Behaviour is a national problem in schools in England, review finds

Headteachers have ‘perverse incentives’ to hold back on poor conduct in their schools for better Ofsted ratings, government adviser says in his report.

Powered by article titled “Behaviour is a national problem in schools in England, review finds” was written by Jamie Grierson, for The Guardian on Friday 24th March 2017 16.15 UTC

Schools have a national behaviour problem and there are “perverse incentives” for headteachers to paint their school in the best light, according to the government’s behaviour tsar.

Poor conduct remains a significant issue for many schools in England, and there needs to be better ways available to help tackle the problem, Tom Bennett, who advises the government on behaviour issues, said in a report.

In his review, Bennett also suggested there was a striking contrast between data gathered by Ofsted and school leaders on behaviour, and the experiences of classroom teachers.

“Is there a national problem with behaviour? The evidence suggests that there is. Just as importantly, though, there are many schools that demonstrate it is possible to improve in even the most beleaguered of circumstances,” the report concludes.

Bennett said he would hesitate to say school leaders were deliberately holding back on behaviour in their schools.

“I’m sure that in some circumstances yes, there probably are some headteachers who are perhaps a bit more conscious of the fact of putting spin on data,” he said.

But he added: “I think the vast majority of headteachers try to be as honest and straightforward and play a straight bat as they can.”

Giving an example of differences between schools, he said he had seen some where lateness is not recorded as misbehaviour, and other schools where it is.

“Now, if you don’t record lateness as a misbehaviour, and you’ve got lots of lateness, then your behaviour will look much better in formal external data, than it will be if you’re a slightly more, shall we say, upfront school which does record that kind of data,” Bennett said.

“So there’s a lot of variety in practices which can lead to rather misleading data.

“I’m not suggesting that it’s corrupt, I’m suggesting that it’s human beings reacting as human beings to slightly perverse incentives.”

The report – Creating A Culture: How School Leaders Can Optimise Behaviour – concludes that there is no silver bullet to tackling disruptive conduct.

But it says there are a number of approaches that can be used to deal with the issue, and that good school leadership is key to creating the right culture in a school.

The report also notes: “There is a striking contrast between data gathered from school leaders or school inspectors, and the experiences of frontline teachers and students.

“This is partly understandable. School leaders are held to account by their ability to demonstrate they have secured a safe, calm school environment.

“Stakes for leaders are high. It is natural for the most positive interpretation of one’s school to be presented publicly, especially in circumstances of external inspection.”

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “We will discuss with the Department for Education matters identified for government which are relevant to Ofsted and consider in detail the recommendations for inspection.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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