‘Discipline is a dirty word in most schools,’ says famous British educator


A renowned British educator has urged Australian teachers to take back control of classrooms amid concerns over deteriorating discipline and behavior among Australian pupils.

Katharine Birbalsingh CBE, a British teacher and education reformer and head of Michaela Community School, called for a clear focus on discipline, improved classroom management skills for Australian teachers and an environment of more consistent learning.

Michaela Community School in London, well known for its strict behavior policy, achieved one of the best GCSE results in the UK among its first cohort of students.

Birbalsingh encouraged Australian teachers to take the conservative approach to teaching, managing student behavior and setting expectations instead of what she said are many approaches teachers believe help students and their harm in the long term.

“Discipline is a dirty word in most schools, which is a mistake,” says Birbalsingh, dubbed “Britain’s strictest headmistress”.

“And the first duty of the educator is to provide students with a quiet place where they have the best chance of learning.”

Birbalsingh will address the Center for Independent Study at a public event on October 23.

Alarming track record

Australia is among the least orderly schools in the world, according to data from the International Student Assessment (PISA) program of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Disciplinary Climate Index shows Australia occupying 70e place on 77 school systems. In a survey of 15-year-old students, two in five say their classmates don’t listen to what their teacher is saying, and almost half say there is noise and clutter in most or all lessons.

In Australia’s capital, teachers at a Canberra school have described their working environment as a ‘war zone’ due to increasingly aggressive and disorderly behavior by students.

Calwell High School in Canberra received a Safe Works Act Prohibition Notice on April 4, after occupational health and safety inspectors discovered there were an increasing number of crowds of 7th and 8th grade students who allegedly target and physically assault other students and teachers.

It came after the school was forced to ban 7th and 8th grade cohorts after school inspectors discovered they would subject teachers and administrative staff to daily abuse and harassment. violence and sexualized behavior.

A teacher was reportedly left with a dislocated shoulder, several knocked out teeth, marks on his forearm and bruises on his back after he was assaulted while trying to break up a fight between two students.

Graduate teachers lack confidence

Meanwhile, the majority of graduate teachers lack confidence in classroom management, according to the OECD’s international teaching and learning survey.

In 2016, an Australian study of school experience shows that the least orderly disciplinary climate is found in low-SES public schools, and the most orderly in high-SES private schools.

Birbalsingh also added that alongside building a disciplined school culture, teachers, not students, should be the authority in the classroom.

“More students can overcome educational difficulties, but this will require a fundamental overhaul of orthodoxy in the education system. Teachers need support to implement what works,” she said.

“Simply put, poor students will stay poor if they don’t get the education they need. We’ve shown that disadvantage doesn’t have to be fate. Schools in Australia – in fact, all over the world – can do the same.

The comment comes after NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet called for a ‘back to basics’ approach to teaching in schools.

While federal labor government promised in the elections that he would take care of the drop in school results by investing $440 million in building better ventilation, building upgrades and mental health support. He also said he would offer 20,000 more university places and free admission TAFE.

Victoria Kelly-Clark contributed to this report.


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