Education is a subject that has always produced impassioned opinions. Disruptive behaviour is a classic example; if you ask an educationalist for their thoughts on this thorny area, you’re unlikely to be greeted with a placid, non-committal answer.
At the risk of oversimplifying a hugely complicated matter, recent vocal contributors might broadly be placed into two opposing camps. On one side of the fence sit those who tend towards exclusion, which is on the rise; on the other side sit those who tend towards inclusion.
The exclusion lobby includes some parents who worry that bad behaviour is a serious drain on limited teacher resources, especially in overcrowded classrooms in mainstream schools, and some teachers who feel that their ability to teach well-behaved children effectively is severely restricted – indeed, a terrible proportion of teachers have experienced violence against them. These parents and teachers have high-profile support, not least within our new government, elected on a manifesto promise to ‘back heads to use exclusions’, and whose highly respected behaviour advisor, Tom Bennett, believes that exclusions are ‘necessary and vital’.
The inclusion lobby is centred around a belief that schools must allow all pupils to thrive under all circumstances, and concerns over lack of accountability for excluded pupils. Lorraine Petersen, a former CEO of nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs), believes that it’s sometimes too easy for pressurised schools to see only disruptive behaviour, and too difficult to fully ‘peel back the layers of the onion’ in order to fully understand its causes. Education expert Jules Daulby is one of the inclusion campaign’s most prominent champions, generating significant teacher support for her assertion that ‘I’m against all exclusions, every single one’. Daulby has hailed Italy’s success in eliminating exclusions; another country to have transitioned towards a more ‘child-centred’ mindset over the last decade is Scotland, which has seen a dramatic fall in exclusions.
We understand that exclusion decisions on the frontline are exceptionally difficult for everyone involved. We hope that those on both sides of the debate might agree that early intervention is critical – where a pattern can be identified promptly enough, there’s a chance for a school leader to change that pattern before it’s too late. For example, if an incident occurs in a Biology lesson, and a similar incident occurs in a French lesson on the same day, inefficient communication and processes may prevent the behaviour lead from knowing what has happened. Faronics Wise includes a fully customisable behaviour module as part of an all-in-one management information system, so that behaviour can be super-easily tracked and analysed. We hope that we might be able to make demanding situations a little bit more bearable for pupils, teachers and parents.