Stricter school discipline making comeback

Students Working with a Microscope
Stricter school discipline is making a comeback to Australian classrooms.

Stricter school discipline is making a comeback to Australian classrooms in a bid to help teachers stamp out disruptive behaviour.

New guidelines are being rolled out to schools nationally to give teachers skills to set high expectations and implement rules on how students should behave.

Students will be encouraged to practise “super walking”, where they walk in single file around their school. And their desks will be lined in a row facing teachers.

The framework was created by the Australian Education Research Organisation, which found teachers and principals spent about 20 per cent of their day dealing with disruptions, equating to about one day per week.

Their research showed schools that adopted a behavioural type curriculum created an environment where students felt safe and were met with routine by imposing rules and expectations that ultimately supported them to learn.

AERO program director Sarah Richardson said the guidelines gave teachers evidence-based strategies that had been proven in the classroom.

She said setting high expectations and clear rules on how students should behave allowed teachers to better manage classrooms so all students could learn.

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The Australian Education Research Organisation has rolled out guidelines for schools and teachers across the nation to give them skills to implement rules on how students should behave. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah Marshall

“From a teacher’s perspective they don’t feel as prepared as they could be and school leaders are spending time on managing behaviour rather than focusing on other important tasks,” she said.

“It is extreme behaviour that often makes the headlines, but it is behaviour such as calling out, constant chatting while teachers are trying to teach and students not listening that is more of a disruption that teachers have to deal with.

“What teachers needed were guidelines and frameworks, what was missing was a how to, a five-step approach to develop skills and minimise disruption so it allowed more time for learning.”

The framework has been introduced off the back of a Senate inquiry into the increasing disruption in Australian classrooms.

An interim report found disruptive behaviour in classrooms was an increasing concern for many teachers.

University of NSW professor Rebecca Collie said in the report that teacher working conditions — including demands, such as disruptive student behaviour — appeared to be getting worse over time.

“My colleagues and I identified that 34 per cent of teachers could be considered struggling at work due to their experiences of poor working conditions, including heightened levels of disruptive student behaviour that make it difficult to teach effectively,” she said.

“Similarly, the Australian Education Research Organisation noted that dealing with misbehaviour has been a concern for teachers for some time.”

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It is hoped a national framework will help teachers and schools feel better equipped to manage disruptive behaviour at schools. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah Marshall

The report found teachers were subject to verbal and physical abuse form students and parents, which had to led to physical injuries, stress and anxiety.

Some of the abuse teachers experienced included being assaulted, having furniture thrown at them, property damaged, windows being punched in, harassment, cars keyed and wallets stolen.

The Monash University Faculty of Education explained in the report that disorderly classrooms could leave teachers feeling unsupported in managing these challenging situations.

Senator Matt O’Sullivan, who led the Senate inquiry, said introducing a behavioural curriculum into schools was about setting standards and giving teachers the right skills to manage behaviour.

Senator Matt O'Sullivan
Liberal Senator Matt O'Sullivan said introducing a behavioural curriculum into schools was about setting standards. Picture Gary Ramage

He said there were some schools that had already adopted a behavioural curriculum, including Chalice Primary School in WA and Marsden Road in Liverpool.

He said what was interesting about Marsden Rd was that English was a second language to 70 per cent of students.

“The kids are respectful and well behaved, everyone had told the school principal that parents wouldn’t engage with the school when it implemented community outreach programs to parents,” he said.

“Six years on the school is now a big part of that community.”

Marsden Rd Public School.
Marsden Rd Public School.

Chalice Primary School in the Perth suburb of Armadale have a child health nurse based at the school, which begins engaging with mother’s when they are pregnant,

“The school adopted a whole range of things including explicit instruction and how they engage and how they educate is really important,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“The behaviour curriculum is one element.

“It is not a silver bullet.

“Not every kid is provided with that background and support, while we can install it at school we need to make sure teachers are properly resourced and that we back them up.

“It is about respect, respect for each other and authority has to be modelled and has to be taught.”