Lessons hit by 'disruptive noise'

Hillingdon Times: Classroom discipline is said to be better in private schools Classroom discipline is said to be better in private schools

A "substantial minority" of school lessons in England are suffering from interruptions, disruptive noise and talkative students, international research suggests.

The findings indicate that although discipline is generally good in most classes, in some cases the environment for learning is "far from ideal".

They come in a report looking at England's performance in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) new survey of secondary school teachers.

TALIS 2013 (teaching and learning international survey), examines the views of teachers in more than 30 countries on issues such as their learning environment and working conditions.

The TALIS survey found that more than a fifth (21.2%) of teachers in England agreed that they have to wait quite a long time at the start of their class for students to quieten down. This is better than the OECD average of 28.8% of teachers across all countries surveyed.

And 28% of teachers in England said that they lose quite a lot of time because of students interrupting the lesson, compared to an OECD average of 29.5%.

In a number of other high-performing countries more teachers reported losing time due to student interruptions, such as Singapore (37.8%) and Finland (31.6%).

The latest TALIS survey also found that 21.6% of English teachers questioned agreed there was "much disruptive" noise in the classroom, better than the OECD average of 25.6%.

Again, more teachers in other high-performing nations reported the same, including Finland (32.1%) and Singapore (36.2%).

Around 73.9% of England's teachers said that the students in their class take care to create a pleasant atmosphere, against an OECD average of 70.5%.

The national report for England on the TALIS findings, by researchers at the Institute of Education (IoE) in London, concluded that around 61% of the classes surveyed across the nation "could be regarded as a favourable environment for learning."

It said: "These results suggest that in the majority of cases surveyed there was a good disciplinary environment but that for a substantial minority of classes one or more of the following created a less than favourable environment: waiting for students to quieten down, lack of attention to a pleasant learning environment by the students, interruptions or disruptive noise."

THE IoE's report concludes that for the most part, teachers' views on classroom discipline put England close to, and sometimes slightly better than the international average.

But it adds: "With over a fifth of teachers agreeing or strongly agreeing that there was a lot of disruptive noise in the lesson and 28% that they lose much time due to student interruptions, it is clear that classroom climate was far from ideal in a substantial minority of the lessons surveyed."

The analysis also shows that the "classroom climate" tends to be better in private schools than in state schools, while teachers also reported a more favourable learning environment when there is a higher proportion of bright children in the class.

And it found that 30% of the least experienced teachers responding to the TALIS survey in England said that they had to wait quite a long time for students to be quiet, compared to 15% for the most experienced staff.

The report also noted that 29% of headteachers in both local council-run school and academies felt that they lacked powers to deal with poor student behaviour.

Ian Bauckham, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that there was a time-lag between the survey being conducted and the publications of the findings.

He suggested that the current government has given headteachers extra powers to deal with discipline, alongside an Ofsted focus on behaviour.

"That may well be having an impact but we would need to check again in two years' time, because these things don't happen overnight," he said.

:: More than 100,000 teachers and school leaders across 34 countries and economies took part in the TALIS survey, including around 2,494 secondary teachers and 154 headteachers in England.

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