Results of a survey released by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers this week showed that more than half of teachers surveyed believe classroom behaviour has deteriorated over the past five years, with 72.9% blaming influences at home for the problem.
Bad behaviour described by the survey respondents varied from threatening teachers and throwing objects around the classroom to physical violence, with a shocking one third reporting incidents of pushing, punching or kicking in the last year alone.
72.9% of the teachers surveyed claimed a lack of positive role models within the home was to blame for the problems, with another 62% pointing to the breakdown of family relationships as the main cause. One particularly sad and shocking statistic showed that as many as 42% of respondents believed children’s behavioural problems might stem from neglect at home.
The survey certainly raises valid questions and concerns about parental attitudes towards education. Some teachers claimed, for example, that children saw their parents treating teachers rudely and speaking aggressively to them, before emulating this behaviour themselves in the classroom. It is certainly understandable that teachers, trained primarily to educate rather than to control children, might struggle to cope with those arriving from home with no sense of good behaviour or respect for others instilled in them by their parents.
On the other hand, it is also valid to question whether rising class sizes and dramatically reduced state school budgets might have a part to play in the ever increasing incidences of bad behaviour in chaotic classrooms. The government withdrawal of such support as the Sure Start centres and the Aim Higher scheme means that far less financial aid is in place to help students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to cope with the challenges of education, perhaps contributing to a deterioration of behaviour amongst pupils. And meanwhile the siphoning of government education funds into Michael Gove’s new hit-and-miss free schools and academies leaves existing state schools faced with ever dwindling funds with which to support overwhelmed and struggling teachers.
The problem is clearly a complex one, exacerbated by the ever-increasing health and safety restrictions that prevent teachers from taking action against unruly students. The Department for Education has promised to “put teachers back in control of the classroom”, by increasing teachers’ powers to punish students with such sanctions as no notice detentions. Whether this will go some way towards solving the problem, or whether a far more extreme overhaul of the education system will be required, remains to be seen.