Shouting teachers infuriate pupils

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BAD TEACHERS shout, can't explain and are unfair. They turn up late for lessons and don't mark work. That is the verdict of pupils who were questioned in the first in-depth British study of teachers' competence.

The students also said they were too nervous to complain about poor teaching because teachers tended to side with each other against pupils.

Researchers at Exeter University asked more than 500 pupils aged between seven and 16 what made a bad - and a good - teacher. They also asked what would make pupils complain about a teacher. Their findings will be presented at this week's British Educational Research Association conference.

More than half the pupils said they would complain if they thought teachers were behaving unfairly, were not explaining clearly, set too much homework or if the work was too difficult. Other reasons for protest included shouting, boring lessons, absence from school and infrequent marking.

All but the youngest pupils were asked to complete anonymous questionnaires.

The two-year study, funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and led by Professor Ted Wragg, found that "teachers who appeared not to listen to them irked a number of pupils".

Pupils were asked to talk in general terms about their idea of a bad teacher rather than focusing on individuals. One said: "No sense of humour; is always 100 per cent work. Has favourites, ignores others. Is never willing to help. Sets work which is too hard and never explains." Another said: "Tells you off all the time for nothing; too strict. Doing it for the money and doesn't care about the children."

By contrast, a good teacher helps when pupils are stuck, explains clearly, can control the class, has a sense of humour, is friendly, gives interesting lessons and listens to children.

One 14-year-old, say the researchers, summarised the "delicate balance between friendliness and control". A good teacher is: "Someone who you can have a joke with. Someone who can control the class. Someone who is good tempered. Someone who doesn't tell you off all the time." Some pupils, the study suggests, think complaining would be pointless because teachers gang up against pupils. One said: "Teachers are all friends with each other and complaining could get me into trouble with the teacher concerned."

Professor Wragg said it was important to realise that only a tiny proportion of teachers were incompetent. The study, called the Teacher Competence Project, is examining people's views of what makes a poor teacher and considering how schools should deal with them.