Wider Long-Term Approach Needed to Solve Severe Classroom Behaviour
The education sector union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, supports the findings of a survey by Hawkes Bay principals into the incidence of severe classroom behaviour, but would caution against schools tackling the problem alone.
The survey, carried out by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, shows that one in five primary school children exhibit severe anti-social behaviour in the classroom. Six percent of teachers also reported ongoing physical attacks on themselves or teacher aides. The Hawkes Bay Primary Principals’ Association is correct in saying these incidents significantly impact on all children’s learning and provides a snapshot of a New Zealand wide problem.
The results reflect similar findings of an NZEI survey carried out last year which showed one in seven teachers and a similar proportion of school support staff in primary schools reported being physically assaulted by students last year. The survey Physical and Verbal Aggression Towards Primary and Intermediate Staff: Report of National Survey of NZEI Members also found that more than 50 percent of teachers and more than a quarter of school support staff also reported aggressive verbal confrontations with children during that time.
In releasing its survey the Hawkes Bay Principals’ Association says the Ministry of Education is completely out of touch with the realities of teaching and does not provide necessary and appropriate support and resources to schools. It says the time has come for schools to be given their own money so they can source the providers that cater for their children’s needs.
NZEI says that response reflects the deep level of frustration among schools, teachers and principals over an escalating problem.
However NZEI National President Frances Nelson says “simply giving schools more money to deal with the problem themselves is only a band-aid solution and assumes they can access and provide an ultimate fix. It would not tackle some of the real social issues behind disruptive or violent behaviour which have their roots well beyond the school gate.”
“There is no doubt there is a short term need for resourcing for schools and professional development for teachers to help manage children with severe behaviours and programmes such as the social workers in schools scheme could be extended. But what is really needed is a more holistic approach to deliver long term solutions, involving schools, social agencies, parents and the wider community,” she says.
The government’s recently introduced B4 School checks is a welcome initiative which will help identify and tackle many difficult behaviours and stop them escalating before a child goes to school.
Frances Nelson says severe or violent behaviour in the classroom is not just a school problem, it is one we all have to "own" and work together to solve.