In Richard’s Opinion…


Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals, says CU-Boulder study

My own feeling is that this article mainly shows that children who constantly receive organised, instructional guidance from adults, whether teachers or parents, tend to let the adults take care of the thinking for them. When children organise their own activities, they are not relying on an adult to work things out for them or to tell them what to do. Children very quickly learn when self-reliance is required and when it is not.

Additional links to the article:

Time.com – Study: Less-Structured Time Correlates to Kids’ Success

Frontiers in Psychology – Less-structured time in children’s daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning

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Low-level classroom disruption

The Ofsted article doesn’t seem to include any reference to children with mental health problems, ADHD and Autism and also takes no account of underlying peer bullying that still occurs for many children – causing them psychological worry that often interferes with their ability to focus on learning in the classroom.

I have been to many schools in my past roles, both as a teacher and as an educational visitor, and witnessed a mixture of behaviour and certainly some of it has been quite shocking and abusive – both between children with one another and from children to staff. I have also witnessed the general levels of the “low-level classroom disruption” mentioned by Ofsted and this has two facets:

1. Disrupting other learners

2. Causing the disrupter to miss crucial parts of lessons

Whilst it is true that a good head teacher can promote the right ethos to promote school-wide good behaviour, I found that schools with such leadership were in the minority. However, in a society that likes to apportion blame, it is not helpful to single out heads. Everyone has to take collective responsibility for wanting a better environment. In the same way that some teachers find it challenging to ‘control’ their classes, some parents also cannot relate positively with their children – it’s part of life. With the added issue that more children in our society are being diagnosed with various mental health problems, this further adds to the difficulty of simply saying that schools have to sort out “low-level classroom disruption”. In fact, it is often left to teaching assistant and non-teaching staff, to shadow the children that cause the most disruptive behaviour around school in an attempt to give the rest of the class a reasonable opportunity to focus their attention on the teacher and classroom activities.

It seems to me that we have a few situations and these include:

1. Mild but persistent low-level disruptions
2. Varying degrees of aggressive behaviour
3. Mental health issues
4. Frustrations of feeling incarcerated
5. Separation from the rest of our world

Whilst it is not in the remit of this opinion to address all of the above, I believe that it is a basic personal duty of everyone in school to behave, in the main, with consideration and politeness towards everyone else and whilst things like swearing in our society are now common place, teachers should not be placed in a situation where children can be abusive to them and they just have to accept it. It is not acceptable! Perhaps this is a place for Head teachers to begin their review of general school behaviour and perhaps it can be implemented without resorting to a regime of punitive sanctions, which brings me to another point: communication.

An important component of behaviour is good communication – something we are not on the whole very good at in our society. I expect most people think they communicate quite well, but I am here to say that most people actually do not! One problem with communication is that the person communicating knows what he/she wants but doesn’t always spell it out clearly. Half the message is related and the other half is still in the mind. At the receiving end, either only part of the message is understood, or there is one crucial bit missing. One thing that adults do is instruct children to “do [this thing]”. Something that most of us reasonably want to know is: “Why?”

Education has often discussed ‘learning styles’ but I have heard few discussions on ‘personality types’. Schools are notorious for adopting a ‘one system has to fit all’ approach and before you say this is completely untrue, may I remind you that for ‘delivery of service’ reasons, there are many instances where our society has had to accept this approach.

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