This morning as I was preparing for work I was scrolling down my Twitter timeline to make sure I hadn’t missed anything that might affect my working day. It is a habit I have developed and it works for me, it keeps me reasonably aware of what’s happening in education.
This morning I came across what can only be described as the beginnings of a twitter storm. You know the type I mean. someone says something, someone else takes offence and supporters are rallied to prove an idea one or another. I rarely get embroiled in these things. I dislike them intensely. They rarely turn out to be reported correctly and for that reason I generally stay out of it. Today is no different, I shall blog my thoughts and people can agree or disagree as is their choice.
This is what caught my attention. It is a video for TES by the highly regarded and well respected Tom Bennett, the chair of @educationgovuk Behaviour group. A conversation had grown around the video and some of the comments had turned unforgivably personal as they often do. I had a listen and these are my thoughts.
I think Tom has a fair point. I think he is very brave for vocalising his thoughts but he does have a point. Here are my reasons for agreeing with him.
Tom says that behavior management is made easier if all children are treated equally. No one can argue with that surely. Everyone likes a good set of rules. We know where we are with rules, we know what to do in any given circumstance and we feel comfortable and secure with rules. There are some children who have challenging behaviour, or who swear or who simply refuse to conform to rules. Some of those have Tourette’s Syndrome as Tom has pointed out. They are different and are not under discussion here. Some, on the other hand have no medical reason whatsoever for behaving in this manner. Their behaviour may be disruptive enough so that they may be given an IEP with suggested strategies to help with behaviour. Tom points out that these children can control their behaviour and choose not too. I think it this statement that made everyone a little hot under the collar.
It is my belief that it is our duty to teach children how to behave in the best way they can. As teachers and TAs it is our role to prepare children to take their place in wider society in later life. These children will eventually join the workforce and be out in the real world. If they don’t know how to behave in school how will they know how to behave at work? Will it be acceptable for a person to be working on the till at Asda, decide they have had enough of it and just walk away from the till? Will they be allowed to hit someone because they have disagreed with what they have said? We can’t be complicit in allowing this type of behaviour.
As we know, all behaviour is communicating a need. As teachers it is our job to find out what that need is. Remember we aren’t talking about medical conditions here, we are talking about behaviour. The Code of Practice has removed behaviour as a category of need because we now know better. Instead of giving the child with challenging behaviour an IEP to give them licence to misbehave (as Tom puts it) why not unpack the behaviour. See what is causing it. Talk to the child, get to know them, put your strategies in place and work with the child on anger management. Allowing them to raise a card and disappear from the classroom, or hit the child next to them because they are frustrated is no answer. That isn’t really helpful and will not prepare the child for real life.
Tom says to participate in mainstream school you should be ready for mainstream. Don’t blame Tom for this, he didn’t make the rules. Don’t blame the SENDCos either, they didn’t make the rules. We have to look to the DfE for this one. I don’t believe in inclusion at any cost. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it. I believe in inclusion if it is right for all those involved including the child, the teacher and the rest of the class. The child with challenging behaviour needs the behaviour unpacking, away from mainstream school. They need teaching how to cope with their own emotions and anger and then return to their mainstream school. Anything less is a disservice to the child with the challenging behaviour and a huge disservice to the children and the teachers in the school.
For these reasons, I agree with Tom. I say help them, don’t give them an unrealistic view of life, that’s no help at all.