Bad behaviour at schools with poor leadership is losing pupils an hour of learning a day, according to a new Ofsted report.
The report, ‘Below the radar: low-level disruption in the country’s classrooms’, finds that low-level and persistent disruptive behaviour is impeding children’s learning and damaging life chances. It says that two-thirds of teachers questioned complained that school leaders are failing to assert their authority when dealing with poor discipline and pupils’ flouting of school rules.
Typical examples of the sort of behaviour identified in the survey of teachers include pupils making silly comments to get attention, swinging on chairs, passing notes around, quietly humming and using mobile phones.
Chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said: “I see too many schools where headteachers are blurring the lines between friendliness and familiarity – and losing respect along the way. After all, every hour spent with a disruptive, attention-seeking pupil is an hour away from ensuring other pupils are getting a decent education.
“If we are going to continue to improve our education system to compete at the highest levels, we need to tackle the casual acceptance of this behaviour that persists in too many schools. Classroom teachers must have the support of their senior leaders to tackle these problems. It isn’t rocket science. Children need to know the rules and teachers need to know they will be supported in enforcing them.”
Wilshaw, who was appointed chief inspector of schools in 2012, made his name as a headteacher with a reputation for turning round tough schools.
The report states: “Too many school leaders, especially in secondary schools, underestimate the prevalence and negative impact of low-level disruptive behaviour. Many teachers have come to accept some low-level disruption as a part of everyday life in the classroom.”
Teacher’s unions have spoken out against Wilshaw’s remarks and disputed the report. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, said: “The chief inspector is, as usual, talking nonsense to suggest that teachers accept poor behaviour from pupils or are failing to address it.”
He points to a survey by NASUWT of 12,000 teachers that also demonstrates a problem with low-level disruption.
“This survey shows that teachers are working hard to maintain high standards of behaviour, but in too many cases are not being supported appropriately,” she said.
“Teachers need to be backed by school management, but regrettably too many school leaders have not taught for years and have lost touch with the day-to-day realities of the classroom.
“The impact of government policies are also contributing to the problem of poor behaviour.”
The National Association of Head Teachers believes Ofsted is contradicting itself, pointing out that reports from its routine inspections say that behaviour is either good or outstanding at 83% of schools. A Policy Exchange report also noted that 79% of primary school parents were satisfied with school discipline.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: “What is the explanation for these contradictions? Firstly, Ofsted have changed the definition of behaviour. It would help if they had been clear about that and given the system time to clear the new hurdles. It is not 'failure' when you are asking more of people.
"We also feel that Ofsted are intentionally adding a note of fear and uncertainty across the education system, seeking to contradict the department's attempts to rebuild the shattered confidence of teachers and leaders. Ofsted is appearing to set education policy rather than inspect the implementation of policy - and the department should be wary of ceding such powers to unelected officials.
“However, the comments from teachers can’t be ignored. Teachers have a right to expect the support and backing of their leaders when they seek to enforce policy. School leaders must work with all staff to ensure a school’s behaviour policy is upheld consistently in each classroom and throughout the school.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Poor behaviour damages pupils by disrupting valuable lesson time, undermining the authority of teachers and holding young people back. We have been clear that such behaviour should be stamped out and have given teachers the powers they need to tackle the problem.
"As a result, more teachers say behaviour in their school is good or very good than when this government came to office, and recent figures show the number of pupils persistently missing class is down by almost a third since 2010. We are making good progress but there is of course more still to do.”
(Image: c. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)