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Teachers 'need more training' on classroom management

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

image captionTeachers need more access to "classroom tools" to help them keep discipline in class, MPs heard

Shop assistants are given more training on how to deal with angry customers than teachers are on how to deal with unruly pupils, educationalists warn.

Appearing before a committee of MPs, psychologists and unions said teacher training courses did not cover enough ground on classroom management.

Courses should also contain modules on child development, the MPs were told.

The Department for Education said ministers were considering how to develop teacher training in England.

A DfE spokesman said an education White Paper, to be published this autumn, would also detail how teachers would have more power to deal with behaviour problems.

Discipline inquiry

The concerns over teacher training were raised at the Commons education committee's first session of an inquiry into behaviour and discipline in schools in England.

David Moore, a former Ofsted inspector with special responsibility for behaviour and discipline policy, said it was wrong to have dropped child psychology from teacher training in the Education Reform Act of 1988.

"Most teachers manage youngsters well, despite the fact that in initial teacher training, since Kenneth Baker became secretary of state for education, there has been no training in child development and child psychology - which is is an extraordinary thing," Mr Moore told MPs.

"If you do a three-year course, if you're lucky, you get four to five hours and if you're on a PGCE course, which is now how most teachers come into the profession, you're lucky if you get in between an hour and two hours on classroom management and behaviour.

"Now Marks and Spencers spend more money on training their staff to handle angry customers than we actually give to teachers, which is extraordinary."

'Isolated activity'

Professor Pam Maras, honorary general secretary of the British Psychological Society, also expressed concern to the MPs that there was "virtually no child development in any teacher training".

Her concerns were echoed by Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

"It is absolutely critical that those who go into teaching understand, if you like, what the normal process of child development would be," Ms Blower told the committee.

She said training and support throughout a teacher's career was critical.

"Teaching can be essentially quite an isolated activity and it's important that you get out and discuss with people how behaviour can be best managed.

"And that isn't something that ends at the end of your initial training - you need to do it and develop that repertoire and revisit bits of your repertoire throughout your career."

'Tricks of the trade'

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said it was teachers' unions that were offering teachers the training they needed and classroom management and behaviour courses were the most popular on offer.

"Our behaviour management courses are full to bursting within a week," said Dr Bousted.

"There are certain techniques that, if well applied, can be used to keep very good order in the classroom.

"There are things which can be done which could be much more clearly disseminated throughout the system, which will help teachers.

"So I don't think we want to make a PhD out of managing bad behaviour... but much can be done within CPD [continuous professional development] and ITT [initial teacher training] to ensure that there are certain tricks of the trade, tools of the classroom that can be applied and we need to get better at that."

Parents' role

The MPs were also told that parents had a responsibility to ensure children behaved well at school.

Ms Blower said: "The classic thing is that a child hits another child in the playground and the child who has been hit goes home and the parent says: 'Well just hit him back next time'."

"Low-level" disruption, such as pupils refusing to stop talking or to sit down was rife, the committee was told.

On average, 30 minutes of teaching time per teacher, per day, was lost due to low-level disruption, said Dr Patrick Roach, deputy general secretary of the Nasuwt union.

Four-fifths of teachers believed behaviour was more challenging than five years ago, he said.

Tom Burkard, a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, told MPs better standards of teaching were key to improving behaviour.

"The endemic problem that we've had for far too long is that we're looking at the child and what is wrong with the child and we are not looking at what's wrong with the learning environment," he said.

"Anyone who ran a business by trying to decide what was wrong with their customers rather than what was wrong with their services would soon be out of business."

More on this story

  • Teacher qualifications 'too low'