Disruptive behaviour rising, teachers say

Girls texting in class Teachers often complain about low level disruption in class

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The number of pupils in the UK with behavioural and mental health problems is on the rise, a teachers' union says.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said disruptive classroom behaviour was also worsening, with 53% of 844 members surveyed reporting a deterioration over the past five years.

The union said teachers and support staff needed better training to help them deal with challenging children.

The government said teachers now had more powers to deal with unruly pupils.

In June last year, the government's adviser on behaviour, former head teacher Charlie Taylor, told a committee of MPs that some pupils in England were too disruptive to fit into regular school life.

He said some of these challenging children needed much more help and support.

The issue of pupil behaviour is likely to be hotly debated at the ATL's annual conference in Liverpool next week.

Challenging behaviour

In a survey of 844 members across the UK, 62% said there were more children with emotional, behavioural and mental health problems than two years ago and 56% said there were more than five years ago.

Nearly 90% of those surveyed, which include support staff, teachers, lecturers and head teachers, said they had dealt with a challenging or disruptive child during this school year.

The main targets of challenging behaviour were other pupils (cited by 72%), followed by teaching staff (46%) and then support staff (43%).

The most prevalent challenging behaviour was verbal aggression (cited by 77%), followed by physical aggression (57%), bullying in person (41%) and breaking or ruining other pupils' belongings (23%).

Over a third of ATL members surveyed (35%) said they did not get any training in how to deal with challenging, disruptive or violent students, with only 18% saying they had regular training which was good or adequate.

Moreover, 42% said they did not get any relevant training during their teacher training.


A teacher at a secondary school in Dudley said: "I've been sworn at, argued with, shouted at, had books thrown at me, threatened with physical abuse and had things stolen and broken."

A primary school head from Kent said: "This year we had the most challenging reception pupil I have encountered in 20 years of teaching.

"He did not comply with a single instruction, even to sit on the mat for a story. His mum would not accept that his behaviour was different to the other children's and took him to another school after two terms."

A male secondary teacher from Staffordshire said: "I was cyberbullied - pupils created a pornographic Photoshop image of me."


Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: "Regrettably teachers and support staff are suffering the backlash from deteriorating standards of behaviour.

"They are frequently on the receiving end of children's frustration and unhappiness, and have to deal with the fall-out from parents failing to set boundaries and family breakdowns.

"And the huge funding cuts to local services mean that schools often have to deal with children's problems without any help."

She said schools needed to offer staff "good and regular" training.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "Disruptive or violent behaviour has no place whatsoever in the classroom. That is why we have strengthened teachers' powers to put them back in charge.

"Teachers can now issue no notice detentions, search a pupil without consent when they suspect they may be in possession of a prohibited item and changes to the system mean a school's decision to exclude a pupil cannot be reversed by an appeals panel.

"Our guidance also makes clear that teachers can use force to remove disruptive pupils from the classroom when necessary.

"Making sure teachers are fully trained to deal with any sort of challenging or violent behaviour is a core part of teacher standards."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Perhaps they have twigged that their parents and significant others are very unhappy at being commodities in a world that values profit over existence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Parents of one child in my sons year ( primary school ) say they never make him do anything he does not want to do.
    This child is always in trouble at school dread to think how he will be in a few years

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    This is the result of education without stress .
    Many years ago in England and in my coutry there was a punishment which effectively kept the discipline high .

    Those of progessive education banned that punishment and the results are obvious .
    It is high time those " progressive politicians " ent away .
    Or else they will be kicked off .

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    They are overstimulated in the classroom and they are overstimulated at home. Is it any wonder they behave badly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    My theory is that children have always behaved this way. Teachers just don't know how to deal with this kind of behaviour anymore. Trying really hard not to sound old, but when I was a kid I attended what was at the time considered one of the worst secondary schools in England, about 20 years ago now, I saw teachers get sparked out by students, sexually assulted and worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    If a pupil is a major problem it can usually be traced back to the parents It is incredibly difficult for teachers to deal with difficult students if the parents have not brought them up to have basic standards of behaviour. I do not advocate the cane or whatever but think that instilling some standards in children is the key, and is what most parents do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.


    Both of my children have ASD and we have never once been called into school as a result of their behavior - in fact we are told at every parents evening what polite, bright and well behaved children they are.

    The main problem he have had, is with the elder one getting picked on by 'normal' children such as yours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Let´s break this argument down into component parts. A hefty, teacher stands on some pupil´s foot. The boy screams and shouts to ask that he remove his boot. Instead, the teacher reprimands the aforesaid pupil and labels him disruptive! A medical advisor terms his behaviour insane. That is what is wrong with British education and also perhaps politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.


    Why the hell should somebody be rewarded for being a good parent.You're just doing what you have a duty to do for god's sake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Parental responsibility comes to mind here, but not only that. Children are the product of the society they live in. Perhaps we all have a responsibility, and can all play our part, if it's only to refuse to buy, or read, any paper or magazine for the scandal it contains. Maybe even for adults to behave in a way which shows knowledge of right and wrong. Is it too much to ask for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    74. I'm sorry but ASD and ADHD are being used today as an excuse for all sorts of behaviour. Sorry but if the little s*d is a badly behaved thug then kick him out, why should one 'ill' child screw up 25 others future's on a daily basis. If he is ill get him treatment. Whenhe is better he can then integrate back into normal classes. Reality is , he will probabaly never fit in anywhere. Truth Hurts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Children usually reflect the behaviour they see elsewhere. In this case their parents and what they watch on TV and read - if they can - in the media. In a world where the difference between right & wrong has disappeared and been replaced by 'what can we get away with' is it any wonder pupil behaviour is deteriorating? The wonder is that it is holding up as well as it has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Do we ever need to look at others to discover the roots of problems? Perhaps we should look look no further than ourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Some children do have special needs such as ASD or ADHD. There needs to be more joined up work with health and education. Trying to get a referral to children's mental health teams is very difficult at primary level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    You look at the parents and you see why. No standards of behaviour. If the teachers lay a hand on one of the little darlings they will have the parents ranting and raving in their office. This is COMPLETELY unacceptable. Children who want to learn should not be held back because the staff have to riot control the behaviour of others, The lowest common denominator should not be used as a yardstick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The political classes are aware that leadership comes from the independent sector and are unable or unwilling to redress the balance in society through seeking political advantage and the desire to keep most of the nation's children fit for no more than the service of the few.If it paid governments to do something about the disruption of pupils' education they would have done so before now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Time for the home truth many parents dont want to hear:
    Its the parents fault.
    Its not society, its not the schools, its not anyone else, its you. You chose to have kids, you brought them up, you instilled in them the values they have today, and the behaviours they have learnt.
    the fact that some kids are diruptive is down to parents 100%. They dont have special needs. Deal with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    As a supply teacher, I see schools with good behaviour and, regrettably, bad behaviour. The behaviour policies of schools where children are well behaved simply focus on positives of good behaviour, rather than negatives of bad behaviour. Shame this isn't the same for parenting - when was the last time you were rewarded for being a good parent? We should reward good examples of parenting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Wll fan my brow. After 30 years paying people who shouldn't be parents to have kids, we discover they're poor parents and produce ill-disciplined kids that the education system can't deal with.

    Next week - the Pope's a Catholic, and bears may cr*p in the woods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Much of it I suspect is due to lack of discipline and that is partly down to government edicts. They make parents feel guilty for giving a kid a deserved slap, and refuse to allow teachers even to touch a child. To most people with common sense the result is predictable. The ones who suffer are the teachers and the well-behaved kids who want to learn. So much for our modern education system.


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