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“It Just Grinds You Down”

Persistent disruptive behaviour in schools and what can be done about it

Author: Joanna Williams

Ensuring children behave well in schools is essential. Most fundamentally, good behaviour is necessary to protect the safety of all in a school community. Beyond this, good behaviour is vital for pupils to engage with education, a school’s key purpose. Good behaviour may also be considered an end in itself: self-discipline and the ability to concentrate and work constructively with others are important qualities in their own right. Successive governments have made tackling misbehaviour a key priority.

In 2011, new guidance for teachers on behaviour and discipline in schools was issued. Most recently, Tom Bennett’s 2017 independent review of behaviour in schools was published by the Department for Education with a government response.

We recognise that behaviour is a key concern for teachers of even the very youngest pupils and in all school-types. However, our focus here is exclusively on secondary schools.

This report evaluates what has changed in secondary schools since the 2011 guidance for teachers was published.

The focus on improving behaviour in schools has had some degree of success. The evidence gathered in this report suggests that incidents of pupils engaging in violent, criminal or dangerous behaviour such as fighting, smoking or taking drugs in school are relatively rare.  Rates of persistent absence have fallen substantially since 2011.

However, as our report shows, there is clearly room for schools to go much further, especially in tackling the persistent classroom disruption that damages the capacity for pupils to learn and teachers to teach. Persistent disruptive behaviour is the most common reason for permanent exclusions in state funded primary, secondary and special schools - accounting for 2,755 (35.7%) of all permanent exclusions in 2016/17.