The silent corridors debate is quite a fiery one at the moment! Since Gavin Williamson has mentioned it again, as a possible solution for improving behaviour in schools, the usual machinations and criticisms have re-surfaced.
What follows are my thoughts on why schools may use them.
Keeping Children Safe
I would be surprised if anyone argued vehemently against the claim that the majority of serious behavioural incidents in school occur in the least supervised areas: kids aren’t stupid. These places include secluded areas in the playground, toilets and corridors.
Probably the most important role a school plays is ensuring that pupils are safe. It is therefore pretty logical that if there is a series of incidents which occur then if schools don’t make some sort of response they aren’t acting in the best interests of the children.
An example of this is when my school banned mobile phones from being seen or heard on the premises in response to pupils using them at break times, for cyber bullying or filming fights etc and sharing them on social media. This was a no-brainer. A reasonable action was taken to protect students from harm. It has pretty much eradicated these types of incidents from occurring in school time.
In schools I have worked in in the past there have been accidents where pupils have had to go to hospital as a result of crushing. A calmer and more ordered expectation of movement was required and more supervision in key areas which tend to contain more pupils at any one time.
Gavin Williamson referred to some of the highest performing schools as having silent corridors and people may not think there is a link between calm and ordered transitions and better progress. I reckon there is something to it.
Quite simply, if pupils are engaging in highly distracting behaviours in corridors then they will arrive at lessons in a heightened state which is not conducive for learning. Consequently they will take much longer to settle at the start of a lesson, they may well be thinking about incidents which have occurred during the transition or they may have been the victim of some boisterous behaviour or even bullying. In any of these situations the pupils will not be best prepared for learning and valuable time will be lost.
If there are up to ten transitions per day, and we assume a conservative estimate of 5 mins of learning time lost per transition, some quick maths results in up to 50 minutes per day of wasted time. Potentially harmful, wasted time. Over the course of a week, a term, a year this is hours and hours of time where pupils are needlessly at risk in terms of safety and loss of learning opportunity.
By employing a silent corridors approach a school is setting the culture to be calm and purposeful in all parts of the building and at all times.
A Blanket Approach?
“Everything works somewhere but nothing works everywhere”
A highly sagacious quote, which I think came from Dylan Wiliam, on something totally unrelated to silent corridors but which can be applied to almost everything within education.
There will be some schools where employing silents corridors is the best thing for pupils and school leaders who know their setting the best should not be criticised for attempting to improve pupils’ experience. Equally, there will be some settings where there is no need for silent corridors and again, leaders there should not be criticised for not having silent corridors.
My school has something in between. Quiet corridors and a silent line up. If a pupil is judged as being too loud or behaving in an unsafe way they are issued a same day detention. Staff are expected to be on their doors throughout transitions: presence promotes positive behaviour. We make the reasons for this quite clear to pupils and visitors to our school have commented positively on the purposeful and settled environment we have created for our learners to develop in.
A silent corridor isn’t just about the corridor. It’s about school leaders having the freedom to lead.
Secretly (well, not any more), I quite fancy trying out silent corridors but I don’t think my school needs it.
Thanks for reading. Hope you had a nice time.