Pupils’ challenging behavior tops the list as the most stressful part of teaching; but can it be managed by teacher training? The effects of CPD on behavior management are investigated by Elizabeth Holmes

If there’s one aspect of school life most likely to challenge us, it has to be behavior management. The very fact that great teaching is all about relationships means there is no magic formula for transforming poor behavior. Every school is different and every dynamic between pupil and adult is unique. While it would be great to advocate personalized, one-to-one coaching for staff and schools facing behavior management issues, the reality of budgets is such that this isn’t going to happen. But there are vast CPD opportunities out there for schools wishing to make behavior management a development priority (and that should be most, given that behavior management features specifically in the Professional Standards for Teachers – see box below). They range from in-house twilight sessions to full-day off-site conferences and courses, simple yet effective conversations between members of staff to mentoring and coaching within and between schools. There is a huge range of books on the subject by self-styled and/or academically recognized ‘gurus’, as well as local authority advice, programs on Teachers TV and award-bearing online and college-based courses. There is so much to select from that the sheer variety makes choice seem overly burdened with significance. In addition, there are inherent potential problems with much of the CPD for behavior management on offer. Naomi Bridgeman-Sweeney, assistant headteacher at Durrington High School in West Sussex, identifies precisely what her school struggled with when increasing its focus on CPD for behavior management: ‘When initiating or developing any aspect of school life, particularly one as important as behavior management, appropriate and high-quality CPD is key, and finding that nowadays is not easy. Much of what is available is unrealistically priced or fails to relate fully to the needs of the school or the individual. Many don’t give full enough details in their fliers or fail to engage colleagues at the right level.’ Her views are, in part, mirrored by David Allaway from Behavior UK, the online behavioral resource for teachers. ‘We often get calls from teachers who say they feel let down by the behavior management training they received when they first qualified as teachers,’ he says. ‘We point them in the direction of behavior training courses and conferences run by various suppliers across the UK. It is very important for teachers and other professionals dealing with pupil behavior to keep abreast of new ideas and the latest best practice and to share their experiences with others. In the field of behavior management this can best be achieved through CPD and meeting with colleagues at courses and conferences.’

Behavior management in the Professional Standards

The Professional Standards for Teachers have a specific focus on behavior management, ensuring its status as an ever-relevant focus for CPD in your school. The following from the Core Standards in particular relate to behavior:

C1 Have high expectations of children and young people, including a commitment to ensuring that they can achieve their full educational potential and to establishing fair, respectful, trusting, supportive and constructive relationships with them.

C2 Hold positive values and attitudes and adopt high standards of behavior in their professional role.

C10 Have a good, up-to-date working knowledge and understanding of a range of teaching, learning and behavior management strategies and know how to use and adapt them, including how to personalize learning to provide opportunities for all learners to achieve their potential.

C16 Know and understand the relevant statutory and non-statutory curricula and frameworks, including those provided through the National Strategies, for their subjects/curriculum areas and other relevant initiatives across the age and ability range they teach.

You can download the Professional Standards for Teachers from the Training and Development Agency for Schools’ website

Integrated approach

It is impossible for all relatively generic CPD on behavior management to have an immediate application for all members of the audience. Attending CPD on behavior management is only half the story and there needs to be a commitment to contextualize it for maximum benefit. That is a process that requires creativity and imagination, but the outcomes are potentially dramatically enhanced. Peter Sharp, director of learning at Mouchel and a member of the DCSF advisory group on social, emotional and behavioral skills, is clear about what schools say they need regarding behavior management training and development. ‘Schools recognize the need for an integrated whole-school approach to behavior and, perhaps more importantly, to the wider issue of social and emotional development and management,’ explains Mr Sharp.

The three key areas covering this might usefully be grouped under the heading of developing emotional literacy. More specifically, this entails:

  • EHWB – emotional health and wellbeing
  • SEAL – social and emotional aspects of learning
  • behavior management – rules, rewards and consequences.

The national EHWB guidance was launched at the annual conference of the National Healthy Schools Program in November 2007 by Kevin Brennan, parliamentary undersecretary of state for children, young people and families. It is being introduced to 23,000 schools this term and through the summer via the NHSP network. The guidance sits well with the SEAL program, which is developing well in primary schools and gradually being introduced to secondaries over the next three or so years. Behavior management has been delivered well in some areas, but there has been no national consistency and it is hoped the combination of EHWB and SEAL will help to correct this. Authoritative advice which has been grounded in real practice and thoroughly road tested before national release is what’s most likely to go down well with teachers. Most local authorities are running a program of conferences on these areas, and usually invite outside speakers with expertise to share, such as Peter Sharp.

In November 2006 Ofsted published a report, Improving Behavior, which was based on the progress made in 2005 and 2006 by secondary schools that had been judged to have unsatisfactory behavior. It found that:

  • in the most successful schools behavior was not tackled in isolation but as part of a wider school improvement strategy
  • students’ views were sought at
  • each stage of the improvement process and exactly what was considered unacceptable behavior was clearly spelled out
  • those at risk of permanent exclusion were identified and mentored
  • external support was used to improve teaching and learning
  • students were motivated and achievement was raised through improved teaching and wider choice in the curriculum
  • behavior management policies ‘made sense’ to all using them
  • additional support strategies were provided for the behaviors which staff found most challenging
  • staff had the feeling that they were not alone when tackling behavior issues and were able to follow behavior policy guidelines consistently.

All of this is reinforced by the TDA. Liz Francis, director of the teachers program at the TDA, has seen that a consistent policy used by everyone who comes into contact with children will help schools to develop a unified approach. The TDA sees training for behavior management as a national priority and it is in the process of developing a national database of provision which will include all aspects of CPD, not least that which focuses on behavior management. It is hoped that the pilot will be available by this September.

Case in point: focusing on the links between teaching, learning and behavior

Naomi Bridgeman-Sweeney, assistant headteacher at Durrington High School in West Sussex, explains how the school turned around its reputation by putting behavior management at the heart of its CPD agenda. Durrington High School is one of the largest secondary schools on the south coast, with cohorts of 360. In its relatively recent history it faced considerable challenges, with comparatively low results. Ofsted (2001 report) and the local community saw the school as one in which poor student behavior significantly affected academic progress. In 2003, under the direction of the new headteacher, Sue Marooney, a culture shift began which allowed behavior management to be seen in a different way. Behavior issues were no longer viewed in isolation but were approached in a holistic way. The links with learning and teaching were clear, each affecting the other, and this approach has remained important in much of how the school has continued to improve. CPD which focused on the links between teaching, learning and behavior was to be one of the keystones. From the start the basics were dealt with clearly and consistently and students were made fully and regularly aware of the standards expected regarding uniform, attendance and behavior. ’High aspirations’ were the focus and non-compliance was no longer considered an option. Students who ‘got it right’ were rewarded, both as individuals and tutor groups; those who found it difficult were given support and those who refused were given sanctions. CPD time in school was dedicated to the whole staff and individual departments, to develop their approaches to behavior management.

After-school sessions

The school took the decision to put together its own rolling program of twilight sessions led by the school’s behavior manager, Steve Frith, to develop teachers’ behavior management strategies in the classroom. This was supported by training on de-escalating potential/actual confrontations arising out of student behavior. The school’s Senco, Carole Marsh, trained staff in how effective use of a teaching assistant could pre-empt behavior deterioration so that high-quality teaching and learning might be maintained. Sessions led by Tony Lovatt, head of The Vale Middle School in Worthing, and an acknowledged local leader in accelerated learning approaches and philosophy, developed the staff’s understanding of how pace and challenge can maintain student focus in a lesson and so avoid situations that lead to poor behavior.

Other opportunities

Other CPD opportunities, such as working with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and involvement in projects with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, have broadened colleagues’ views of good and effective classroom practice. Supporting colleagues’ MAs and other qualifications has benefited the school by encouraging colleagues to be self-reflective as well as outward-looking. Some of the best CPD has been time spent with other colleagues, in school and elsewhere, sharing and developing best practice specific to individual schools and the students in them. This has also been a key focus for objective-setting in the performance management of teaching staff and remains a major part of the ongoing dialogue during the performance management cycle.

Positive outcomes

Having extremely high standards of behavior, and being prepared to develop and support staff through CPD and other strategies, hasn’t been easy and, very occasionally, a few parents might not be as supportive as a school might wish. But the positive outcomes have been worth all the hard work. Student behavior has improved so significantly that during the school’s latest Ofsted inspectors decided, within only a couple of hours, that behavior was no longer an issue they wished to pursue.

The quality of learning and teaching has improved consistently, so that the school has shown a year-on-year improvement in results, with 2007 being our best year ever at 54% five A*-Cs. Visitors, staff and students describe the school as having a ‘calm and purposeful atmosphere’.

Many aspects of school life have played important roles in recent improvements, such as personalizing the curriculum, effective restructuring and dynamic leadership, but CPD’s role in improving and sustaining behavior management has been key. Students, parents and the local community acknowledge this and have validated our work by making DHS one of the three schools in Sussex this year with the most first choices.

Spotlight behavior on Teachers TV

Behavior management is high on the Teachers TV agenda, with more than 100 programs dealing directly with or making reference to behavior issues. The Big Behavior Debate, chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, is a great place to start. You may also be interested in the John Bayley quartet looking at the underachievement of girls (The Trouble With Girls) and those which explore the myriad new theories for behavior management in practice in schools today. Watch School Matters – Challenging Behavior for methodologies from restorative justice, where students are encouraged to accept responsibility for their actions, to behavior for learning, a whole-school system of consequences which starts with a verbal warning and culminates in the isolation room. Also look out for Primary Management – Transactional Analysis, where the pupils and staff of Grange Middle School in Harrow use Freudian theory to help develop emotional literacy and improve behavior. There is also Inspirations – Ruff Behavior, where excluded children are paired with rescue dogs, with encouraging results. Inspirations – Lead Learners explores a novel classroom scheme that has helped a Lancaster secondary school emerge from special measures and Primary Support Staff – Peer Mediation explores a London school’s use of this method of conflict resolution. There are also programs looking at the hard issues of safety and restraint in the classroom, such as Trained to Restrain.

To watch any of these programs and more online, visit Teachers TV and use the search engine, or choose the ‘Whole-school issues’ tab and then click on ‘Behavior issues’.

Further information
There are many sources of information on CPD for behavior management, not least your local authority. The following sites are well worth a look too: