Be­hav­iour les­son

Data ob­tained through Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests shows that schools are crack­ing down on mis­be­haviour

The Jewish Chronicle - - Special Report -

ZERO TOL­ER­ANCE wasRudy Gi­u­liani’s catch­phrase when he spear­headed a blitz on crime a s N e w Y o r k ’ s mayor. Now the term is used by Jewish sec­ondary school teach­ers suc­cess­fully get­ting to grips with dis­ci­plinary prob­lems among pupils. Those re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing or­der in schools have told the JC that a pol­icy of pun­ish­ing any mis­de­meanour, no mat­ter how small, is reap­ing div­i­dends.

For ex­am­ple, fig­ures ob­tained through Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests show that since JFS moved from Cam­den to Ken­ton four years ago, the num­ber of pupils ex­cluded on dis­ci­plinary grounds has re­duced as the pop­u­la­tion has risen. In 2003/4, when the roll was 1,659, 81 boys and 18 girls ac­counted for 117 ex­clu­sions for boys and 20 for girls — 4.8 per cent and one per cent re­spec­tively of the pupil pop­u­la­tion.

By 2006/7, when the roll had in­creased to 1,933, 37 boys and nine girls ac­counted for 43 ex­clu­sions for boys and nine for girls, 2.2 per cent and 0.46 per cent re­spec­tively.

The zero tol­er­ance pol­icy at JFS dates back seven years. Phil New­man, one of two teach­ers who run the be­hav­iour de­part­ment, says “the sys­tem starts with the premise that any teacher in JFS does not have to ac­cept a stu­dent in their class slow­ing down the ed­u­ca­tion of 29 oth­ers”.

The sys­tem is known as Room 17, fol­low­ing on from the pun­ish­ment room in the Cam­den premises. “There is no ac­tual room 17 here”, ex­plains Mr New­man’s col­league Nick Calig­orou, who has taught at JFS for 34 years. “But we brought the name with us and ev­ery­one in the school knows about Room 17. Chil­dren mis­be­have for a rea­son. It is our job to find out the rea­son and sort it out. It’s a zero tol­er­ance pol­icy.”

A pupil who of­fends dur­ing the day’s first lessons spends morn­ing break in Room 17; if it’s af­ter break, they will for­feit lunchtime. Af­ter­noon of­fences are car­ried over to the next day.

The teach­ers re­gard bul­ly­ing as prob­a­bly the worst of­fence. Drugs, par­tic­u­larly mar­i­juana, are an­other is­sue. Al­though one pupil was ex­cluded in the most re­cent term for what the of­fi­cial re­port de­scribes as “as­sault on a teacher”, Mr New­man says it was some­one who had spot­ted a staff mem­ber out­side school and jumped on his back in a play­ful fash­ion. “The teacher took ex­cep­tion and be­cause there was phys­i­cal con­tact, we have to put it down as as­sault. But I can­not re­call there ever be­ing a real as­sault on a teacher here.”

A sim­i­lar pol­icy has b e e n im­ple­mented more re­cently at Has­monean High Boys’ School in Hen­don, where head Rabbi David Meyer re­ports that “if you asked me four years ago if I was happy with the sit­u­a­tion here, I would have said ‘no’. I have changed a num­ber of as­pects that have made things much bet­ter.

“The boys might be in trou­ble for sell­ing — they are not al­lowed to sell any­thing here. We had a prob­lem with chew­ing gum trod­den into car­pets, so no chew­ing gum is al­lowed and we have new car­pets that stay clean.”

One pupil was ex­clud- ed for a day for push­ing past a teacher to get into a les­son. “The boy was mor­ti­fied but there was no ne­go­ti­a­tion. There is no way a stu­dent can touch a teacher.”

A mem­ber of staff pa­trols the front gate ev­ery morn­ing to see that boys ar­rive prop­erly dressed. Any­one who is not is sent home and told to re­turn suit­ably at­tired — “no funny tie-knots or shirts out­side trousers”.

On ev­ery class­room wall is an A4­sized sheet de­tail­ing re­wards and pun­ish­ments. “We give in­cen­tives to the boys ev­ery term, from food from the tuck shop to vouch­ers for lo­cal shops.”

King David High School in Liver­pool had 17 fixed-term ex­clu­sions from the aca­demic years 2004 to 2007, when the city’s av­er­age per school was 140.

Among the mis­de­meanours were gang bul­ly­ing, phys­i­cal as­sault against an adult and a pupil and racist abuse in­clud­ing the draw­ing of a swastika on a Jewish child’s desk.

Head­teacher Brigid Smith, who has been at the school since 2005, is “not sur­prised” that its ex­clu­sion level is be­low the av­er­age.

“The school does not have a high level of de­pri­va­tion, which is of­ten linked to this. It is a Jewish school but only a quar­ter of pupils are Jewish. The boy who drew the swastika had been wound up be­fore­hand. Ob­vi­ously we must take it se­ri­ously. He had never done any­thing be­fore or since. An­other in­ci­dent was a non-Jewish child call­ing an­other a ‘Paki’”.

Other in­stances of mis­be­haviour in­cluded a pupil who threw a rock and an­other who brought 350 party pop­pers into school, set­ting sev­eral off.

MsSmithde­cid­edthat“thep­ar­ty­pop­per­sweree­noughto­war­ran­tex­clu­sion. I felt 350 could cause chaos. In 2005 there was one drug-re­lated in­ci­dent. In school we do not have a par­tic­u­lar dan­ger of that but I’m not naïve about pupils ex­pe­ri­enc­ing cul­ture out­side.”

At King David High School in Manch­ester, there have been 139 fixed-term ex­clu­sions from aca­demic years from 2003 to 2006, in­volv­ing 113 pupils. The one per­ma­nent ex­clu­sion was in 2003/4, for phys­i­cal as­sault.

The preva­lent rea­sons have been ver­bal abuse, threat­en­ing be­hav­iour to­wards adults and per­sis­tent dis­rup­tion. Chair of gov­er­nors Joshua Rowe says the school’s record is “very good. There is zero tol­er­ance for phys­i­cal as­sault, which makes you li­able for per­ma­nent ex­clu­sion.

“We do not tol­er­ate drugs, phys­i­cal as­sault or for any­one to touch any­one else in a threat­en­ing man­ner. It has to be that way or else kids will fol­low through with it.”

Bul­ly­ing is a more dif­fi­cult is­sue, “as you can­not al­ways pin­point the im­me­di­ate cause and ef­fect and you have to be care­ful. We will not rest un­til we solve the bul­ly­ing prob­lem.”

Staff at all the schools stressed that a hand­ful of trou­ble­some stu­dents could have a ma­jor im­pact on a year’s dis­ci­plinary fig­ures.

Lau­rel Freed­man, se­nior ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist at Bi­noh, Nor­wood’s ed­u­ca­tion and ther­apy ser­vice, deems it “es­sen­tial to de­velop a school cul­ture that val­ues and re­wards pos­i­tive be­hav­iour. Many chil­dren need to be taught how to reg­u­late their be­hav­iour, cope ap­pro­pri­ately with anger and frus­tra­tion and de­velop ef­fec­tive skills in so­cial ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

Susan Hal­lam, pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Lon­don’s In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion, main­tains that “if schools are go­ing to deal with im­prov­ing be­hav­iour, they have to have a con­sis­tent pol­icy that ev­ery­one knows and to which the staff sticks.

“What th­ese schools are do­ing is what we would de­scribe as good prac­tice.”

The view at the De­part­ment for Chil­dren, Schools and Fam­i­lies is “that un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour in schools must be dealt with firmly. Good be­hav­iour and an at­mos­phere of re­spect should be the norm in all schools. Teach­ers’ author­ity should not be chal­lenged by pupils.

“Schools now have a stronger range of pow­ers to man­age dis­ci­pline in­clud­ing out of hours de­ten­tions, the right to con­fis­cate per­sonal items and pun­ish pupils for poor be­hav­iour out­side the school gates.”

The In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice has writ­ten to the King Solomon High School in Red­bridge, re­mind­ing it of its obli­ga­tions in re­spect of Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests.

FoI ap­pli­ca­tions from the JC to the school for in­for­ma­tion on ex­clu­sions have been ig­nored. The King Solomon was the only school which re­fused to sup­ply fig­ures about ex­clu­sions for this in­ves­ti­ga­tion. AD­DI­TIONAL RE­PORT­ING: JOSHUA FREED­MAN


Mo­bile phone use is one source of prob­lems in the class­room

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