The Daily Telegraph

Fearful teachers blamed for children running riot

Expert warns of epidemic of bad behaviour stemming from belief that giving directions is ‘oppressive’

- By Olivia Rudgard SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPOND­ENT

BRITISH children have a behaviour problem because teachers think telling them what to do is “oppressive”, the Government’s behaviour tsar warned.

Tom Bennett, a former teacher and behaviour expert who was appointed by the Government in 2015 to monitor schools in England, said that there was a “national problem” with pupil behaviour that is not being taken seriously enough.

In a report, he said teachers were afraid that telling pupils what to do would curtail their freedom. Students must become “compliant” to be free, he said, and teachers’ worries that telling them what to do would be oppressive was an “impediment” to better behaviour. In a section titled “Is expecting good behaviour oppressive?”, he said: “The belief that directing student behaviour is harmful to their developmen­t is a serious attitudina­l impediment to developing schools with better behaviour cultures.”

He added that pupils had to be taught “self-restraint or self-regulation” to be “truly free”.

He said: “To be in control of one’s own immediate inclinatio­ns or desires and fancies is a liberty far more valuable than the absence of restraint.

“Compliance is only one of several rungs on a behavioura­l ladder we hope all our students will climb, but it is a necessary one to achieve first.”

Quoting the Russian-born philosophe­r Isaiah Berlin, he added that schools should not simply discourage bad behaviour but encourage “good habits of study, or reasoning, or interactin­g with adults, coping with adversity, or intellectu­al challenges”.

The report suggested that behavioura­l issues in schools were more serious than the Government realised because Ofsted reports and headteache­rs’ views did not accurately represent the scale of the problem.

In the most recent survey, just one in five classroom teachers thought behaviour was “very good”, compared with almost half of senior staff.

Mr Bennett said that school leaders were afraid to report behavioura­l problems because they wanted a “positive interpreta­tion” of their school to be presented publicly.

In an interview, Mr Bennett said that some headteache­rs put a “spin” on data because of “perverse incentives” that mean they are desperate to put their school in a good light.

He also said that some schools do not record incidents such as lateness as misbehavio­ur, while others do, meaning behavioura­l data can be “misleading”.

In response to the report, Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, said that the Government would be reviewing the guidance that they give on mental health and behaviour in schools.

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