Teachers must remember the need to share information about individual students, progress, needs and effective strategies

Speaking to teaching assistants who work with an individual or a group of students in various teaching and learning environments, as well as with different members of teaching staff, it soon becomes apparent that it is extremely difficult to be objective and exact in describing pupil behaviour. There are all manner of influences on pupil behaviour, including:

  • time of day
  • subject or curriculum area
  • peer group
  • teacher
  • self-perception regarding ability or popularity
  • ‘outside baggage’: problems at home or non-school-based issues
  • support available
  • nature of the work (seated/written/group/individual)
  • distractions (seat placement/noise/unnecessary electronic devices).

Unfortunately, although much of the above is recognised and acted on during individual lessons, the format of the school day can make it impossible for staff to share vital information about students. It can be difficult to find time for more than a snatched conversation in the staff room, in the corridor or at the end of a lesson. This can lead to vital points being shared but quickly forgotten and not passed on to a wider audience. Some secondary-age pupils will be taught by more than a dozen members of staff during a week, and some of those same staff will also have a monitoring role to assess the behaviour and progress of individual pupils in all the various situations.

How does your school share this type of information at the moment? Is your current system capable of recording individual strategies as perfected by members of staff. Can it help all staff in the management of the pupil? Equally, does the daily structure of the school day permit you to effectively record and inform staff of:

  • incidents?
  • hot spots?
  • effective strategies?
  • ineffective strategies?

Linked with this type of essential recording are the arrangements documented in individual education plans and behaviour plans. Teachers and support staff will generally be aware of the pupils who are being supported via these types of intervention and will also be aware of the set and measurable targets included in the plans. What is often missing from the intervention are the clear and effective strategies which should be in place and consistently applied which will help the pupil to overcome their difficulties. This type of ‘arrangement’ information can only be produced and shared when all staff are able to contribute to an information collection and sharing system within the school.

Practical tips
The first tip has to be: Assess your current methods of sharing information. When carrying out this assessment, keep in mind:

  • Is information sharing a formal procedure in the school?
  • How and when does this take place?
  • Who has access to the information?
  • How are informal comments or passing conversations noted?
  • Does the shared information form the basis of effective interventions?
  • Is there an ethos within the school which promotes openness, ie, do staff feel comfortable expressing concerns or weaknesses, and are prepared to try suggested approaches used successfully by other staff?
  • How is information shared between teaching and non-teaching staff?

If your current system relies entirely on subjective comments by various members of staff (sometimes recorded and sometimes just a part of general conversation), then you run the risk of losing vital information which could not only play a significant role in changing unacceptable behaviour, but can also form the basis of highly effective continuing professional development for both teaching and non-teaching staff.

Many schools will already have their own bespoke systems of collecting and sharing information, often based on a round robin system of collecting observations and noting incidents which have been dealt with by staff. Paper-based and, more recently, electronic systems will enable you to capture essential information relating to:

  • types of incident
  • time frames
  • individuals involved
  • strategies used
  • actions and outcomes

This will also enable those with more strategic roles to both monitor pupil behaviour and enable them to more accurately target funding and staffing linked closely to the school development plans.

Information sharing will promote an ‘open door and no blame’ approach to managing challenging behaviour. All staff play a direct role in building up clear pictures of problem behaviour, effective responses and an evaluation process of how the school as a whole is responding to perceived problems. The outcomes of this ethos will be improved pupil behaviour, consistency of approach by staff and clarity to all stakeholders – pupils, staff and parents.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 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 writer, consultant and trainer.