Conflict resolution skills: Rethinking teacher training pt2

Written by Esther Efemini on 14 July 2017 in Features
Features

Esther Efemini concludes her piece on conflict resolution. 

Exclusions have dropped by half over the last two decades. In 2016, 6,500 children were permanently excluded from school . Every day 15 children are permanently excluded from school in England (Goldberg, 2017). The School Exclusion Project indicate referrals they receive show an increase during the run up to half terms and holidays.

This seems to suggest that these periods are more conflict prone than other times of the academic year. It is unclear whether teachers are aware that these times show potential for conflict. The School Exclusion Project reports that academies were more likely to exclude than maintained schools.   

Permanently excluded children often go to pupil referral unit costing the local authorities £15,000 pounds a year per pupil (Washington, 2011). Only, one percent of children attending a pupil referral units achieve five good GCSE’s (Goldberg, 2017).

Limitations of teacher training

(National Audit Office 2016) research in the Teacher Training Programmes found the government currently spends £700m a year on teaching, recruiting and training new teachers. Since 2012 the government has missed its recruitment targets with secondary school training places proving to be difficult to fill. 

The value of conflict management training can provide opportunities for growth. 

Behaviour Management was cited in the Carter Review (2015) as a priority within ITT programmes. The recommendations outlined in Bennett's report ‘Developing behaviour management content for initial teacher training’ sets out to provide a framework for behaviour management for teaching training roviders .

However, ITT providers need to go one step further by allowing trainees to not only learn from outstanding teachers, but also from experts in the field of conflict management.

Benefits from conflict management training

The value of conflict management training can provide opportunities for growth. It would also provide trainee teachers with more confidence in managing challenging behaviour in the classroom. Trainee teachers could possibly benefit from identifying their own conflict style.

Part of the assessments could be done through journalling which could include reflecting on their teaching, reflecting on thoughts, and feelings and behavioural reactions to ongoing conflicts or future conflict. This could discuss with their tutor/mentor, mediator or conflict management advisor assigned to the teacher training courses.


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Case studies are a useful tool for learning. Trainee teachers could examine common scenarios that happen across year groups. For example, friendship difficulties, parents with substance misuse/mental health. This could be done through the presentations and peers for feedback.

Conflict resolution can also be delivered to experienced teachers and possibly be taught on inset training days.

Conclusion

Communication and dialogue are at the core of effective management. Headteachers need to rethink how they address conflict in schools and themselves working towards being more conflict competent. Teacher training providers need to have honest dialogue that conflict is a part of life and is endemic in some schools. 

Trainee teachers need conflict management skills as they are critical in school settings and provide teachers with a better understanding of the nature of conflict, and they improve relationships. The improvement in relationships because of conflict resolution management could lead to the decline in exclusions in schools.

Thus, saving local authorities saving thousands of pounds a year in trying to provide alternative provision for pupils. Other benefits would result in the reduction in the high turnover of teaching staff, as leadership was cited as a factor of teachers leaving teaching. 

As Barry Oshry (2001:28) quotes in his book 'Strategies and Tools for Transforming your organisation': "Why would you expect that to be smooth and predictable process? You have created flux, instability. In instability lies hope the hope of creating new patterns that will be more satisfactory for all. Don’t run away from the flux; work with it. It is the sound of the old dance shaking."

 

About the author

Esther Efemini graduated from Middlesex University with a degree in psychology and criminology and went on to do a masters. More recently her interests lie in Conflict Management Skills for trainee teachers. Esther is a trained Community Mediator.

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