I’m a few years late to this debate and although I commented on it on Twitter at the time I was not yet blogging so didn’t write anything on it at the time. Silent corridors are one of the many things that divide opinions in the teaching community, and I understand why, however after seeing it in action I have to say I approve.
When we first introduced silent corridors a few years ago I was sceptical. There were many arguments out there for and against and many argued it was a step too far and draconian and I had an inkling to agree. However, within a month it was clear that it improved learning and safety within the school to the extent that the student parliament said in their half-termly feedback, that they approved, as did I.
The first of many benefits is the most obvious one. In many schools in Britain the corridors in transition between lessons are the most hostile environments in the building. There is shouting, pushing, shoving and ultimately, bullying. Other than online, nowhere does bullying occur more in a school in my experience than on the corridors. There is the physical hierarchy of older students pushing past the younger students or jostling them in the corridor as some odd act of initiation that many of us have went through. However, with a silent corridor that has a single file system, all this nonsense is eradicated. Bullying upon our corridors did not just lessen, it simply ceased to exist there.
The second benefit is in our teaching. The students arrive into your classes calm, silent and ready to learn. They won’t be giddy or wound up because of something that has just happened on the corridors, so you lose absolutely no teaching time as a result. This is useful for all staff members but it will be particularly helpful to newer or less experienced staff who are often those who struggle to bring a class under control who have just came into their lesson bouncing off the ceiling because of something hilarious that has happened on the way to your lesson.
There are multiple aspects that are absolutely vital to silent corridors working. The first, is a visible staff and SLT presence. Staff should be at their doors during transition to help monitor the behaviour of the students and act as a deterrent. The second, is there must be no grey areas. If a student speaks, laughs or turns around they need to be pulled up on it. The second there is a grey area the whole system breaks as it can be argued with. “But sir I was just laughing at a joke in my head, I wasn’t speaking!”. Easy to imagine right? This will still happen of course, but the students will accept the consequences as a norm. Finally, a universal consequence for such actions is needed. A break or after school detention or an essay would all work.
Before embedding this in a school I would recommend doing some training with staff who you feel may struggle, confidence wise, to hold students to account on their corridor. It will be a big ask for NQTs who don’t know the Year 11s to pull them up on their behaviours but they need to know that doing it is supported by Middle and Senior Leadership who will give them help and support in following this through.
In addition, we also had a parent event to explain to parents what we were doing and why we were doing it. This clarity is so important as if students don’t know why something is happening then they will naturally be resentful and in the modern world that means parents will be too. You can never be too clear.
New (09/04/21) – There was an article published recently in TES that suggested that ‘neurodivergent’ students were unfairly disadvantaged by silent corridors. This is nonesense, we found it was the exact opposite. Autistic students often struggle with loud noises and silent corridors removed that. We had a student join us from Year 12 who was incredibly grateful that our transitions were quiet because they struggled massively with noise. Feedback from this group was the most positive, as they felt it removed chances for sensory overload and provided a clear standard for them to adhere to.