The Pisa results and the impact on Functional Skills

I listened to a Radio 5 Live programme this week.  It was in response to the Pisa tables which show that the UK fails miserably in achieving a sensible place in Literacy and Numeracy.  Some points of note are that countries with emerging high-ranking achievements are also a) educating their children for 10 - 12 hours per day and b) noticing an alarming increase in suicide rates of students.

During the programme there were many diverse viewpoints from callers as to why/how the UK may not be doing so well and what we might do about it.  Here's a summary:

  • we can only work with the raw material (ie crap students)
  • we have a cluttered curriculum (too much to learn)
  • behaviour is the problem (really?)
  • we should increase student learning hours (suicide rates?)

This got me thinking, especially as none of the above seems to resonate with my experiences.   But one caller to the show was a...

What do I do when my students……

Here are two questions raised about behaviour in class at a recent training day, together with suggested solutions from the collective group.
What should I do when:


Students 'blank' the teacher

Remind students of the ground rules around "Respect"

Mirror the behaviour (NB use with caution, may begin the conflict cycle)

Isolate the negative behaviour by organising group work with engaged learners

Ask them a question

Be sympathetic – show that you've noticed they're having a bad day 

Students answer questions when it's not their turn


Nominate questions

Request hands up

If some answers for someone else, they must answer the next 5 questions

Learner answers questions until a correct answer, then move to next learners


Working with learners who have poor mental health

Mental Health

There's a lot of stigma attached to mental health (or mental ill-health), even though it's not as uncommon as you might think.  As a teacher or LSA working with teenagers you could possibly be faced with students who have a number of different mental illnesses, such as

  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm

...... to name a few!  I work closely with a mental health expert, and there are some things which she has shared with me, are good to know.

The term ‘mental illness’ is generally used when someone experiences significant changes in their thinking, feelings or behaviour.  The changes need to be bad enough to affect how the person functions or to cause distress to them or to other people.

The terms ‘mental health problem’ and ‘mental disorder’ have a similar meaning.

If a person has always had a problem in their thinking, feeling or behaviour, then this is not usually called...

You’re Not My Teacher!

The plight of the LSA

Recently it has really hit home to me about LSAs, and their role in the classroom, during experiences when I've been working in classrooms with teachers as their behaviour guide/coach.

In a recent class, while ostensibly acting as the Number 2, I asked some of the students to listen to what the teacher was saying.  In response, they looked at me with a snarl and one exclaimed

I’m not listening to you, you’re not my teacher!”

On that day and in that lesson, the teacher had really started well, with a strong on-line activity which was highly interactive.  He selected one of the challenging students to manage the activity – in charge of the mouse – and the student jumped at the chance to assume that responsibility.    We got off to a good start.

So far so good…..

The problems began when the lesson began ‘proper’.  I requested that...

3 of my positive classroom management secrets

What are the secrets to behaviour management?

Well the answer to that depends who you speak to.  But I prefer prevention rather than cure, so here are 3 of mine:

#1  Avoid negative chatter

I manage to avoid the negative chatter in the staff room, because a) I'm not at college every day and b) I don't think it's productive.  I've seen the knowing looks exchanged between staff, with the rolled eyes and shakes of the head.  "Oh yes, I know him....." they might say "I've heard he's a nightmare."   Trial by staff isn't fair and can be quite damaging to your relationships with students.

Your opinions of students need to be yours, not those of your colleagues.   My remedy to this problem is to surround myself with positive people, I don't make comparisons, and it's changed my outlook considerably.

#2  Start strong

Start lessons on time and with an engager/activity - don't...

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