In loco parentis – How much parenting should teachers do?

By Elena Dundjerovic

As a Head of Year, I deal with young people outside of the classroom, helping them to manage their personal and educational lives. Through this role, I am fortunate enough to meet a number of parents and have learned an incredible amount, not only about the importance of strong parenting skills, but also about the huge range that exists in this important skill set. So when the opportunity to attend a 6 week course about parenting teenagers came up, I leapt at the opportunity.teenagers

At first, I felt a bit of fraud, as I was asked how old my children were. When I responded that they were 7 and 5 years old, I could tell that the other parents thought I was being a bit over zealous. However, once I explained that I was a teacher, this mood seemed to settle.

The content of the course was extremely practical. I learnt ‘how to increase your confidence in your skills and abilities to parent’ and ‘how to help the relationship between you and your teenager be even better than it is now’. The real nitty gritty came later with ‘how to teach skills for helping your teenagers to be more secure emotionally and to raise their self-esteem’ and to ‘identify the best way to effectively discipline your teenager’.

Approaching the end of the course, we were asked to reflect on what we were going to do with what we had learnt, and that’s where I came a bit unstuck. How much of the course should I and would I be able to use with the students that I teach?

One exercise involved choices and consequences. For illustration purposes, let’s say the child is called ‘Bob’.

‘Bob, you have a choice, you can either (insert positive action). Or you can (insert negative action). If you choose (positive action) then (positive outcome). But, if you choose (negative action) then (negative outcome). It’s up to you, it’s your choice’.

Great stuff. One for all trainee teachers to store in their toolbox. Or is it? Can you, as a teacher, afford for a student to pursue the negative action in your class to the detriment of other students? With careful planning, this would be an excellent way to manage a challenging student. I certainly wouldn’t recommend using it ‘off the cuff’ in a lesson.

And I think this is the main point of understanding what our ‘duty of care’ is as teachers towards our students. How do you occupy a parental role with a class of 30? I think that the phrase ‘in loco parentis’ is really being tested in schools today. This is in spite of a move away from it and towards a more preferable (and realistic) phrase – ‘duty of care’. Schools are having to educate pupils more and more about self-harm, e-safety, building self-esteem – is this really part of our remit? We are not social workers, but more and more emotional needs are creeping into schools at an alarming rate. Why is this? The answer does not lie in this post but is certainly a topic of much current debate in the education sector.

‘In seeking to equate the role of the reasonable and caring parent with that of the teacher there are immediately difficulties. Parents do not have 25 or 30 children to control and supervise at any one time.

……Hence teachers who ask “What would a prudent parent do in this situation?” may give themselves a misleading answer. Parental concern derives from natural love and affection for the child. The concern of a teacher derives from a different source.’


Whichever way you look at it, there is one thing that unites parents and teachers – we all want the best for the teenagers in our care. How we manage this is another matter. One hand-out we were given on the course was called ‘Top Tips for Parenting Teenagers’. I have listed the points –

  • Be a positive role model
  • Be open
  • Get to know their friends
  • Ask them what they think about specific issues
  • EMPATHY IS YOUR ACE CARD. Look for the feelings behind their behaviour

If this was a test, teachers would score 99%. This is what we are trained to do. And I think that’s why I found it tricky to identify what I could use in school because so much of it is done already. Being a positive role model and being open are absolutely fundamental skills for a successful teacher. You have to lead by example and demonstrate the qualities that you are looking for in your students. At the beginning of each year, I always tell my students ‘whatever I expect of you, you can expect of me’. Students know where we all stand and we can all hold each other accountable. Getting to know their friends is a gift for a teacher. It’s not a skill. You don’t have a choice in the matter and boy, does it make it a difference in understanding students’ behaviour. Finally, ask them what they think about specific issues. That’s our job. It doesn’t work unless we do. Empathy is your ace card – this is the fundamental issue. Looking for feelings behind our students’ behaviour should be a high priority of all teachers in my opinion, but do we dedicate enough time to do it? I am in a fortunate position as a Head of Year to gain a more detailed insight into the lives of my year group. We cannot escape the fact that ‘students bring their lives into the classroom; they do not leave their problems and feelings at the door’ ( Do we train teachers in this skill enough? Empathy might just be the missing 1% to help teachers ace the ‘top tips’ test.

Back to Basics (4) – Be Quiet! Attention Please!

By Sarah Lofthouse

Be quietSometimes it can be difficult to get your students’ attention if they are busy and noisy during a lesson.  Here are some strategies you might like to try to help regain attention and quiet when you want it.

Students need to be told the idea and your expectation at the start of the lesson.  Practising the routine will also help reinforce it for use later.

1.  Countdown. A simple countdown from 5 could be employed. Add the expectations as you practise, for example: 5 – in your place facing front; 4 – stop fidgeting; 3 – pens down; 2 – closed mouths; and 1 – we are ready.
2.  Adding time. Every time the class do not act quickly when you ask for quiet you put a tally mark on the board. One mark means one minute being kept in.  The beauty of this is it is simple and effective and you can also easily remove marks to reinforce positive behaviour.timer
4.  Location anchor. Cut out a circle from brightly coloured paper. Stick it onto a point on the floor or wall and tell students you will give them important information when you are at this spot. Regularly reinforce the importance of the location by only giving important pieces of information when you are at that point. Then every time you want quiet, walk onto the spot or lay your hand on it on the wall. This method will need practising and could be made into a game to begin with.
5.  Lights. Simply switching the light on and off to give a visual signal that it’s time to be quiet and face the front.
6.  One for all and all for one. Tell the class you have chosen one student at random (don’t tell them who it is) and that their behaviour during the lesson will apply to all. If they can listen and settle quickly when asked then the class will be rewarded.
7.  Copy cat. The idea is that the class have to copy your sound. For example, you clap twice, they clap back. You could try it with song lyrics or movements.

This is what other Beaumont staff have suggested:

Jane Pearson (History): “A visual clue to the lesson on the board such as a large picture and they have 2 minutes (show a timer on the board rather than a little hand held kitchen one) to figure out how the picture links to the lesson/explains something etc. Seeing the time ticking I find is more effective. I have this timer document on my desktop so I can open it quickly whenever I need it.”

Steve Jump (PE): “Just wait and be patient – someone in the class will get the fact you are waiting for silence and usually tell the rest of the class to stop talking.  This then usually ripples through the class until all are quiet. I sometimes hold up my hand in class and wait – usually works. Finally – only done occasionally if you have a really troublesome class – I sometimes leave the class and wait outside the door for a 10 – 20 seconds and then come back into the room.  This works brilliantly as the pupils are almost all silent when I re-enter…weird!”

Sue Lutz (MFL): “​I try to find a song that is linked to the theme of my lesson. For example I played “Keep Young and Beautiful” for a lesson on fitness/healthy eating.  They are quiet as they are listening to the song and starting to engage with what the lesson is about.  Works best with music that they do not know!”

Fiona Pinkerton (Science): “My normal method of getting students to be quiet is ‘3,2, and…….1’ the ‘and’ drawn out depending on how quickly they tune into realizing they need to be quiet! It works well especially if I then deduct them a minute of their time for every second I wait. I also use names and a good old glare at individuals to get them to shhhhh. Once for my year 11 class who were lethargic and not listening I did a little Irish dance at the front of the classroom. Strange I know but they tuned in following a good giggle and I consequently had their full attention.”

Laura Hawkins (MFL): “My idea is ‘Pumpernickel’.  If the students are working in groups/teams they all have to stop if they hear the word and put their hands on their heads/be silent.  I give points to first team to be silent and remove points for last team to be silent. The word could obviously be anything.  It works best when there’s a competitive element to the activity.  Obviously, what you make them do on hearing the word could be anything relating to their subject. Other than that I just use the old favourites of hand in the air or countdowns.”

Kyl Messios (Drama): “With KS3 I set up expectations at the start of the year and introduce a clapping rhythm that they join in on at the end (idea stolen from Harriet Rowlands years ago).  It’s really important that I can get their attention quickly and safely during some of the more ‘energetic’ lessons. Sometimes I dance about or say funny things (that I think are funny). I find that the best thing to do is get the lesson/activity going quickly and energetically.”

For more ideas try these links:

Back to Basics (2) – Behaviour Management

By Sarah Hosegood

The Hosegood family are not very interesting people. We are all Geographers and we are either teachers or town planners (my sister was the rebel!), so dinner table conversations are a little bit dull for outsiders. However these dinner table conversations have given me one of the best pieces of behaviour management advice.

My mum always said the most valuable thing a teacher has at their disposal is their voice. As a trainee teacher I don’t think my voice was always under control but as I have gained more experience my voice has become more powerful.

My (and my mum’s!) top tips:

  • When using your voice, always give yourself somewhere to go. This means that you can’t shout all the time. Shouting should be an extreme of your voice and should happen very rarely. This means that when you do shout you have the desired effect.
  • Once you have the attention of the students keep your voice low so you keep their attention and they have to listen carefully.
  • Even if you are tired and having a bad day your voice can disguise this so go up tempo and bright in your voice and ‘trick’ the students into enthusiasm.
  • Always welcome your students into the classroom with a bright, enthusiastic, cheery voice and it will start the lesson in a positive mood.
  • When you want to get your point across, repeat the point slowly in a deeper tone to your normal voice.

teacher voiceYour voice is only one aspect of behaviour management and other teacher hints and tips below offer you some key ideas.

Lucy Sidney; “If a class are too chatty (during a discussion or at beginning of the lesson) I ask them all to stand up. They are not allowed to sit down until they are all silent. If they start talking whilst descending they must stand up again! They soon learn that being quiet is better than standing up.”

Zoe Shepherd; “Only ever pretend to lose your temper. Don’t actually lose it. Know your kids and remember they have stuff going on in their lives that may affect their behaviour. Own your space/ classroom you are inviting students into your class to share and learn with you – be confident.”

Helen Wilson; “Wait for pupils to be displaying the behaviour you want and then praise it with thanks. Develop a “waiting stare” which says, “we are not moving on until I’ve got the behaviour I expect”.”

Hanh Doan; “Have a seating plan. Organise/plan pairs and group work. Give clear instructions and clear warnings of sanctions for misdemeanours”

Beth Ashton; “With a difficult group, have a clear, visual way to keep track of where students are in terms of the behaviour diamond. I usually write “warning, move, detention, on call” so they can see what the next consequence will be.”

Michael Tatham;Praise all those who are doing what you do want (the others will eventually get the hint that they need to do or change something!).For example, ‘Well done Tom’s table, you’re books are out and you’re all ready to start’. Or, ‘Thanks Bethany, you’re looking this way and listening.’”

Jo Cavanagh;Establish routines early on in terms of your expectations e.g. stand behind their chair in silence when they first come in.”

Nat Moody; “If you are taking a new group learn names as soon as possible. Set routines as early as you can. Do not allow them to speak when you are.”

Jane Pearson;Keep the pace by using music as a timer when you want minor things done quickly and efficiently eg packing away, handing in textbooks, writing down the date and title.”

Sue Lutz;Timing activities using a stopwatch keeps them on task.”

Susan Kent; “If an individual child is off task just approach their desk quietly kneel down so you are at their eye level and explain that they have a choice – they can get back on task in the next 30 seconds and show you how awesome they can be or they will be moved to the back of the classroom to work alone/sent outside.  Their choice.  Give them 30 seconds and go back and ask them.”

What would your top tip be to ensure good behaviour management?

Useful links: