This issue of Behaviour Matters looks at the importance of instilling discipline across the entire school and provides you with practical information on creating an effective learning environmentIntroduction Whole-school, classroom, individual

The school environment is complex. There are many boundaries, guidelines and expectations that students and adults alike must become familiar with and work within. Establishing a whole-school ethos can be a relatively straightforward step to take in theory. Policies are written, rules and expectations published and induction of new staff and students planned. In practice, however, establishing a consistent and school-wide ethos is altogether different. Group dynamics, individual needs and “hard to change” established ways of working all impact and alter, what on paper, may seem solid and clear working practices. There is obviously a need to establish and develop jointly agreed systems and practices that affect all stakeholders at all levels. The stakeholders in the whole-school community are all the adults and all the students, teaching, non-teaching, administrators, parents, carers, governors and lunchtime supervisors. It is vital that there is sufficient opportunity to not only empower these stakeholders to play an active role in following the agreed guidelines, but also to provide for them the opportunities to develop needs-led arrangements and management strategies within their own individual teaching and learning environments. The complex school structure should therefore address behaviour management issues on three clear levels:

1. The whole-school environment: rules, guidance and expectations that are in place, and affect all adults and students, all of the time.

2. Arrangements and expectations that are in place, under the “umbrella” of the whole-school guidance, but can be made more specific and relevant to curriculum areas and classrooms, enabling individual teachers to establish their own ways of working with groups of students, again based on the overall whole-school guidance

3. Individual programmes (IEPs, PSPs, etc) that take account of the individual needs of the students. Yet again ensuring that the individual arrangements take account of both whole-school and classroom arrangements.

Difficulties can arise when students perceive the above model as an opportunity to be divisive, playing members of staff against one another:

“That’s not how we do things with Miss J!” “That’s not fair, Mr S lets me do that” “How come John’s class are allowed to go out?”

Cohesive, clear, and above all consistent expectations must be taught, modelled and regularly referred to by all staff. This obviously involves all staff in having a thorough knowledge of school policies and the working practices of their colleagues.

Practical Tips

Tip one must be for all staff to make themselves aware of all school policies, particularly the school behaviour policy. These policies must clearly state the expectations of behaviour in all areas of the school together with an agreed system of responses to both good and not-so-good behaviour. There should be consistent recognition, and vigilant monitoring, of behaviour throughout the whole environment.

  • Locate the school policy on behaviour and make yourself familiar with the content.
  • This should be part of the induction programme for all new members of staff and supply cover.
  • Ensure parents have access to the policy documents.
  • Students should be made aware of the whole-school expectations. This should be on entry to the school, but should also be regularly referred to by all staff, ensuring both understanding and consistency.

At the next level, that of classroom behaviour, subject teachers and class teachers should have clear and consistent work practices for their own areas. These practices should support the whole-school guidelines but be sympathetic to the needs of the particular teaching and learning environment.

  • Teach your students your expectations, establishing “this is how things are done in my department/room”. Revisit these guidelines regularly.
  • Make absolutely certain that your arrangements do not conflict with the whole-school guidelines, ie if whole-school policy is to not allow MP3 players in the classrooms, do not relax these rules in your room on the basis that you don’t mind the use of the music players. You may be popular with your students but you risk undermining the school rules and thus making it difficult/impossible for your colleagues to implement these rules.
  • This does, however, allow individuality in subject areas and classrooms

There will be individual students who will require differentiation not just of their work, but also modifications and adaptation to rules and expectations. Individual education and/or behaviour plans are in place for many students. They have been carefully structured and taught to the student, taking great care to allow for understanding and the ability to conform to school/class rules. You should:

  • be aware of all the students in your care who are subject to an IEP/BSP
  • make sure that you are familiar with the content of these plans
  • contribute to the planning, monitoring and review process of these individual plans
  • not alter the plans without thorough consultation.

Putting the above into practice contributes to the consistency and effectiveness of the whole school community and the behaviour and achievement of all learners.

Find out more:

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This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2008

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