Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has today announced that he promises that every school in England and Wales will have a teacher dedicated to maintaining order.
He said these specialist discipline teachers will be required to add simulated exercises to their training to ensure all who qualify are “classroom ready”. This almost seems like a response to Sir Michael Wilshaw’s recent comments about NQTs entering the profession unprepared.
Hunt is known to believe that discipline is the single biggest issue that motivates most voters about education, and in an article designed to court readers of the Sun, he promises to outflank the education secretary, Michael Gove, by being tough on classroom behaviour. “For any great teacher, at the heart of it is behaviour management and concentration in the classroom,” he writes, adding “standards in our schools and kids getting jobs depend on it”.
Successive education secretaries have promised to act on discipline with policies ranging from quicker expulsions of disruptive children to improved pupil referral units.
It is not clear how much substance lies behind Hunt’s promise, made in a speech in which he sets out his plans for teachers to be subject to relicensing. He called for teachers to have a 2 year license, which could be revoked if they under-perform. To me this seems a bit extreme given the fact that we are trying to get teachers in the profession. Knowing they could be out and trying to find another career in 2 years is a real issue.
Hunt writes in the Sun: “Playing on smartphones. Wandering around the class. Chattering on the back row. Then there is the more extreme stuff. On average, 55 assaults take place in our schools every day. Five minutes stamping out disruption in every lesson taught means [each] pupil loses around 130 hours of learning a year,” he adds.
Hunt points out a recent report by the school inspectorate Ofsted revealed weak classroom discipline as one of the biggest blocks for children’s progress – sparking bullying, absenteeism and worse results. He asks: “Surely the very least we can expect as parents is that teachers have had training in teaching and how to control a class? No child can concentrate amidst chaos. And no teacher should have to fear for their safety. So Labour would put improved behaviour at the heart of all teacher training. We would train up a new generation of behaviour experts to boost classroom discipline.”