Behaviour Leadership

By Amy Forrester

Anecdotally speaking, it seems that many teachers and school leaders are noticing an increase in behaviour issues in schools. While the causes of this remain unclear, it is absolutely vital that school leaders pay close attention to this, while critically reflecting on their systems within their own school. If schools are to ensure that they are operationally robust when it comes to behaviour, there are some key areas that are imperative to consider.

1. The clarity of your policy

One of the most common areas where schools’ behaviour policies allow standards to slip is when the policy becomes unclear or filled with gaping holes. An effective behaviour policy will be clear and simple. Grey areas should be actively identified and steps taken to address these further.

2. The consistent application of your policy

If students are to have a consistent experience in a school, and if teachersexpertise is to be used to its full advantage, a behaviour policy must be in use in every classroom and every corridor of a school. Students should have the same policy in place throughout – if teachers and departments are left to fend for themselves, there becomes a huge chance that the policy lacks any real clarity on the ground – where the students experience it.

If schools are to effectively understand what is happening on the ground and get a measure of the standard of behaviour in their school, a behaviour system should also be a source of data that reflects what is happening. Of course, this is only worth anything when it is used consistently. Therefore, the drive for consistency should always be at the forefront of everyonesminds. After all, behaviour is everyones business in a school.

Workload and wellbeing: are we prioritising the right things?

There also needs to be some serious consideration of the impact that behaviour has on staff workload. If schools are to rise to the challenge, and turn the tide of the increase in behaviour issues, then this must be done in a workload-friendly way for staff. Without appropriate consideration of this, if systems overburden staff, there will be little hope left for achieving the behaviour nirvana of consistency. There are some ways that schools can easily manage this:

3. Centralised systems

In centralising behaviour systems, schools can find time effective ways in which to support busy teachers with their workload. For example, schools could ask that class teachers set and supervise their own detentions, then that Heads of Department do, then that Heads of Year do, and so on and so on. The issue with this is just how much time is taken up when compared with the value of that time. If schools centralise their detentions, and run one each lunchtime and one each day after school, we free up class teachers to be using their time more effectively on what really matters; planning teaching and learning, or developing their subject knowledge. There is a worry, when talking about ideas like this, that this would mean that teachers lack the opportunity to take responsibility for the student in detention, and in using the detention in a restorative way. This is a false flag situation – those things can still, and should, take place under a centralised system. Teachers should still have restorative conversations with students – just because they are in a detention in a different room, it does not mean that that conversation is any less effective.

Furthermore, in centralising systems, we remove the disincentive for teachers not to follow a behaviour policy. If we are agreed that consistency matters hugely in the success of a school’s behaviour policy, we need to realistic in schools and create systems that staff will use. If they become disadvantaged by using it, because they have to spend their own time after school supervising someone else’s child, rather than spending time with their own child, this becomes a pretty powerful reason for them not to use the system in the first place.

Equally, if using the system means a never-ending cycle of having to call home, inform parents, chase up non-attendance…it is not hard to see why this would further act as another deterrent for already busy teachers. And again, we must ask ourselves whether this is, in fact, a good use of a subject expert’s time, or whether that time would be better used thinking deeply about their lessons the next day, or planning a carefully crafted explanation of a tricky topic that they know their exam class are struggling with.

4. Software systems with minimised clicks

If there was one thing that blighted schools for a good number of years it is slow, overly complicated software packages that make teachers want to rip out their eyeballs. There are better alternatives now and school leaders need to take responsibility for creating a system, for use in school, that asks the bare minimum of staff time, whilst keeping it to as few clicks as possible on the system. Any more than 3, I would argue, is too many! The other bonus of systems such as this is that they can easily become the main point of communication around detentions, saving teachers hundreds of hours on the phone with a single click of a button!

All in all, school leaders have a huge role to play in setting the tone for how they want behaviour to be managed in school. They also have to consider that teachers’ time is not infinite and we have to create conditions for teachers to work effectively and have a healthy work-life balance. If your behaviour systems put this at risk, the question should not be why staff are not using it – more, it should be asked to leadership teams why they have felt the need to create systems that waste a taxpayer-funded, finite, and precious resource such as teachers’ time and resources.

Author

Amy is Director of Pastoral Care (KS4), Head of Year 10 and an English teacher at Cockermouth School.

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