School governors have been told that they can expect to be at the forefront of the government’s latest drive to improve behaviour in schools

How to improve pupil behaviour in your school
In its latest strategy document, Delivering the behaviour challenge, the DCSF says that: ‘The key to achieving our goal of all schools being rated good or better on behaviour is raising expectations all round – on the part of school heads and governors, local authorities and parents.’

The government’s ‘behaviour challenge’ has been linked to its recent White Paper, Building a 21st century schools system, which introduces legally backed guarantees to pupils and parents that, in their school, there will be ‘good behaviour, strong discipline, order and safety’.

To help schools meet this commitment to good behaviour, the document draws the attention of schools and governors to the 10 key principles that were identified by Sir Alan Steer after his Practitioners’ Group on School Behaviour and Discipline reported in 2005. In What Works in Schools, the practical follow-up to the group’s main report, Sir Alan offered examples of good practice in promoting good behaviour that could be adopted by all schools.

Below are the 10 principles and some of the practitioners’ group’s advice on following them.

1. Consistency of approach by all school staff
When good behaviour management strategies are applied consistently it helps pupils understand the school’s expectations and allows staff to be mutually supportive. The school’s policy is of no value if it is not understood and applied consistently by all staff.

Senior staff should have a regular presence around the school building to observe how policies on behaviour, discipline, rewards and sanctions are being implemented. More formal evaluation mechanisms should also allow them to assess the effectiveness of the policies and to ensure that they are being consistently applied.

2. Effective school leadership
Along with headteachers, governors have a critical role in identifying and developing values and expectations that are shared by pupils, parents and staff. In partnership with parents, schools should set high expectations for pupils and staff in all aspects of the school’s life – and then show how they are to be met, for example through clear codes of conduct, guidance on how pupils can improve their work and a dress code.

3. Good classroom management, learning and teaching
The way lessons are organised and taught can enhance behaviour. Commonly agreed classroom management and behaviour strategies are recommended, such as a formal way to start lessons, the use of a classroom seating plan, well-planned lessons, the use of strategies appropriate to the pupils’ abilities, and providing opportunities for pupils to take responsibility for aspects of their own learning.

4. A range of clear, appropriate rewards and sanctions
Schools should have a wide range of appropriate rewards and sanctions and ensure they are applied fairly and consistently by all staff. Creating a good balance between the use of rewards and sanctions is crucial. Praise should be used to motivate and encourage pupils but pupils must also be aware of the sanctions that will be applied for poor behaviour.

5. Behaviour strategies and the teaching of good behaviour
All staff must understand, and use consistently, the behaviour management strategies agreed by the governing body and school community. Schools must adopt procedures and practices that help pupils learn how to behave appropriately. Good behaviour must be modelled by adults in their interactions with pupils. Developing pupils’ emotional, social and behavioural skills through the use of SEAL is recommended.

6. Staff development and support
All staff in schools – from support staff to headteachers – should have the skills necessary to understand and manage pupil behaviour effectively. There should be regular opportunities for all staff to share and develop those skills. All new staff should receive induction training, schools should develop the specialist skills of staff who have particular leadership responsibilities for improving behaviour and the effectiveness of the behaviour management techniques used by the school should be monitored as part of the school performance management system.

7. Pupil support systems
A good pastoral system will involve teachers and support staff and will recognise that pupil support is not just about behaviour. Rather than just focusing on ‘naughty’ pupils, it should be concerned with academic attainment and developing pupils’ ability to become good citizens. Staff with pastoral responsibilities should have appropriate time and training to carry out their task, adequate administrative support and access to specialist support.

Effective anti-bullying strategies are vital if all children are to enjoy school and feel safe, be healthy and achieve there. It must regularly be made clear to pupils, parents and staff that bullying, harassment and oppressive behaviour in any form is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

8. Liaison with parents and other agenciesIt as vital that schools maintain the trust and confidence of parents and that parents are aware, when dealing with the school, that it is helpful if they, like the staff, try to model appropriate behaviour for their children to see. Schools should allocate sufficient resources to allow them to communicate effectively with parents and carers and ensure parents and carers hear from the school when their children are doing well so that the first contact is positive. Staff should be trained so that they have the skills to deal with difficult parental conversations and there should be clear and well understood procedures in place for dealing with distressed and angry parents.

Working with professionals from other agencies is important for helping resolve issues that schools cannot deal with alone.

9. Effective arrangements for managing pupil transition
Changes of class and moving to new teachers and new schools causes pupils anxiety and can adversely affect their motivation, attitude, attainment and behaviour. Teachers receiving a new class at the beginning of the year should be given appropriate information to help them work and manage the class. Extra support for individual pupils needs to be provided in schools adversely affected by high pupil mobility where large numbers of children arrive and leave at times other than the beginning and end of the school year.

10. Organising the school day and its facilities to take account of behaviour issues
Care should be taken to ensure that the school’s values are not undermined by such things as timetabling arrangements, the degree of movement between lessons or the management of breaks and lunchtimes. Good behaviour and learning are improved when pupils and staff enjoy an attractive, clean environment, so schools should ensure that any graffiti and mess is cleaned up immediately, toilets are kept clean and accessible throughout the day, with soap and paper towels or hand dryers, and that social areas in the school are identified and seating provided to encourage pupils to interact.

Delivering the behaviour challenge is available from

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2010

About the author: David Gordon is an author, writer, editor and qualified lecturer and has also been a parent governor. He has been the editor of School Governor Update since its launch in 2000