Alan Steer, an experienced expert in Behaviour and Discipline in schools and education, emphasized the importance of not tolerating poor behaviour in schools. He believes that both teachers and pupils have the right to work in an orderly environment.
The report titled Learning Behaviour, compiled by Steer, is a collection of findings from four interim reports conducted between March 2008 and February 2009. Its purpose is to provide recommendations that promote good behaviour and improve standards. The report incorporates subjective evidence from sources such as The Practitioners Group and Ofsted, along with other published reports.
Steer acknowledges the importance of a clear and consistent approach for teachers and parents, while also recognizing that childhood is a time for making mistakes and learning lessons. The crucial point is that mistakes are made, and punishment can harm relationships if there are no opportunities for restoration (Hook & Vass, 2002). The Steer Report suggests that the concept of the “Yellow card” is an effective method for achieving this.
Steer is correct in stating that every school faces unique circumstances and that implementing a behavior strategy can be more difficult in some schools compared to others. However, with the establishment and maintenance of firm boundaries and the provision of consistent, caring, and intelligent support, most children can be taught to improve their behavior. It is important for schools to focus on ten aspects of school practice that have been identified by the Practitioners’ Group in 2005. These aspects include a consistent approach to behavior management, teaching and learning, as well as effective school leadership.
Topics covered in this text include: classroom management, rewards and sanctions, behaviour strategies and teaching good behaviour, staff development and support, pupil support systems, liaison with parents and other agencies, managing pupil transition, and organisation and facilities.
These are all valid aspects that most teachers have in their classrooms. However, one aspect that was not fully recognized in the reports by Steer is the consistency of staff. I have worked in an EBD school (ages 9-19) and a rural mainstream primary school where behavior varied greatly. The most negative behavior I observed occurred when the regular teacher was unexpectedly moved to another part of the school. Even well-behaved children became disruptive in this situation. It seems that the children struggled to adjust to the change in routine.
Having consistent staff members is crucial in providing security and setting boundaries and expectations for children. Without this consistency, the feeling of security is compromised. Maslow’s (1943) research on student motivation, specifically his “Hierarchy of Needs,” emphasizes the significance of classroom security even in modern times. In order to feel safe and regulated, students need consistent expectations from staff.
Chris Barnes, who works as a Senior Adviser for EYFS in Cornwall, is currently conducting research on the topic and believes that job shares in the early years field can have a detrimental impact on children.
The Steer Report (2009) suggests that schools have observed a progressive enhancement in overall behavior standards over time (DfES, 2009, pp2). It raises a significant inquiry: does the media manipulate the perception of negative behavior in schools, exaggerating its severity?
The Department’s current data collection on behavior in schools lacks accuracy in representing the overall nature of behavior, whether positive or negative, and its impact on staff, students, parents, and caregivers. Consequently, we have been unable to make an evidence-based or objective assessment of the state of behavior in schools today or any potential improvements over time. This information is highlighted in the House of Commons Education Committee’s First Report of Session 2010-11, Volume I (Summary page 3). The report received almost ninety written memoranda as evidence through our call for submissions. These memoranda were provided by witnesses such as local authorities, academics, teaching unions, charitable organizations, providers of alternative education, and experts in therapeutic and health services. Additionally, besides receiving written evidence, we conducted five oral evidence sessions and visited schools in Lewisham and Leicester where meetings were held with local authorities from Leicester and Leicestershire.
In his 2010 report commissioned by the previous Government, Sir Alan Steer stated that behaviour standards in schools are generally high for the majority of young people, despite occasional misconduct by a few. He also noted that concerns about behavior standards among the youth are often exaggerated by news of isolated incidents, which do not accurately represent the overall situation. Sir Alan Steer also believed that behavior standards have improved over the past thirty years.
According to Sir Alan, the positive assessment is backed by Ofsted inspection reports. In the 2009–10 Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, it was found that 89% of primary schools and 70% of secondary schools inspected in 2009–10 had students with “good” or “outstanding” conduct. These percentages were lower than the previous year’s results, which showed ratings of 95% for primary schools and 80% for secondary schools, as well as a decrease from the numbers reported in 2007-8, with ratings of 93% for primary schools and 72% for secondary schools. Nevertheless, overall, behavior ratings have consistently been lower in secondary schools compared to primary schools (Sir Alan Steer, Behaviour and the role of Home-School Agreements, 2010, p. 5-8; Q59).
10 HMCI Annual Report 2009–10, p 32
11 HMCI Annual Report 2008–09, p 28; Annual Report 2007–08, p 26
12 Figures for 2008–09 and 2009–10 are not directly comparable, due to the introduction of a new Ofsted inspection framework in September 2009
In oral evidence to our inquiry, Sir Alan Steer acknowledged that he heavily relies on Ofsted’s judgment of behaviour in schools. He argued that disregarding Ofsted evidence requires strong grounds, stating that one must have good reasons to say that the national inspection service has made a mistake, and he did not possess those grounds. In his 1989 report, Lord Elton determined that although schools experienced poor behaviour, the most significant impact came from constant small-scale indiscipline.
Lord Elton’s findings were supported by evidence presented in this inquiry. There was a general agreement that the most common form of disruption in classrooms is low-level behavior such as name-calling, swearing, not paying attention, interrupting, and fighting. However, there are also smaller instances of extremely challenging behavior. It is important to note that poor behavior negatively affects the learning process. In a March 2009 survey conducted by the NASUWT, it was found that low-level disruption resulted in an average loss of thirty minutes of teaching time per teacher per day. Additionally, Tom Trust, a former member of the General, expressed similar concerns.
The Teaching Council for England has expressed doubt about the credibility of the Steer report and Ofsted’s judgments. According to their statement, head teachers have claimed that there are no discipline issues in their schools, despite evidence presented in lesson observations. Moreover, the council references instances where head teachers denied disciplinary problems under oath, contradicting media reports. It is noted that gathering evidence from head teachers may not always be trustworthy due to their potential vested interests.
According to Laevers, Vandenbussche, Kog & Depondt (1997, p.15), children who feel completely comfortable in their environment can optimize their learning potential. Edgington (2004) emphasizes the importance of creating a sense of belonging for children before they can explore and expand their knowledge. The goal should be to establish an environment that fosters enthusiasm for discovery and a love for acquiring knowledge (Drake, 2001, p.1). Environments should be inclusive and relevant to the children’s lives and communities in order to provide emotional security and well-being (Edgington, 2004).
Drake, J. (2001) Planning children’s play and learning in the Foundation Stage. London: David Fulton Publishers Ltd.
Edgington, M. (2004) The Foundation Stage teacher in action: Teaching 3, 4 and 5-year-olds. (3rd ed.). Third Edition. London: Paul Chapman publishing Ltd.
Laevers, F., Vandenbussche, Kog, M. & Depondt, L. (1997). A Process-oriented child monitoring system for young children. Centre for Experiential Education: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.