In the last twenty years we have considerably developed our knowledge of how to manage behaviour in schools. Materials produced by the DFCS and a range of commercial packages yield a familiar list of techniques to give us an improvement cycle that contains the following elements:
- Auditing – to identify the size and scale of problems and the existence of hot-spots.
- A behaviour plan that has been developed with all the stakeholders in the school that makes expectations and incentives clear.
- A behaviour policy that makes clear the duties incumbent on and resources available to different post-holders in the institution - be they Teaching assistants, form tutors or members of the SMT.
- Appropriate SEN support based on a clear understanding of the link between SENs, particularly communication difficulties and literacy, and poor behaviour and clear procedures for directing support where it is required.
- Appropriate SEN support based on Training, mentoring and coaching for staff and students in assertiveness, mediation and conflict resolution.
- Increasing involvement of the student body in self management of behaviour through programmes like SEAL, Circle Time, and mediation programmes.
Appropriate SEN support:- based on
Training, mentoring and coaching for staff and students in assertiveness, mediation and conflict resolution.
Increasing involvement of the student body in self management of behaviour through programmes like SEAL, Circle Time, and mediation programmes.
For these elements to combine well together there needs to be strong leadership, a clear vision for the school and an awareness of the rights and needs of children. It is also vital to link improving behaviour to improving teaching and learning in the classroom. For this reason we often speak of improving engagement rather than improving behaviour management. In a recent paper on violence prevention in schools Chris Watkins remarked that the two distinctive criteria that single out conflict averse schools are a clear behaviour policy and a staffroom narrative that is centered on teaching and learning.
To be effective, interventions in the area of behaviour management need to be based on three key principles:
The outsider has a menu of resources and techniques each of which may be used at different levels of intensity. As the programme with the school develops the “package” is kept under review and developed with, and even better, by the staff concerned. This is in line with Agile approaches, whereby the task is iteratively re- defined with the head or the SMT in a series of regular reviews.
Build a narrative
This involves clarifying the existing story of the school and framing it in ways that staff and students can buy in to. For example, in the case study described below it became clear that a large number of the students perceived as causing problems in lessons had difficulties with reading and writing. That led to increased provision for those students along with training for mainstream staff in working with students with poor reading skills. The school moved from being one in which the staff thought there were lots of “difficult” children to one where everyone is engaged in increasing provision for students with SENs. This can sometimes involve bringing difficult issues to the surface. In the same case study there comes a time when the Head teacher made it clear to staff that they should certainly summon help to a classroom if it was needed but that the staff member responding to the call would not necessarily remove the student. That was an example of making “the deal” between management and staff absolutely clear.
Start with the Positive
This involves identifying good practice in the school and working to strengthen and to generalise it. The advantage of this approach is that it allows the outsider to quickly find out what works within the narrative of the particular school and to identify those staff and students who will be agents in creating change. In our experience staff develop positive perceptions of outsiders who are seeking to highlight and spread success. It creates an atmosphere of confidence and trust which allows for discussion and work around more challenging issues.