Education & Family

School behaviour expert says 'don't call me a tsar'

Tom Bennett
Image caption Mr Bennett taught in east London for 10 years

A school behaviour expert appointed by the government to help teachers in England address "low-level disruption" has asked not to be called a "tsar".

Tom Bennett said he aimed to tackle behaviour such as swinging on chairs, making silly comments or passing notes.

In a blog, he said he would form a working group that would represent "as many ages and stages as necessary".

He said he did not want "monastic silence" but classrooms need to "run on rules that aim for the benefit of all".

The appointment is one of several new education measures being announced on Tuesday.

The government is also setting out changes to the GCSE exam regime, covering mandatory key academic subjects and a new grading system.

'Run a room'

Last year, low-level persistent disruptive behaviour was highlighted as a serious problem in a report by Ofsted. The watchdog said some pupils could be losing up to an hour of learning each day.

Mr Bennett, who taught in London's East End for 10 years, said it was an issue "we still haven't licked yet".

"Knowing how to run a room, to design an environment that promotes thought, collaboration and focus, should be one of the uppermost aims of any educator," he said.

Image caption Mr Bennett says children deserve calm learning spaces

"Some absurdists claim that a noisy classroom that rocks with spontaneity is the perfect crucible for learning. It isn't. For every outlier who enjoys spending time in a centrifuge, there are 29 kids who can't concentrate."

Mr Bennett will lead the working group to develop better training for new teachers.

"At present, training teachers to anticipate, deal with and respond to misbehaviour is far too hit-and-miss - great in some schools and training providers, terrible in others," he said.

"Parents and children deserve safe, calm learning spaces, and teachers deserve to be equipped with sensible strategies that maximise learning, safety and flourishing."

On his blog, Mr Bennett said he hoped the group would come up with "recommendations that can offer new and old teachers the tools they need to do what they were trained to do".

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't utterly thrilled to be doing this. Just don't call me tsar, for God's sake," he added.

'Overcrowded classrooms'

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said "increasing training on managing classroom behaviour is to be welcomed".

"However, the issues which lead to the low-level disruption in class cannot be ignored," he said.

"The narrowing of the curriculum and constant drive towards testing leads inevitably to disaffection and boredom amongst pupils. The department's recent census shows that class sizes are rising too - overcrowded classrooms mean less teacher time for each individual pupil. "

Mr Bennett is the latest in a string of behaviour experts brought in by governments, following Sir Alan Steer under Labour and Charlie Taylor under the coalition.

He is currently the director of researchED, a teacher-led organisation that aims "to make teachers research-literate and pseudo-science proof". His biography on the website says he is the author of four books on teacher-training, behaviour management and educational research.

"In his previous life he ran night clubs in Soho, which provided an obvious training ground in classroom management and pastoral care," it adds.

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