disruptiveclassA survey of nearly 1,000 teaching professionals has found there has been a rise in the number of children with emotional, behavioural or mental health problems over the past five years coupled with worsening student behaviour in schools and colleges.

Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) believe lack of boundaries at home is the main reason for students behaving badly (cited by 79%), followed by behavioural problems (69%), emotional problems (68%), wanting attention from other students (64%), a lack of positive role models at home (61%) and family breakdowns (61%). 

More than half said student behaviour has got worse in schools and colleges over the past five years with nearly 90% of support staff, teachers, lecturers, school heads and college leaders saying they have dealt with a challenging or disruptive student during this school year.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "Teachers and support staff are suffering the backlash from deteriorating standards of behaviour. They are frequently on the receiving end of children's frustration and unhappiness, and have to deal with the fall-out from parents failing to set boundaries and family breakdowns. And the huge funding cuts to local services mean that schools often have to deal with children's problems without any help.

"Schools need to give their staff good and regular training so that they know how to work with students with behavioural or mental health problems and have confidence in handling pupils with challenging behaviour. Behaviour training also needs to be an integral part of teacher training."

Between students the most prevalent challenging behaviour was verbal aggression (cited by 77%), followed by physical aggression (57%), bullying in person (41%), and breaking or ruining other students' belongings (23%).

While the majority of challenging behaviour was low level, such as not paying attention, 55% of those surveyed said they had had to deal with verbally aggressive students, and a fifth (21%) had had to deal with a physically aggressive student.

Responding to the findings, a DfE spokeswoman said: "Disruptive or violent behaviour has no place whatsoever in the classroom. That is why we have strengthened teachers' powers to put them back in charge.

"Our guidance makes it clear that teachers can use force to remove disruptive pupils from the classroom when necessary. Making sure teachers are fully trained to deal with any sort of challenging or violent behaviour is a core part of teacher standards."

Though more than three-quarters of staff said their school or college has a policy to identify and help students suffering from mental health, emotional or behavioural problems, a quarter said they don't get any training to deal with these students and only a fifth get regular training which they rate as good or adequate. Nearly 40% said they didn't get any relevant training in their initial teacher training.

In addition, over a third of staff (35%) said they don't get any training in how to deal with challenging, disruptive or violent students, with only 18% saying they get regular training which is good or adequate. And 42% said they didn't get any relevant training during teacher training.

The survey was completed in February and March by 842 ATL members working as teachers, lecturers, support staff and school and college heads in state-funded and independent schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Read the survey results in full at http://www.atl.org.uk/Images/March%2021%20for%2024%2C%202013%20-%20Disruptive%20behaviour%20on%20the%20rise%20-%20final.pdf

Improving teacher training to handle pupils with emotional and mental health problems will be one of the topics covered at the NSPCC 'How Safe Are Our Children' conference on 18-19 April, where speakers will include Children's and Families Minister Edward Timpson and the Children's Commissioners for England & Scotland. For more details and to book your place - click here.