Behaviour: Government hubs plan is a start, but won't be sufficient

Written by: Dr Patrick Roach | Published:
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary, NASUWT

NASUWT research shows that behaviour is second only to workload on the list of teachers’ biggest concerns. Dr Patrick Roach looks at the issues involved and outlines his hopes for the government’s new behaviour hubs initiative

The NASUWT has always been clear that teachers cannot teach and pupils cannot learn without good order and discipline in our schools.

It is worrying that in recent years the number of members reporting to us that pupil behaviour is a problem in their school has risen year-on-year and – up until the coronavirus lockdown and partial school closures – we were continuing to receive daily calls and messages from members who have been exposed to completely unacceptable verbal and physical abuse in their schools.

In too many schools, teachers tell us that verbal and physical abuse is going unchallenged. Referrals for this and other unacceptable behaviour are not addressed in a robust and timely manner and there is a growing culture in schools of “blame the teacher” rather than holding pupils accountable for their behaviour.

There are also widespread concerns among teachers about the misuse and abuse of restorative behaviour policies, which are becoming synonymous in too many cases with no punishment or a lack of sanctions for unacceptable behaviour.

As well as taking action in schools, the NASUWT has been continuing to lobby the Department for Education (DfE) to uphold teachers’ right to work in safety and promote best practice on pupil behaviour management to schools.

We have welcomed the DfE’s behaviour hubs announcement (2020) for this reason, as if fully supported and resourced by ministers the initiative has the potential to support teachers across the country to maintain good order and discipline in their classrooms.

The programme, which is due to start in September, is based on identifying schools with good behaviour practices and supporting them to work with schools that need or want to turn around their behaviour cultures and practices.

Hub schools will receive a mixture of direct intervention and online support and guidance, depending on their needs and circumstances, with the focus on improving the leadership of behaviour management. It is hoped that 500 schools will participate in the £10 million programme.

Schools that create a shared culture where everyone understands their rights and responsibilities, where there is effective leadership that supports the teacher in the classroom, and where behaviour rules are clear and consistently applied are more likely to see good behaviour standards and an environment that is conducive to effective teaching and learning. We hope that the Government’s behaviour hubs initiative will help to promote this culture across more schools.

However, while sharing good practice represents a start, it is not sufficient by itself. Too many children and young people start school not ready to learn, and with reduced access to child and family support services and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, many pupils are not receiving the help and support they need. The growing impact of increased rates of child poverty and homelessness also highlights the need for government to address the underlying issues as a priority.

Regrettably, too many teachers report pupil violence and abuse as an issue in their own schools. The latest annual NASUWT Big Question research has found that pupil behaviour is second only to workload as teachers’ top concern.

Last year, we launched the its “Not Part of the Job” campaign. It has already had an impact, with schools across the country displaying our wall posters and making clear that teachers have the right to work in an environment free from violence and abuse. We want every school to make the clear commitment to protecting the health, safety and dignity of their staff.

We make no apology for our strong stance on violence and abuse in schools. That is why we are committed to working with our members, employers and government to ensure that all pupils and teachers are able to learn and work free from the fear or distraction of poor or abusive behaviour.

No teacher should come to work expecting that they could be verbally or physically abused by pupils or anyone else.

  • Dr Patrick Roach is general secretary of the NASUWT.

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