Schools are facing more “challenging” behaviour from pupils who see school routines as “oppressive” following months at home during the pandemic, a headteachers’ union has said.
Pupils who became used to wearing no uniforms and going to the toilet when they wanted are now “flexing their muscles”, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said.
It comes after the union received a number of reports about student protests – which are said to have been inspired by videos shared on TikTok – taking place at schools across the country.
In a speech to more than 1,000 school and college leaders at the ASCL’s annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Barton said protests over toilets and school uniforms had “spread like wildfire” in schools after videos were posted on TikTok.
He added that social media had given rise to a “poisonous culture”.
Speaking to the media ahead of the speech, Mr Barton said: “I do think there is a sense that young people having had a period where they were working at home, where they didn’t have to wear school uniform, where they could go to the toilet when they wanted to go to the toilet, that a lot of the old rhythms and routines which are essential to running a school suddenly feel more oppressive now and that some youngsters are flexing their muscles a bit around that.”
He added that school leaders are experiencing changes of patterns in parents’ behaviour, as well as students.
“Parents (are) very quick to complain about things,” Mr Barton said.
Speaking at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham on Friday, Evelyn Forde, president of ASCL and headteacher of Copthall School in north London, told the media: “I think some young people have found it hard to regulate post-pandemic because they’ve been in and out doing what they want to do.
“In schools, it has to be ordered. You’re teaching a lesson and so you need everybody in the classroom and they’ve got to follow those rules.
“But some young people are finding it hard to regulate and will just want to kind of remove themselves from a classroom. That can be challenging. Sometimes they end up in the toilets.”
Ms Forde added that school leaders were experiencing “challenging behaviour” from pupils, adding that there was a “big issue with vaping”.
She said: “I don’t think there is a behaviour crisis, I think there are challenges.
“It used to be the back of the bike sheds where young people would go and smoke. Now some children are going into the toilets to vape.”
In a speech to heads and principals at the union’s conference, Mr Barton said: “If I was secretary of state I would be pledging much more support for schools and colleges over the problems which proliferate over social media.
“We’ve seen this lately with a spate of highly disruptive copycat protests in schools over toilets and school uniforms which have spread like wildfire after being posted on TikTok.
“Some of these posts are pretty nasty, targeting individual members of staff with highly offensive and unfounded allegations.”
He added: “Social media in general for all its merits in helping people to keep in touch and share thoughts and ideas has given rise to an increasingly poisonous culture.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub