trouble sitting with her legs crossed as she says it hurts. She’s not allowed to go the toilet when she needs to and this makes her fractious and anxious. She finds it hard to wind down after break time and stand in a nice neat line with her class. None of these conditions apply at home and neither should they.
    I get very angry when teachers imply her failings to comply with school-specific situations are somehow my fault. I have put much effort into trying to explain my child’s individuality and needs to her teachers but get the same response every time: “With a class of 30 children we can’t give one any special treatment.”
    As a parent I feel it is a no-win situation and I resent the implication my parenting is at fault.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much for commenting and for being so honest about the situation your daughter faces. I am sure you will not be alone in finding those responses from class teachers. One of the purposes for the post was to start a dialogue about the difficulties both parents & school have with this ‘behaviour’ thing. Your story shows that a list of rewards and sanctions are not the solution. Thank you again and I do hope you will visit again.

      • Rhona

        Thanks for your lovely response, I was worried I’d set myself up as the *bad parent * (again!).

        • CommonSensi

          Why do you say “but this option is obviously, and rightly, not available to us as parents now”? To be specific, why “rightly”?
          If you lack the power to control your children because the right to give a smacking has been taken from you, then surely the supposed “gain” in not being smacked has surely been outweighed by the fact that children can’t be controlled and will not be properly educated.
          I had a few whackings from my father as a child and it was what I needed – it brought me into line. My nephew, on the other hand, has never been smacked as my brother shares your opinion on this matter. As a result, he has had a “biting problem” for over 4 years which my dad would have sorted out in a matter of minutes with a few smacks to the bottom.
          Low self discipline causes so many problems in society, and it seems to me no coincidence that all these problems began when we started phasing out corporal punishment. Granted, there needs to be a limit to it, but I can’t say I feel the slightest symphathy for anyone given the occasional smacked bottom. A little pain isn’t really that bad, and it’s an extremely effective method of conditioning people against bad behaviour.

          • jfb57

            Thank you for stopping by and taking the itme to comment. I was only smacked once and in a very minor way but it was all I needed! As a society we are not good with balance I think. It is one extreme or another. Obviously with physical punishment it is the extreme that has been hightlighted with the ban.

          • Actually I wasn’t talking about “a smack” but about putting your children into utter fear and dread of a beating. My kids have had to occasional tap to the butt but they will never experience a fraction of the physical punishment that I did.

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