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Teachers say Pupil Behaviour has Deteriorated According to Research by the University of Warwick

Originally Published 20 September 2001

More than 80 per cent of teachers in schools of all types in rural, urban and inner city areas say that pupil behaviour has deteriorated during their time in teaching. Only 10 per cent say there has been little or no deterioration. According to new research by University of Warwick researcher Dr Sean Neill for the National Union of Teachers. Even pupils in nursery schools are displaying high levels of unacceptable behaviour from use of offensive language, making abusive and insulting comments to their teachers and threatening them.

Over 2,500 teachers in 13 education authorities in England and Wales took part in the survey which was analysed for the NUT by Dr Sean Neill of the University of Warwick's Institute of Education. Many teachers in the survey are highly critical of the support they are given in dealing with disruptive pupils both from their senior management teams and from their local authorities. They also point to lack of good parenting and parental support to schools in dealing with pupil problems. Indeed, one in 12 teachers have been threatened by parents at least once a term.

Commenting on the survey, Doug McAvoy, NUT General Secretary, said:

"This survey shows an unacceptable level of physical and verbal aggression between pupils and directed at teachers. Many of the comments point to teachers seeing this behaviour as the final straw in causing them to leave teaching even though they love it.

"The very high level of disruption to lessons experienced on a weekly - and as many commented - on a daily basis is making teaching a decreasingly satisfying experience.

"Unacceptable pupil behaviour must be a high priority for the Government to tackle if its adverse affects on recruitment and retention of teachers is to be addressed. It must be tackled in order to ensure that teachers can be most effective in improving the levels of achievement of the majority of their pupils."

"It is not acceptable that the education of the majority should be put at risk by the unacceptable behaviour of the few."

"The authority by authority results make it clear that deteriorating behaviour is not simply a problem for inner city schools. It is widespread and worsening.

"Teachers and pupils should not be expected to accept continuation of such behaviour. They have a right to teach and to learn without constant disruption and threats or actual violence."


"The Union will support industrial action to secure the exclusion of pupils where their retention disrupts or threatens the welfare of pupils or staff or where the headteacher, governing body or appeal panel refuses to exclude such pupils."

Schools' disciplinary codes must make it clear to pupils and parents alike that permanent exclusion will result if there is:

  • Serious, actual or threatened violence or sexual abuse against another pupil or member of staff; or
  • The carrying of offensive weapons;
  • A significant risk to the health and safety of other pupils from a pupil selling illegal drugs; or
  • Persistent and malicious disruptive behaviour, including open defiance or refusal to conform with agreed school policies.
  • Bullying, including homophobic bullying.

"The Government should make it clear that, for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties, its policy should encourage a wide range of provision to meet a wide range of need."

"The NUT has a clear set of proposals which, if implemented, would help reduce the disruption and dangers faced in our schools by both teachers and pupils."


Further NUT proposals

  • All local education authorities should have sufficient primary and secondary day and residential special schools for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • Headteachers should have the right to refer young people for full assessment for special educational needs prior to admission to their schools if they have reasonable grounds to believe that they have significant emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • Local education authorities should be required to provide protection, support and advice to teachers and other staff who have been assaulted by pupils.
  • Regular professional development of pupil behaviour should be provided as an entitlement to teachers within the school day.
  • Local authorities should be required to audit the professional development opportunities on pupil behaviour within schools and, if there are gaps in professional development provision, should provide such opportunities themselves.
  • Local authorities should provide sufficient trained staff to give advice to head teachers who face disciplinary crises in their school or uncontrollable intrusion by third parties.

For further information please contact:

Dr Sean Neill, Institute of Education, University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523836


Further information about the above press release and all other media services at the University of Warwick can be obtained from:

Peter Dunn, Press Officer
Public Affairs Office
Senate House
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL
West Midlands
Tel: 024 76 523708
Email: puapjd@admin.warwick.ac.uk