Teachers identify seven barriers to education


School punishment practices, poor behaviour and crime in the surrounding area are all key barriers to young people's education.

A report by a group of teachers from schools in challenging circumstances identifies seven barriers that prevent disadvantaged pupils from realising their aspirations. 

Other issues include pupils not receiving enough teacher attention or time, low pupil confidence and the stereotyping of schools.

It also outlines 10 recommendations from the teachers for overcoming these barriers. These include scrapping the five A* to C measure in favour of an average measure of pupil progress, better using the experience of retired teachers, and developing a community project-based curriculum.

The report, Breaking Down Barriers, was published as part of Teach First’s Challenge 2012 event, which took place this week to mark the charity’s 10th anniversary. Teach First recruits and trains teachers specifically to work in schools in challenging circumstances.

More than 200 Teach First teachers and children in Teach First partner schools were involved in the report. The seven barriers identified were: 

  • Bad behaviour in classes.

  • Pupils not having enough teacher attention or time.

  • Crime outside of school.

  • Pupils not having enough confidence.

  • Pupils not having enough motivation.

  • Punishment practices.

  • The way people stereotype schools.

The pupils said that pupils who misbehaved often received a “disproportionate amount of teacher time and attention to the detriment of their well-behaved peers”. 

Many also referenced the impact that feeling unsafe can have on their emotional wellbeing and how this can cause pupils to not risk coming to school.

Furthermore, many of the punishments described by pupils were seen as wholly ineffective and unsuccessful in deterring incidents of bad behaviour. 

One year 8 student said: “I don’t think sending anyone out does anything really because you get sent out the next day. You’re going to do the same thing really and so on.” 

The report also warns that the impact on pupils in schools perceived to be less than good “cannot be underestimated”. 

A year 10 student told the study: “They think we’re going to do something just because of the school we are from.”

Among the report’s 10 recommendations, it calls for teachers to be equipped with coaching skills and to use project-based learning to improve motivation. The full list of recommendations is printed below.

Teach First teachers’ 10 steps for change

  • Make use of classroom time for supported independent learning.

  • Equip teachers with coaching skills to support and develop one another in the classroom.

  • Implement online tracking systems to ensure that behaviour policy focuses on positivity.

  • Enhance pupil motivation by teaching through projects with real audiences.

  • Assist pupils in achieving their aspirations through extra-curricular support from experienced educators.

  • Place schools at the centre of their local communities.

  • Ensure senior leadership teams are accountable for consistently enforcing behaviour management policies.

  • Reform teacher training and development to incorporate an action-research element.

  • Scrap the five A* to C percentage measure in favour of an average measure of pupil progress.

  • Focus the attention of schools and policy makers on creating a more equal society.

For more information on the research and the Teach First Challenge 2012 event, visit www.teachfirst.org.uk/challenge2012


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