Fewer than two in five pupils feel safe in school every day – survey

Fewer than two in five pupils feel safe in school every day, a Government survey on behaviour has found.

The proportion of school leaders and teachers in England who said their school was frequently “calm and orderly” has fallen, according to research by the Department for Education (DfE).

The report, which surveyed 2,521 secondary school pupils, 1,478 teachers and 780 school leaders in England in May 2023, found that 39% of pupils said they had felt safe at school “every day” in the past week.

In June 2022, when the previous DfE behaviour survey was carried out, 41% of pupils said they felt safe at school daily.

The findings were published the day after two teachers and a pupil were stabbed at Amman Valley School in Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales.

The proportion of school leaders and teachers that disagreed that parents were supportive of the school’s behaviour rules has increased, the research suggests, from 15% in June 2022 to 20% in May 2023,

Around half (54%) of pupils reported that their school had been calm and orderly “every day” or “most days”’ in the past week, compared to 84% of school leaders and 59% of teachers surveyed.

When surveyed in June 2022, a higher proportion of school leaders (92%) and teachers (70%) said their school had been calm and orderly “every day” or “most days” in the past week.

Nearly three in four (73%) school leaders and teachers reported that pupil misbehaviour had had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing in the past week when surveyed in May last year, which is higher than in 2022.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “The latest data once again confirms the scale and depth of the behaviour crisis that exists in our schools and that is happening on this Government’s watch.

“Ministers need to do much more than collate facts and figures about the problem, they need to take the action needed to ensure all schools are safe for both staff and pupils.”

“Everything that can be done must be done to ensure that children, young people and their teachers can learn and work free from the threat of abuse, violence or assault.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “The vast majority of pupils are well-behaved, and schools remain overwhelmingly safe and positive environments.

“However, there has been an increase in poor behaviour among a minority of pupils which is posing a challenge for school leaders and teachers.

“A lack of support from some parents, many of whom are facing challenges themselves, in dealing with behavioural issues only adds to the scale of the challenge.

“We would like to see the Department for Education carry out work to establish the reasons for this increase in poor behaviour, but the disruption caused by the pandemic and the ongoing difficulties in supporting pupils with mental health and special educational needs are likely playing a part.”

Tom Bennett, school behaviour adviser to the DfE, said the data suggests “too many students are in environments that aren’t safe, calm or dignified enough”.

He said: “This is because of a decades-old problems of failing to face up to the need to focus on behaviour, human nature to test boundaries, and the enormous impact of Covid, lockdowns and the mental health crisis.

“Families are supporting schools less, and schools are having to deal with more, on reduced budgets.

“This data tells us how vital it is that we continue to focus on behaviour, boundaries with consequences, specialist support environments, and holding the line.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are continuing to deliver on our plan to give every child a world class education and standards have risen sharply across the country, with 90% of schools now rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, up from just 68% in 2010.

“Good behaviour in schools is key to raising standards which is why we are taking decisive action to ensure all schools are calm, safe, and supportive environments and are providing school leaders and teachers with the tools to improve behaviour.

“Not only have we banned mobile phones in schools to reduce disruption, our £10 million Behaviour Hubs programme aims to support up to 700 schools over three years to improve behaviour.

“Data from our behaviour hubs acts as a benchmark of the standards we expect so we make sure support is targeted where it is needed most.”

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