Is behaviour really good in your school?

Our research

Why is it that research carried out by SSAT reveals that only 1.6% of all schools and pre-16 educational provisions receive an inspection 5 Ofsted judgement comment that states “Pupil behaviour and conduct is problematic” when the DfE national behaviour survey (April 2024) stated that 73% teachers said “Pupil misbehaviour had had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing in the past week,” and “76% teachers and pupils reported that misbehaviour had interrupted their work in at least some lessons in the previous week.”

The NASUWT behaviour survey report (September 2023) stated that 89% teachers felt that violent and abusive behaviours had increased, and over 92% said pupils verbal abuse of staff had increased. Quite simply, these figures don’t match up.

Honesty

Of course, school leaders do not want to shout from their roof tops that behaviour is problematic in their schools, but where are these problem behaviours when Ofsted arrive? I have heard about one school who hired a canal barge on the day Ofsted were due and sent twenty young people on an impromptu team and resilience building course!

Sometimes, being completely honest with yourself as a school leader about problem behaviour in school, addresses the secret worries of staff, pupils and parents, so is it not better to look at it from a dispassionate viewpoint and have evidence on paper which you can subsequently address?

Facts

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC) has recently published a report into mental health and behaviour in schools.

This report asks children and parents their views, and some of the statistics make interesting reading.

“61% young people said they do not feel listened to when behaviour is being discussed by their school.”

“81% of young people and 87% parents or carers agreed that a young person’s behaviour is linked to their mental health.”

“Professionals explained that experiences of trauma, growing levels of anxiety, high levels of unmet need, and challenges in accessing timely assessments and support, is contributing to a rise in behaviour problems in schools.”

SSAT’s Behaviour Audit Tool

SSAT’s Behaviour Audit Tool addresses six areas of practice around behaviour.

Section 1 is centred around knowing the children and the influences on them. This means in depth knowledge before they walk through the door on their first day of entry. What is their home life really like, who are their networks in school, what adverse childhood experiences have they suffered in their past lives? A detailed picture can help to head off problems before they really surface and embed.

Section 2 focuses on the culture around behaviour, making this inclusive, promoting a sense of belonging, and asking children if they feel the behaviour culture supports them?

“55% young people (77% parents, carers) said behaviour management techniques used in school did not improve their (child’s) behaviour.” (CYPMHC)

Young people found permanent exclusion, suspension, the use of removal rooms, whole class punishment, and fixed penalty notices for lateness, the most damaging aspects of behaviour management practice. Of course, sometimes these methods may need to be deployed to ensure the education of the other children is not disrupted, however do we hold those conversations with the affected child in the removal room and ask them what would work better for them?

Section 3 of the audit tool focuses on the data that your students produce. What is this data telling you specifically? Does this data pinpoint the children who need additional support? How does the behaviour in your school compare to the national picture? What happens to the data when you change or tweak practice? What Behaviour Management Practices do your similar neighbouring schools or feeder schools employ?

Often, other schools locally employ tactics which really work with the sort of children in your catchment area, but this requires being outwardly focussed and prepared to learn from your neighbours.

Section 4 is about keeping the behaviour policy simple so it can be understood and implemented fairly and consistently by all. This is not an easy thing to do, as any policy will be interpreted in different ways by different people. It requires repeated training, clear communication and constant reinforcement with all staff at every level of the organisation.

“We need to move beyond a place where behaviour is seen as problematic, and something that needs to be managed to a more concerned and curious place about what that behaviour is telling us.” (CYPMHC)

As one parent noted, “if they treat my child like a criminal, he will behave like one.”

Section 5 addresses the detail. How is the system of reward and sanction made clear? How is it adjusted and tailored for different diverse individuals? Do other children know why some of their peers have adjustments?

Section 6 is probably the most important section. It is about teaching learning behaviours alongside the curriculum, based on the premise that not every child will come equipped with the learning behaviours you wish for. Dixons Academy Trust for example, spend the first half term of year 7 teaching the behaviours that will help each child thrive. These are carefully introduced, and then drilled until they become second nature. Tom Bennett (CYPMHC report) noted that many schools “over prioritise reactive models of behaviour management, where they respond reactively to poor behaviour instead of teaching those behaviours to help children to thrive.” This section is your ‘go to’ for question prompts about explicitly teaching learning behaviours.

Finally, this quote from the CYPMHC report: “Audits should be carried out regularly by school leaders to assess how well they are meeting the aims of a mental health policy”.

Perhaps begin with the one SSAT has already written?

The Behaviour Audit Tool will prompt thinking about perceptions of behaviour within your school and the extent to which your procedures are evidence-informed. It sets a high bar, but it is designed to promote discussion in your setting about the way your behaviour culture is established, how relationships are formed and maintained with children. Find out more or arrange a conversation with Jackie.


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