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naughtykitty

Boy sticking out his tongue at the camera. Photograph: Inspirestock Inc./Alamy
Behaviour in the first few weeks of school can fix a child’s reputation among teachers, parents and classmates for years, according to research out today. A five-year-old labelled “naughty” after a handful of incidents could find it hard to be seen as “good”, no matter how they tried.

Inability to sit still, disrupting queues or failing to comply with requests, could result in a poor reputation, and teachers sometimes made assumptions based on a child’s family background, said the researchers.

“Reputations can start to solidify within the first term,” said Maggie MacLure, professor of education at Manchester Metropolitan University and co-author of the study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. “Teachers will have decided in a broad way what kind of child this is. Is it a good child? Things that contribute to reputation are often very public. A lot of what happens is in whole class settings – so if children are disciplined others see it happen.”

The result, said MacLure, was that other children and their parents started to view the pupils in a similar way. She said teachers were well-intentioned but “the views form quickly in quite a nebulous way. If children go on to another class, their reputation could transfer with them just because one teacher writes a little note saying ‘This child has difficulty concentrating’ or ‘This child won’t sit still’.”

Siobhan Freegard, founder of the website Netmums, knows of many children who struggled to shake their reputation. “One little boy in my older son’s class found it really hard to sit still and control himself. Then, when they were 10, somebody snapped someone else’s pencil and all the children said he did it. Soon all the parents were talking about it, but it turned out he wasn’t even in the class at the time.” Another boy had earned the label of class clown and still could not shake it at 13.

Freegard said it was particularly tough for “summer babies” born in July and August. They can be a full year younger than others in class and significantly less mature, so are more likely to act up in the first term and earn a poor reputation.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the transition from home to school could be very difficult, and he had also seen pupils develop reputations. “It does happen. Someone is talking in assembly and you immediately look for Sean because it is usually him.” But forging a strong link with a child’s parents could turn pupils from being seen as “troublemakers to being contributors to the class”.

The study finds that adults have a notion of what a “proper” child should be, but learning to behave in a way appropriate for a classroom was tough for four- and five-year-olds. “Being good is not a simple matter,” it concludes. “Children need interpretative skills to decode and comply with requirements such as ‘sitting nicely’. They must be able to compete for teachers’ attention and approval according to the rules and handle disappointment when they do not win… They must learn to perform the emotions and moral qualities valued in the reception class, and accept that other, less ‘appropriate’, emotions may not be equally recognised.”

Some found it more difficult than others to be a “proper” child, and there was little tolerance for varying behaviour, partly because of the pressure to ensure pupils performed academically.

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new school food manifesto

“As many of you know I released my new school food manifesto this week outlining my concerns for school food in England today and the actions I think need to be taken by government to ensure our kids continue to get the great all round food education they need to feed themselves better in the future and to help reduce the crippling rise in obesity. I have been overwhelmed and delighted by the support I have received from you guys out there for the manifesto. So thanks and big love to my fellow school food campaigners, school caterers, the press and the general public…. the fight continues…..”
Jamie Oliver

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new school food manifesto

As many of you know I released my new school food manifestothis week outlining my concerns for school food in England today and the actions I think need to be taken by government to ensure our kids continue to get the great all round food education they need to feed themselves better in the future and to help reduce the crippling rise in obesity. I have been overwhelmed and delighted by the support I have received from you guys out there for the manifesto. So thanks and big love to my fellow school food campaigners, school caterers, the press and the general public…. the fight continues…..

Jamie Oliver

Check out what others have been saying here…

synopsis

In 2005, my TV series Jamie’s School Dinners went out on Channel 4, and I officially kicked off my Feed Me Better campaign to get decent food into Britain’s schools. That seems like such a long time ago now, but school food is still a massively important issue to me, as I’m sure it is to all of you. It still gets talked about all the time in the British press,and there are some truly brilliant and inspiring schools, headteachers, caterers and dinner ladies out there doing great things to make sure the food they serve our kids is healthy and nutritious. Big love to them!

Over the past 5 or 6 years, big changes have been made to school food. These changes are still going strong today and,to be honest, we’ve advanced much further than I first thought we would. We’ve all learned a lot, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see so many people committed to feeding our children better at school; it makes the blood, sweat and tears of the early days of the campaign totally worth it.

But our work is far from over. Childhood obesity is still a problem. The UK has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Europe, with 25% of young people being classified as obese or overweight. In 2005 I said that this would be a long road, and it will be.I know I will stick with it, and I hope you will too. Have a look through my school food pages to find out what I’ve been up to as the fight for better school food continues.

Jamie Oliver

There is an obesity epidemic in this country,and the emotional and financial costs of this epidemic are huge. The UK has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Europe, with 25% of young people being classified as obese or overweight. The Government’s Foresight report suggests this will only get worse, with 40% of Britons expected to beobese by 2025 – unless we all do something about it. 

A school meal accounts for one-third of a child’s daily nutritional intake. For many children up and down the country, the majority of food they are fed at home is either made up of ready meals, takeaways or – in the worst cases – nothing at all. This means the meal they eat at school will be the only nutritious food they eat that day. Encouraging children to make better food choices at school is absolutely vital.

Jamie has long advocated that children who are fed better, do better. Recent research supports this and has proved that no matter what background a child is from, a hot, nutritious meal at lunchtime improves their behaviour and concentration in the classroom in the afternoon. This is yet another reason why school meals should matter to everyone who cares about the future of the UK’s children.

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