Teachers reported finding the last term one of the most difficult of their careers, citing the combination of the unpredictable landscape of the pandemic and the longest term of the year.
These factors, among others, led to high levels of staff burnout and exhaustion in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
They don’t only affect staff though. Tiredness hits students too, leading to slipping behaviour standards and bringing pupil conduct to the forefront of teachers’ minds.
At Teacher Tapp, we’ve been polling our panel of over 7,500 teachers - which includes over 2,000 primary teachers - to check in on pupil conduct and how they are managing it.
Behaviour is getting worse
Not a term goes by without behaviour being mentioned as a hot topic among teachers – partly because teachers believe that conduct has been getting worse year on year.
More than four out of ten primary teachers say that behaviour has deteriorated since they started at their current school - only 22% say it has improved.
The trend becomes clearer when looking across a teacher’s whole career. 56% of teachers with more than 20 years’ experience said that behaviour has worsened since the start of their career. 48% of teachers with between 5- and 10-years’ experience believe behaviour has deteriorated.
When behaviour becomes disruptive, it can affect students’ learning. When asked if behaviour had disrupted the learning in their most recent lesson, 76% of primary teachers said that it had.
Poor conduct also had dire consequences for teachers themselves - 50% reported knowing someone who has left teaching because they found behaviour too difficult to manage.
Primary teachers have come to expect some low-level disruption in the classroom, with over 55% of primary classroom teachers saying it is ‘inevitable’, but headteachers disagreed and only three in ten thought it unavoidable.
What do teachers think of school policies?
School behaviour policies are a vital part of the teacher’s toolkit to help consistently manage conduct in the classroom - but what are these policies and what do teachers think of them?
The most common policy that was the banning of mobile phones on site, in about a third of primary schools. Furthermore, just under 20% of primaries ask their students to move silently in the corridor between lessons.
The good news is that about 60% of primary teachers find their school’s policies usable. However, big differences emerge between classroom teachers and headteachers about other school rules.
Firstly, only half of classroom teachers rate the behaviour policy as fair to students, compared to three-quarters of headteachers and it is the same result for how reasonable the policy is for staff.
Only half of classroom teachers say that it is reasonable for them, compared with three-quarters of heads.
However, the most notable difference is how effective they believe the policy to be. Less than 30% of classroom teachers and middle leaders rate their policy as effective, compared to 68% of headteachers.
Not only is it worth noting the great divide between teachers and headteachers, but also the fact that 30% of headteachers don’t think their behaviour policy is effective!
How can we address these differences in opinion?
When asked recently how leaders in their school could improve staff wellbeing, two-thirds of classroom teachers wanted heads to communicate better and reduce administrative requirements.
Better communication may also help bring on board the 40% of teachers who say that their school’s behaviour policy isn’t aligned to their values - or bring about change that means it is.
With such a stark discrepancy between classroom teachers’ and heads’ perceptions of behaviour policies, it’s clear that more can be done to support teachers in managing behaviour. In doing so, not only might we improve the wellbeing of teachers but also halt those teachers who are leaving the profession because of pupil conduct.
*For more snappy insights like this, and to be part of the panel, please join in via the free Teacher Tapp app – available to download for iOS and Android. You will learn something new every day.
Iain Ford is Senior Data Analyst with Teacher Tapp