Nearly half of England's teachers think pupil behaviour has deteriorated in their school in the past five years, a survey for the government suggests.
Some 48% of the 1,479 polled for the Teacher Voice survey said behaviour had worsened. This figure rose to 54% among secondary school teachers. However, 70% of teachers overall said behaviour was either good or very good, and only 6% rated it as being poor. Some eight out of 10 thought they were well equipped to manage behaviour.
However, more than a third of teachers disagreed with the claim that appropriate training was available in their school for teachers who were struggling with pupils' behaviour.
The researchers said they were confident the results of their poll, which had a good spread of all age-groups, were broadly representative of teachers nationally. However, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) said its own survey of 11,000 newly qualified teachers suggested 94% felt their training had equipped them to establish a good standard of behaviour in the classroom.
Chief executive Graham Holley said: "We also note that newer teachers said that pupil behaviour had improved in the last five years, which coincides with recent improvements in support for managing behaviour in both initial teacher training and teacher induction introduced by the TDA."
'Edge of education'
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the survey showed the media view of widespread disruption and lack of respect simply did not ring true for those actually teaching young people.
"Clearly, there are some problems and behaviour can always be better but it's important to be clear that generally behaviour is good and that schools now have the powers they need to deal with poor behaviour when it does occur."
The findings were published as ministers unveiled details of 12 pilot schemes aimed at ensuring youngsters excluded from school get back on track and do not end up in crime. The schemes flow from plans announced in May to allow private companies, voluntary groups and independent schools to bid to run units for excluded pupils and to assist pupils at risk of exclusion.
- A project in Knowsley, in the north-west of England, offering work-based learning for young people involved in crime and anti-social behaviour, which follows an Army Cadet Force syllabus.
- A scheme in Oxfordshire which includes a theatre trust and an arts centre which will target pupils aged 11 to 14 who are at risk of exclusion or offending.
- A new London-wide scheme aimed at improving the life chances of excluded youngsters and diverting them from offending.
Mr Balls added: "Alternative provision has for far too long operated on the edge of the education system, only getting involved with children after they have been excluded.
"In the lead up to exclusion there are often opportunities to turn around behaviour before it's too late." General secretary of the Nasuwt teaching union Chris Keates said the range of alternative educational provision projects being piloted were interesting and may have some merit. She added: "Provision for the most vulnerable youngsters must not end up being a post code lottery.
Individual projects scattered across the country must be underpinned by a national entitlement for all learners regardless of where they live. National entitlements are best delivered through the public sector."
Head of the National Association of Head Teachers Mick Brookes said there needed to be a clear distinction between children with disabilities and those who will not behave.
"The former need access to specialist facilities and staff who are experienced in dealing with their specific needs. The latter require Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) facilities, focusing on behaviour and attitude transformation to enable them to access the curriculum.
"An urgent and open review of the effect of our current systems of assessment and reporting must take place if we are to avoid disenfranchising and demoralising millions of children and young people who then drop out of the learning environment."