One or two West Midlands schools have taken a robust stance on behaviour management at the start of this academic year and eyebrows have been raised – if one can use that mild figure of speech to encompass egg throwing incidents, police surveillance and social media at its least sociable.
The phenomenon of children behaving badly is not new. My grandfather’s accounts of what he and his friends got up to at school before the first world war would have modern school children gasping in horror.
Literature is littered with children not conforming to what adults expect and want in educational contexts. Possibly the adult expectations are out of kilter with the reality of childhood and adolescence and some educationists would argue that children simply don’t learn in the way adults would like to teach.
Putting that aside, bad behaviour in school is something identified over and over again as being at the core of children underachieving in examinations and heads that take over very challenging schools will often feel this is the right place to start.
Heads will sometimes go for the zero tolerance approach, leading to superficial issues hitting the headlines.
Why do some children behave badly?
There are reasons to do with the school and to do with the home so that even in some mythical school where behaviour management was exceptional, it could still be the case that the home ethos was such that there were constant problems.
Parents have a huge responsibility in influencing how children react to the authority of a school.
They are the underpinning role model against which all else is judged. If parents constantly criticise teachers and the school at home, it is hardly surprising that a child will not accept the school’s authority.
If punishment at home is physical or verbally abusive, a child will misread some of the strategies a school uses to encourage good behaviour.
In the end it is the values that inform behaviour that matter. Kindness is an unfashionable and yet core virtue when it comes to community behaviour.
If children see kindness modelled, they will understand the strength of kindness both in relation to their peers and to their teachers. Kindness isn’t obviously about school uniform or punctuality but it is a value, not a mechanism, and it is values that will last a lifetime.
* Sarah Evans, Principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls