The DfE have recently announced that Tom Bennett will lead an initiative to improve behaviour in schools by recruiting twenty schools deemed outstanding to support and challenge up to 500 schools nationally.
In England, there are currently over 24,000 schools including primary, secondary, independent, special schools and pupil referral units (DfE, January 2018). They are all required by the Department for Education to “have a strong behaviour policy to support staff in managing behaviour, including the use of rewards and sanctions.” The policy must include measures that “promote good behaviour, self-discipline and respect; prevent bullying; ensure that pupils complete assigned work and which regulates the conduct of pupils.” (DfE, January 2016). How schools meet this statutory requirement is up to them, they are free to develop their own best practice and protocols for communicating the policy to the school community and for implementing it effectively.
Behaviour in schools is a hot topic at both policy and practice level, with a range of often conflicting theories as to how to help our children and young people to behave well, enjoy and engage in education for the good of all. The main theories fall broadly into two approaches. The behaviourists, those who advocate external control and modification to elicit acceptable behaviour i.e. adults enforcing rules by which young people must abide or face sanctions as a result and the humanists, those who believe neuroscientific evidence that suggests we need to build nurturing relationships, self-awareness and self-regulation in children and young people if we are to help them manage their own emotional responses and the behaviours that result. There are varying shades of grey between those two points and many schools adopt an approach which draws from both.
In our work with schools and settings around the country, we find that all too often the word "behaviour" is misappropriated, associated with negativity, bad things, punishment, sanctions and exclusion. Policy tends to concentrate on what to do when things go wrong. This is understandable to an extent, as the national backdrop is one of rising exclusion rates for "persistent bad behaviour" and sometimes even of "off-rolling" "naughty children" by one route or another. However, in many outstanding schools and academies, as much attention is paid to the positives: expectations; what "good behaviour" looks like and how it is rewarded; how we co-regulate and nurture emotional literacy in young people; the attitudes and values that can also have a profound impact on emotional wellbeing within the school community, including staff wellbeing.
Achievement for All wellbeing programmes and reviews support everyone in the school community to explore behaviour and behaviour policy through the lens of emotional wellbeing and mental health, in both children and staff. This approach can be challenging: to governors, school leaders and the staff of education settings, particularly those serving socially challenging school communities. However, the rewards in terms of building a cohesive, positive and high performing school culture can be significant.
For more information about how we could help your school or setting to review your behaviour policy and develop and implement one that is evidence based and right for your school community, please visit https://afaeducation.org/step-up-reviews/more-info/behaviour-and-wellbeing/
Department for Education (2016) Behaviour and discipline in schools Advice for headteachers and school staff
Department for Education (2018) Schools, pupils and their characteristics