Behaviour – finding solutions that work

There’s little doubt that managing the behaviour of children and young people is a concern of most trainee teachers. When Sir Andrew Carter’s review of the quality of initial teacher training (ITT, more accurately described as ITE – Initial Teacher Education) was published back in January 2015, the then Secretary of State for Education asked for a task group, led by Stephen Munday, Chief Executive of the Comberton Academy Trust, to develop a framework of core content for ITT in England. The Carter review found that while ITT is doing well in England, there is some clear variances. One of the gaps identified by the Carter review was in the area of behaviour management. This was addressed by a separate working group chaired by secondary teacher, Tom Bennett.

The key recommendations

In brief, the key recommendations of the behaviour management review are as follows:

Provide opportunities to develop through observation, practice and review in
collaboration with coaches and mentors
Trainees should be given high quality tutors with appropriate experience
Training should be guaranteed and evidenced
The behaviour curriculum should cover 3 Rs – routines, responses and relationships
Pre-service training should offer low-stakes practice
Continuous and incremental instruction

Bennett is keen that these recommendations should be mandatory, stating they should be, ‘an entitlement for anyone intended to educate students professionally’. Managing the behaviour of others doesn’t come easily, he explains, and the necessary skills need to be improved ‘through the structured amalgamation of effort, reflection and practice’.

Training or learning on the job?

Many experienced teachers would agree that you learn most about behaviour management by actually doing the job, meeting and developing working relationships with real pupils and honing skills through experience and discussion with colleagues. This review emphasises the need for pre-service training, video-recorded lessons for later reflection and focusing on theory and research in the field of behaviour and memory among others. It’s no surprise then, that concerns have been raised at the pressures this will impose on ITT and the how useful this may be to trainees.

Other concerns centre on whether it’s possible to be prescriptive about training on behaviour management, while others have pointed out that the review is vague on detail and specifics. In addition most teachers, Bennett included, will have a particular approach to behaviour that isn’t shared by all. While much of what he says can be applied or adapted by most, there will be some with philosophical and practical objections to aspects of this guidance.

Finding a way forward

Regardless of your views on the reviews that have recently been launched, one thing is certain — we have to move on from the position that academics who are teachers in universities are distinctly different from practicing teachers in schools. The creation of this divide has done nothing for cohesion and understanding in education and it continues to block progress. We also need to be honest about whether schools ought really to be doing much more to support the development of behaviour management skills in trainees in conjunction with higher education institutions.

Challenging behaviour in schools has many causes and triggers and it will take far more than tweaks and improvements to ITT to solve them. But with that in mind, there is much that is commendable in the review, providing we acknowledge the clear need for wrap-around support for trainees, particularly from schools while they are doing on the job training, that empowers rather than restricts.

2 thoughts on “Behaviour – finding solutions that work

  1. Any additional support with behaviour management would be a very good idea, many of my friends have left teaching, citing behaviour management as the main reason. They are highly educated and enthusiastic people and have gone on to do great things, but I know them and I think it’s a real loss for our young people that they are not still directly in the education system.

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