What is the first step in improving behaviour issues? The answer may surprise you — try an audit of your management style and learning environment. By acting on the findings, you may see an overall improvement in the way pupils approach learning — and each other

This ebulletin gives an objective view of whole-school policies, understanding and consistency in the implementation of behaviour audits.

Once again, it is important to carry out the audit with a colleague (or colleagues) in order to get a balanced view of the topics. It is difficult to obtain a truly objective view of the situation if you only gather information from your own perspective. When scoring the descriptors in each section, be prepared to question and test your opinions using observation and feedback from a variety of sources. For instance, if you feel that break-time rules are understood by all pupils, test this theory by asking:

“How do I know that break-time rules are understood?”

It is not sufficient to simply say that because the rules have been mentioned and are published or displayed on the walls, all pupils will understand them. Your answers and observations should be backed up by evidence (statistical, observational or verbal feedback). If you do feel that break-time rules are understood by all pupils, and yet there are numerous incidents being reported by staff on duty or lunch-time supervisors, then perhaps your personal view is not as accurate as you first thought.

The aim of the audits is not to simply have a snapshot of behavioural issues across the whole school and in your individual teaching areas, but to generate information that can form the basis of a clearer understanding of the causes of good or challenging behaviour, and enable you to construct an action plan to promote the strengths and make a real difference to the weaknesses.

Once you have completed both parts of the audit you will be able to identify areas where you as an individual can change, areas and issues where you will need help and assistance, and other areas that must become part of the whole-school development plan or behaviour policy.

Practical Tips
Referring to the school’s behaviour policy and through collected information (statistical and observed) make critical judgments about the use of the building both inside and outside.

  • Do all members of staff take a collective responsibility for monitoring and reinforcement of rules?
  • Rules relating to movement around the building and the school site should be clearly displayed and understood by all pupils (pupils should also have been involved in the development of the rules)
  • Is supervision at break times and lunch consistently enforced?
  • All adults, both teaching and non teaching should provide good role models to pupils in communal areas
  • How are behavioural issues outside the classroom monitored and evaluated? (Tracking systems)
  • Are these behaviour issues followed up and dealt with effectively?

Invariably when inappropriate behaviour in and around the school building goes unchecked, or if teaching and non-teaching staff fail to take responsibility to manage the behaviour, this will have a detrimental impact on pupils’ continuing behaviour problems in the classroom. Another contributing factor to the overall behaviour of pupils in and around the building is the general environment. Take some time to note:

  • Quality of displays — are they interesting, in good order and up to date?
  • Overall cleanliness of the building — litter, graffiti, damaged or broken furniture?

Lighting and ventilation
Consistency from all staff is key to developing a strong ethos relating to behaviour. All staff should:

  • Be aware of the school’s agreed policy guidelines re rewards and sanctions (rewards and sanctions available and implemented in the form of a heirarchy)
  • Use them appropriately and refer to school policy to reinforce them

Are there systems in place which enable conflicts to be resolved and how effective are the communications systems within the school? Incidents that occur outside the teaching and learning areas (on the school field, school driveway etc) should be monitored and communicated to essential staff quickly and accurately.

The information you have collected through your surveys of a variety of areas both inside and outside the building and your own teaching area will be invaluable in analysing some of the causes of challenging behaviour, whilst also highlighting the areas of strengths and weaknesses in the school’s behaviour policy and its implementation. It should form a robust and accurate basis from which to construct individual, class-based and whole-school action plans.

In a previous e-bulletin we included a behaviour management audit checklist. The checklist was similar to the Framework for Intervention Behavioural Environment Checklist, published in ‘Getting Started: A Handbook for Schools and Support Services’ (Birmingham City Council, 2001). More information about the Framework can be found at http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/outlooks/

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2009

About the author: Dave Stott has nearly 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools and Local Authority Behaviour Support Services, and is now a wrtier, consultant and trainer.