Schools in behaviour battle

Schools in behaviour battle

By JOHN HARTEVELT – The Press | Wednesday, 01 October 2008

High-decile schools grappling with misbehaving students want more help, as a new report reveals they use less than a quarter as many social workers as low-decile schools.

Two teacher conferences under way in Wellington this week are discussing strategies to deal with increasingly extreme incidents of disruptive behaviour in the classroom.

The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), which represents 47,000 primary school staff, yesterday issued guidelines for dealing with troublesome pupils.

NZEI vice-president Ian Leckie said extreme misbehaviour crossed class boundaries.

“You’ve only got to look at the child who is very spoiled and from a very well-to-do background whose mother won’t buy them the lollies in the supermarket,” Leckie said.

“What that indicates, too, is that some of these behaviours even manifest before they start school,” he said.

“The ongoing need to be able to deal with that is very, very clear.”

A report by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) released today said there was “a very big difference” between the number of social workers in schools based on socio-economic factors.

A survey showed 81 per cent of primary school principals at decile one and two schools had or were considering the introduction of social workers, compared with only 17% of principals in decile nine and 10 schools. Social workers were available or in the offing at 25% of decile three to eight schools.

Leckie said increasing the number of guidance counsellors at primary schools was “an absolute priority”.

“And that is because of the inordinate amount of time that is taken to deal with every incident,” he said.

The Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) opened its conference yesterday, with strong interest from teachers in a workshop to discuss bad behaviour.

“People were all supportive but wanted more, really,” said Martin Henry, who chaired the PPTA workshop.

“Clearly the issue of highly disruptive kids goes across all deciles,” he said.

“It may be that you don’t need a whole social worker in your school but you need access to the sort of resources that you get from CYFS (Child, Youth and Family), from the police and from the other things that are on offer that’s the sort of discussion going around at the moment.”

Henry said there was a systemic problem with the way society dealt with marginal children, but there was more that teachers themselves could do within the classroom.

The NZCER report shows at least half of the nation’s schools had not had training on key areas such as positive approaches to student behaviour. Only one-third of principals said their school could afford the professional development it needed.

“We know that the more professional teachers are the better their impact on kids,” Henry said.

“We want to see more of that and we want to see it more tailored to the individual schools.”