Being a teacher means there is pressure from all sides: pupils, parents, and head teachers. Not to mention worries over the Ofsted inspection, and now whether or not half of your class will turn up because of a global pandemic. In the latest in our series on the School to Prison Pipeline we look at those in the middle of it all; the teachers just trying to do their jobs.  

On the frontline  

In April 2021, the teaching union NASUWT asked teachers about their experiences [1]:  

  • 6% of them said they had been physically attacked by pupils. 
  • 10% had threats of violence. 
  • 38% had received some form of verbal abuse.  

It shows that teachers are very much on the frontline of education. 

That can’t be an easy thing to deal with. But as behavioural consultant Tom Bennett states: ‘Everyone experiences difficult behaviour at school’ [2]. It seems it is very much part of the job. That doesn’t make it right, just a reality.  

Be an example 

The psychotherapist Philippa Perry comments: ‘…children do what we do rather than what we say’ [3].  For example, if we want a child to be more patient because their lack of patience then leads to a situation escalating. Are we simply telling them to be more patient or are we showing them in times of stress through our own behaviour how to be more patient. 

Not in it alone  

For teachers, the most important thing is that they are supported. There needs to be a system in place to help them deal with students struggling with their behaviour, so they do not feel alone.  

The government needs to ensure schools are properly funded and equipped to help students. That means supporting the mental health of teachers to recognise it’s a stressful job. A stressed teacher is less likely to be able to help students with their behaviour. This therefore increases the chance of a young person getting trapped in the school to prison pipeline due to not receiving the right support.  

Support for teachers could look like giving them a place to talk about the problems they face, which could be helplines or face-to-face counselling.  But equally important is training programmes which teach strategies, techniques and interventions that help to deal with difficult classroom behaviour. This builds confidence and resilience, which will be reflected in how teachers behave toward students.  

 If you work in a school and you want to learn more about supporting your students, then you can find out more about our training programme for school staff here. 

References  

[1] NASUWT | All teachers must be able to work in safety 

[2] Managing Difficult Behaviour in Schools: A practical guide by Tom Bennett – Unison 2015 On-line-Catalogue22970.pdf (unison.org.uk) 

[3] The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did) – Philippa Perry, Penguin Random House UK 2020  

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