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Is a 'Zero Tolerance' approach (like this) the way forward?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by FrankWolley, Feb 28, 2016.

  1. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    jomaimai and TEA2111 like this.
  2. Camokidmommy

    Camokidmommy Established commenter

    Some aspects of this would be lovely, like manners and children being expected to work within clear, very secure boundaries. However, I think this may be a little too tough! (And I am considered a tough love kind of teacher already!)
  3. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Oh dear.
    Surely there is middle ground between sexual assault in the corridor and absolute silence at all times! And the "lots of detentions" envisaged suggests that they are not a very effective deterrent in dealing with undesireable behaviour.
    Is it zero tolerance of poor behaviour or zero tolerance of children?
    chelsea2 and phlogiston like this.
  4. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    I think there are aspects of behaviour where "zero tolerance" is the right approach, and if all teachers in a school were to stick to this, everyone's lives would be much easier.

    I feel that half of the battle I'm having with my classes is because simple expectations are not being upheld consistently across all of their lessons. So their concept of what is "normal" behaviour in a classroom is skewed. I'm not talking about anything bizarre, I'm talking about the following:
    • Pupils line up outside the classroom until they are invited in by the teacher, rather than just walking in in dribs and drabs. This is school policy, but not everyone follows it, so then I have more of a battle when they turn up to me.
    • Absolute silence when I am speaking or when another pupil is speaking to the class. Some pupils look at me in what I can only interpret as genuine shock when I don't accept quiet whispering or "but I was just asking to borrow a pen" - it has to be complete silence as anything else is disrespectful. But from what I've observed in other classrooms, some teachers are just continuing to talk over the kids, not insisting on silence, and then the pupils see this as normal and me as being excessively strict.
    • Pupils pack away stand behind their seats in silence before being dismissed. The number of pupils who will call out "can we go yet?" or "the bell's gone" because clearly in some lessons they are being let out even if the class is not silent.
    I do think it's worth having clear and simple routines, high expectations of behaviour and specific things which you take a "zero tolerance" approach to. And if everyone does this together, it will more or less work.

    But I think some of what the blog says is a step too far. Pupils walking around the corridors in single file in silence just seems creepy and repressive. I want pupils to know boundaries - that there are clear times when they must be silent, and other times when this is not necessary and they are allowed to talk and have a laugh. Whilst I'm really firm about having silence at specific times, I also often remind pupils "you are allowed to discuss this" if they sit working in silence and I know some would benefit from talking to a partner to refine their ideas and avoid some of the mistakes they would make on their own.
    guinnesspuss, Godmeister and TEA2111 like this.
  5. Skeptical_John

    Skeptical_John New commenter

    That's from a school called Michaela. They have quite a different attitude to many prevalent issues in education. For example they don't mark books and the lessons are designed by the SLT. Their maths teacher has no maths degree (or PGCE) and simply delivers what is expected. Quite a few of the teachers blog, makes for interesting reading.
    FrankWolley likes this.
  6. TEA2111

    TEA2111 Established commenter

    I have read it, and judging from what I have read, I love it. I want to teach in a school like that. I'm tired of dancing to management, parents, children's tunes who are all 'more expert' than me (really?) I don't get that we have to differentiate for a wide range of abilities, but when we assess, all children are expected to sit the same assessment test. (And again, while writing this, I'm doubting myself: maybe I management, parents and children do know more than me).
  7. TEA2111

    TEA2111 Established commenter

    Very refreshing to read "...I think we ask too many questions anyway. I think we should be telling more and asking questions less." Wish my head teacher would read this.
  8. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    In the proverbial sense.
  9. Skeptical_John

    Skeptical_John New commenter

    Just to add to me previous post I don't feel anywhere experienced enough to make a critical comment on whether this is a good or bad thing. However I think it's fantastic there are state funded schools trying out different approaches. Maybe in 5 years we will look back and think that was a total disaster but at least we will have some data to make such judgements as apposed to now where everything seems based on conjecture.
  10. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    To attempt an approach like this the school would need to have the large majority of parents on side and also be oversubscribed so when they kick out those kids who refuse to comply can fill their seats quickly so that their budget does not suffer.
  11. Kamit

    Kamit New commenter

    I knew even before opening the blog that it would be about Michaela.

    Never before have so many words been written about a school with hardly any pupils that has only been open a year or two. The staff seem to spend all their time writing self congratulatory blogs.

    This type of no-excuses approach seems to be a one way affair. It takes all the easiest and most compliant pupils and dumps those the school can't handle into the rest of the system. Then they inevitably get better results, after all they've dumped the trouble makers, and claim to be some kind of silver bullet for the education system.

    On a personal level, whilst I expect a safe environment for my children, I want them to attend a school where the right way to behave in public is demonstrated by a respectful interactions. Not trained like dogs to look for commands from authority figures and immediately comply or face punishment.
  12. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Yeah, fantastic for data gathering. Bit unfortunate for the individuals whose education was totally ****** up though.
  13. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    It's possible to be a good maths teacher without QTS but without a mathematics or related degree? No, hence Michaela's 'textbook' project:

    'At Michaela, developing our subject knowledge is our HoD’s number one priority for the teachers they manage. By reducing to a minimum the planning requirements, inexeperienced teachers are given the freedom to focus on this.'

    Michaela School Mathematics teacher Naveen Rizvi.

    (TES.com, 27th January 2016.)
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
  14. TEA2111

    TEA2111 Established commenter

  15. Benbamboo

    Benbamboo Occasional commenter

    "You send your kids to Michaela, they’ll learn loads, they’ll feel massively accomplished, they’ll feel safe, they’ll have great relationships with their teachers, they’ll learn to be polite, shake hands firmly, make eye contact, greet new people with pride, have self respect, respect others – they’ll laugh a lot, they’ll have the confidence to be themselves, they won’t need to feign a tough, street, anti academic, aggressive persona – just to survive."

    This sounds an awfully big leap from zero tolerance to creating the rounded children described in this last paragraph.

    In these silent classrooms and silent corridors, where children sit in pre-designated spots, where is the opportunity to freely socialise, to challenge the realities of society, to understand that life and expectations are flexible?

    I'm not saying this is totally wrong. Our new head this year has finally introduced a consistent and more rigorous behaviour policy which our old head couldn't bring herself to do over fears of what parents might say. The difference is immediate. But this Michaela system seems to be total lockdown, essentially institutionalising children into their form of indoctrination. There needs to be balance, not a pendulum swing between extremes.

    Ultimately, I'm not sure if this is a blog or an advert.
    chelsea2 and Godmeister like this.
  16. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Sounds good - almost too good to be true. Of course 240 pupils is different to 1700 pupils. At the 240 pupil level every adult can pretty much know who every child is and this helps behaviour management. In addition, the moving around between classes is not going to be the issue that it can be in places with more rooms and more circulation.
    If they have this working, well done, and I hope it's sustainable.
    I would be curious to know how many ADHD or ASD children they have and how they manage their needs.
    As Flere noted, they have a lot of detentions, so behaviour's not perfect.
  17. Godmeister

    Godmeister Occasional commenter

    While I can see the idea of zero tolerance as being attractive to many teachers who experience issues with behaviour, on the whole this school sounds like it is training children to obey authority without question which to me is not creating well rounded individuals. One line on the blog goes something like "If I just do as I'm told I know I'll learn!" Now, as a teacher, I get that we need students to listen to us as teachers and accept what we say as good advice but it smacks a bit of "If the government says something is right I know it must be because they are in charge" 1984-esque language. I also find the idea of students lining up silently, eyes front to enter school each day and the silent switchovers a bit odd too. Oh and the idea of giving merits to those who "track the teacher around the room not letting their eyes wander" sounds creepy.

    I'm all for improving behaviour but stuff on this blog sounds like it is preparing children for some future, unquestionable dictatorship.
    chelsea2 and phlogiston like this.
  18. Godmeister

    Godmeister Occasional commenter

    Just found these gems on the blog too:

    "Some of them won’t want to, and, as teachers, it’s our role to coerce and force kids to comply if necessary. Coercion! Force! The man’s a monster! No, not really, a benevolent dictator perhaps."

    "My perspective is heavily influenced by my subject, French, and by the fact that, I believe, given half a chance, most people are lazy ******* who’ll give up and do something more palatable when faced with the prospect of work."

    On reading activities: "We always read and write in absolute silence – unless I tell you differently.”

    On advice to other teachers "“What do I believe a brilliant lesson should look like?”, “How am I going to get there?”, “Where are MY priorities?”, “What’s MY vision?”, “What would I want a fly on the wall to see?” And also he criticizes teachers for being "conformist" which seems to be exactly what the ethos of Michaela is all about.

    Yet several paragraphs earlier states among examples of bad teaching:
    "What about those classrooms where group and pair “work” are used as a cover for the teacher who can’t actually get kids to work silently in a focused reflective manner?"

    Just posting these here as some of the things I found most interesting. I'll let people make of it what they will.
  19. Skeptical_John

    Skeptical_John New commenter

    What are the alternatives? Either we never change anything, ever. Or everybody gets the change all at the same time (this is what currently happens). With the later you are so far down the road of change and put so much money and time into it that you're stuck with it and you don't have any comparable data as you have no control group so you can't really be that sure it's worked.

    Changing stuff like not marking books is hardly so radical it's going to cause children years of interventions to catch up. It will be a marginal gain or loss.
  20. Godmeister

    Godmeister Occasional commenter

    Sorry for the excessive posting but a couple more things I'd like to highlight.

    On lunchtimes:
    "You send your son or daughter to Michaela and you don’t have to worry that they’ll dread lunchtime because they’re friendless. Every child sits according to the seating plan teachers have designed." - The kids can't even choose who they socialise with at lunch is the implication from this, or is that me misinterpreting this?

    "...the way in which kids project their thoughtful answers across a silent lunch hall to an appreciative and respectful audience of 120 peers." -Silent lunch hall??

    "But you know, I think we ask too many questions anyway. I think we should be telling more and asking questions less." - I don't like the future social implications of this sort of thinking.

    "Bit weird when they listen so much in lessons and do so little pair and group work. Instead they listen to me lots and they read as I speak and then they read out loud, one person at a time, sometimes reading the same passage several times. You think they’d be bored but they really like it." - I don't know how well this approach will go down with students as they go beyond Y7. I have to say as a student I would have hated the monotony that this suggests.

    https://hackingattheroots.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/praise-where-its-due/ - To me this whole post doesn't make much sense as the first half criticises the idea of merits and demerits then goes on to praise the exact same system in place at Michaela.

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