Should central government be telling schools how to deal with naughty children?

The government’s “discipline” tsar has just issued a checklist of “tough measures” to help schools deal with misbehaviour. Teachers are being told to make punishments clear, to patrol playgrounds, to know the names of every pupil, to keep calm when dealing with difficult children, to impose a good system of rewards and so on…

Er, excuse me, but isn’t it hugely patronising for central government to be telling teachers these things? Shouldn’t teachers be TRUSTED to deal with misbehaviour as and when it occurs? The thing I’ve noticed during my twenty years in the classroom is that human behaviour is very complex; there is no magic formula. A whole host of things need to be got right before children behave properly. Improving the “context” of learning is just as important as having a set of rules on the wall; the curriculum needs to be appropriate and challenging, assessment regimes need to be fair, teacher and pupil morale needs to be high and so on.

I think these “guidelines” send the coded message that, yet again, teachers just simply don’t know what they’re doing.

The problem is that this government is utterly muddled in its thinking about education. On the one hand, it prides itself in “setting schools free”, and yet, on the other, it’s about to impose an entirely new and centralised National Curriculum and exam system upon us, and tell us how to manage behaviour in our schools. It’s completely topsy-turvy. This latest set of guidelines beg all sorts of questions: just how “voluntary” are they? Will they form part of Ofsted’s checklist? Will free schools be obliged to follow these guidelines?

It just doesn’t add up.


Published by: @wonderfrancis

Francis Gilbert is a Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, teaching on the PGCE Secondary English programme. He also teaches the Creative Writing module on the MA in Children’s Literature, which is run by Maggie Pitfield and Professor Michael Rosen. Previously, he worked for a quarter of a century in various English state schools teaching English and Media Studies to 11-18 year olds. He has, at times, moonlighted as a journalist, novelist and social commentator. He is the author of ‘Teacher On The Run’, ‘Yob Nation’, ‘Parent Power’, ‘Working The System -- How To Get The Very Best State Education for Your Child’, and a novel about school, ‘The Last Day Of Term’. His first book, ‘I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here’ was a big hit, becoming a bestseller and being serialised on Radio 4. In his role as an English teacher, he has taught many classic texts over the years and has developed a great many resources to assist readers with understanding, appreciating and responding to them both analytically and creatively. This led him to set up his own small publishing company FGI Publishing ( which has published his study guides as well as a number of books by other authors, including Roger Titcombe’s ‘Learning Matters’ and anthology of creative writing 'The Gold Room'. He is the co-founder, with Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar, of The Local Schools Network,, a blog that celebrates non-selective state schools, and has his own website, He has appeared numerous times on radio and TV, including Newsnight, the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour and the Russell Brand Show. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing and Education by Goldsmiths.

Categories UncategorizedTags, , , , 2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Should central government be telling schools how to deal with naughty children?”

  1. You obviously yearn to be “famous”. Why don’t you do what you obviously want to do and lead a group and open a Free School in an inner city location. You can be the Head. Leafy Essex isn’t exactly gritty, is it ?

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