The extent to which we perceive that pupil behaviour is a problem in schools varies tremendously. Some believe that bad pupil behaviour is a national problem, and a significant issue for many if not most schools that must be eradicated, while others acknowledge that behaviour may be a problem in some schools, but that this is by no means the rule everywhere.
Perhaps because of this lack of consistency in the way we view behaviour problems in this country, behaviour management is a really mixed picture, too. There is a range of strategies being implemented in schools, and while some toy with, or commit fully to, “no excuses” (a specific approach to behaviour and conduct with origins in the 1990s charter schools of the USA), most take a less punitive approach. Looking beyond these shores, the international picture shows that some schools appear to be turning away from such approaches, because, they believe, the long term effects of learning in such a culture could be damaging, possibly due, in part, to “no excuses” being misinterpreted as “no reasons”.
Consistency is key…
So how can we be more pragmatic about behaviour in schools, and ensure that the way children are treated equips them for life and learning in the long run?
Paul Dix of Pivotal Education is a behaviour specialist with extensive experience of helping schools to develop policy and practice, the crucial elements of behaviour management support. Having worked with so many schools, Paul’s knowledge of what can work has helped thousands of children and teachers to move forwards positively with school climates better suited to learning.
“Harking back to the idea that being punitive with children works is a mistake. It doesn’t. Isolation rooms cost a fortune to run each year and that is not where our resources should be going,” Paul explains. “We know where this approach leads – to discontent in communities, underachievement, and children being removed from schools.”
Getting behaviour to a point where teaching and learning can happen unimpeded is achievable. “Behaviour is a team sport,” says Paul. “There are of course boundaries that need to be in place, but in our best schools, the culture is right and the adult behaviour is right. There is absolute consistency and the adults stand together in their support for one another and all the children in their care, regardless of need. Children are taught how to behave through conversation, kindness and empathy as well as through clear boundaries. You can be tough when you need to be but that’s within the context of positive relationships, and those can last a lifetime. This is about connection, not tough sticks.”
Maybe, just maybe, encouraging young people to moderate their behaviour, to make good choices and decisions, and to make the most of all the learning opportunities they have does not need to come at a cost.
Find out more
– Paul Dix’s book, When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour, is published by Independent Thinking Press, June 2017. Paul is on twitter @pivotalpaul, and his website is pivotaleducation.com.
– Case Studies of Behaviour Management Practices in Schools Rated Outstanding can be downloaded here.
– Tim Taylor’s Guardian article on new approaches to behaviour management offers food for thought here.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.