Commenting on the launch of a consultation on behaviour management in schools, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Teachers will wonder why the Secretary of State is talking about mobiles instead of what schools need in order to help students make positive choices, re-acquire learning habits and recover their self-confidence about the future. The urgency right now is for smaller class sizes, immediate funding for mental health and anxiety issues, and identifying time for teachers to work with small groups. There is a huge variety in learning gaps and social and emotional impacts for different groups of children and if we don't create a flexible recovery phase of education this next academic year, teachers will be faced with significant issues in the classroom.
“Gavin Williamson is out of step with the scale of the challenge faced by education staff in terms of the number of young people with mental health difficulties and gaps in areas such as speech and language skills. The Secretary of State talks about 'discipline' and 'order' when he should talk about mental health, wellbeing and what teachers need to cope with learning gaps. There is also a serious concern about the burgeoning mental-health needs of children and young people.
"Talking about mobile phones is a distraction. Schools generally have very clear policies and will not see the need for another consultation. The fundamental question from leaders is where the Secretary of State is on creating the flexibility, funding and trust next year to make the recovery phase of education successful and fair for students. Students in families on lower incomes have been hardest hit - and lost the most learning time - so what matters this year is empathy, high expectation and time for individual teaching alongside emotional support, not tougher sanctions or zero-tolerance policies on behaviour.
“The Secretary of State should be demonstrating that he understands the links between mental health, a very high-pressure curriculum and whether young people cope in school. Student behaviour can be very challenging for staff. For that reason, schools need to make sure staff feel supported, to work as a team, and not on their own."
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