The Guardian’s headline today makes for further depressing reading with respect to school standards. We are in unprecedented times with respect to staff recruitment and retention in our schools. Poor behaviour is inevitably going to increase workload, stress and anxiety in what is already acknowledged as a very difficult job. So why are some schools struggling with behaviour?
This is a complex issue to respond to adequately in a short blog but it is true to say that behaviour problems in schools not only reflect general cultural societal norms in 2018 but also a growing disrespect agenda amongst young people against figures of authority such as teachers, police and others. Behaviour problems also exist in schools with poorly developed systems and leadership not on top of their briefs. Increasingly some parents are finding it difficult to manage behaviour of their children with pressures of austerity, mobile phone addiction, family breakdowns and job insecurity all contributing to the stresses of every day life.
So why are some schools finding it a challenge to manage behaviour?
Effective behaviour management in schools can only be sustained if there is a robust behaviour management framework that supports engagement in learning. From my experience, the most effective schools at managing behaviour have the following characteristics:
- Clear, unambiguous policy for behaviour which is consistently applied by all, all of the time
- Expectations that go beyond brochure or website rhetoric and are lived every day as part of the values of the school
- Leadership presence around the school site
- Clear set of sanctions and rewards
- Relentless management of data to look at trends at school, year, class, specific group e.g. SEND and also individual level
- Investment in specialist software to support tracking of behaviour
- Non negotiables that are frequently reminded to children
- High levels of engagement with families and outside agencies to support behaviour
- Behaviour management expertise in the school to offer ongoing support to children and staff
- A culture of high aspirations, inclusiveness and and staff language that promotes modelling of good behaviour
- Great behaviours role modelled throughout the day in assemblies, tutor time, lunch time and in clubs.
- Student buy-in to the ethos of the school.
- Analysis of impact of behaviour interventions- what worked, what did not and how can we learn?
- High quality first teaching every day which offers high levels of engagement to children in class rooms
- Pastoral care models which place the child at the centre of everything and models that are well resourced.
- Staff room climate where poor behaviour is seen as a barrier to learning to overcome
Now all of the above is by no means exhaustive but from my experience any behaviour framework in a school must have the above and where context is unique, perhaps more support. Much has been said recently from the documentary #School and their ‘Ready to learn approach’ to managing behaviour. This ‘off the shelf’ behaviour framework may be helpful to many schools but like most things in education, a keen understanding of local context is everything and a one size all model doesn’t always work.
The challenge for school leadership with respect to behaviour is ever present. They must set the tone for their school and the expectations that underpin the climate for learning. This is a complex task that involves expectations, training and systems that are robust. If behaviour in a school is not positive, then learning will fail to develop. Outcomes and behaviour standards in a school are very closely linked – more so in my opinion than socio-economic disadvantage and outcomes.
The challenge of retaining and attracting teachers is a massive issue for school leaders to grapple at the moment. Getting the behaviour right given an external, turbulent cultural environment is something every school leader worries about, probably on a daily basis. We need to support school leaders with behaviour management and this goes back to adequate funding that schools should have to access specialist support. Sadly such funding is not there. Schools make do with inadequate funding and for some, the standards of behaviour are worrying sliding fast.