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Classroom Management: the key to engagement in English and maths

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

No matter the sector or age group, behaviour management is key to any teacher, in any setting.

According to a survey of educators from 23 countries, up to 25% of teachers reported losing 30% of lesson time to disruptions , with an average of 13% of teacher time spent maintaining positive behaviour (OECD, 2010) . As a result, it’s clear that behaviour management is key to student achievement, particularly in the Post-16 English and maths classroom.

With no ‘silver bullets’, exceptional classroom management needs a blend of approaches, deployed at the right time, in the right way. Let’s look at 5 approaches with proven impact…

1. Getting your feng shui right

It’s vital to get the basics right and this starts with a classroom layout which lets you teach from three principal areas in the room: the front, the middle and the back of the room. From each area, you can control the room and identify disruptive behaviour, with your presence in these areas limiting challenging behaviour. If there are any areas that you cannot quickly get to, this is where behaviour challenges will start, so it’s vitally important that your layout supports free movement.

2. Building relationships before lessons start

Any practitioner will tell you that building strong, positive relationships is key. With this in mind, getting to know students, whilst maintaining a focus on the content, is vital. Greeting students at the door and asking a question unrelated to the session is a great way to do this. ‘How are you?’, ‘How has your day been?’, ‘Did you see the match last night?’ or similar, lets you understand what makes students tick (over time) and shows that you’re interested in them as people, not just students.

3. Engaging starters

If students don’t have something to do, they will find something to do. And it won’t be what we want them to do (hint: mobile phones). Give students something which will prompt discussion, engage their interest, support recall of prior knowledge or just get them thinking. This can be an individual task, pair task or group task – the important thing is that they see the value in it and that it engages.

4. Depth of questioning

When asking students questions, the average thinking time afforded to students is less than 2 seconds , with the vast majority of questions taking the form of what Dylan Wiliam calls ‘tennis questions’ (teacher asks one student a question; one student responds; teacher gives one student feedback, leaving all other students unassessed).

5. Attention

Students thrive on knowing that they are succeeding – they can’t be aware of this if we are not communicating it. Being active around the classroom and giving regular written and verbal feedback is so, so important. Giving each student some ‘face time’ throughout the lesson will again reinforce relationships and also support academic progression as students know exactly where and why they are achieving and what they need to do next to improve, develop and progress.

Though there is no ‘one answer’ to positive behaviour management, the range of resources and CPD available will support the blended approach required for your context, with your students, tailored to your teaching style. For more information on the BASE Project and the free CPD available, get in touch at

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