Friday, 28 November 2008

Pupils on best behaviour

British primary pupils are better behaved now than they have been for at least 20 years. They are more likely than their predecessors to listen to their teacher and to do the work assigned to them, according to a major new study.

Led by Brian Apter, senior educational psychologist for Wolverhampton council, they oversaw a team of 71 educational psychologists, who carried out observations in 141 classrooms. This was one of the largest primary school studies ever conducted.

The psychologists found that pupils were well-behaved and focused on their schoolwork for “an unexpectedly high proportion” of their time in class. Children concentrated on work for 85 per cent of the time: a higher rate than has ever been recorded before in British schools.

This improvement in pupils’ behaviour began with a dramatic rise in the mid-1980s, and has continued steadily since. The researchers attribute this to the fact that the teachers provided clear and detailed instructions, and regularly praised pupils’ work.

Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers’ Association, was not surprised. “Adults always say that it was better in their day,” he said. “It’s the golden-age syndrome. But I don’t think there ever was a golden age.
“Most teachers would probably say, ‘Yes, there’s more focused attention by children now than in the past.’ Lessons are better planned and pitched to individual children. There’s less opportunity for boredom, for being overstretched and understretched.”

The psychologists found no link between pupils’ behaviour and the size of their class, the number of adults in the room, the time of day, or the number of pupils eligible for free school meals.

But there was a link between behaviour and the size of the school: larger primaries tended to have better behaved, more focused pupils. The researchers suggested this might be because these schools offer higher salaries to their heads and benefited from economies of scale.

Read more in the TES.

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