This Behaviour Matters explains how to manage serious or ongoing behavioural issues with the use of individual behaviour plans

Although the title of this article refers to ‘individual behaviour plans’, it should be noted that these same plans might have different labels in your school or service:

  • individual behaviour plans (IBP)
  • behaviour support plan (BSP)
  • individual education plan
  • behaviour target report

No matter which title you are familiar with, the individual plan is generally the result of a pupil being involved with a variety of issues – chronic, ongoing behaviour problems ­– or sometimes a one-off, serious incident. These difficulties are generally reported or logged over a period of time, and individual schools will have their own recording systems supported by comments and observations collected from both teaching and non-teaching staff.

There is no doubt that recording and reporting systems are becoming more complex and accurate, thus enabling the relevant staff in the schools to get a clearer picture of the highlighted difficulties. Electronic and hard-copy tracking systems mean that the behaviour problems can be broken down into key areas such as:

  • description of behaviour or incident
  • time occurred
  • area of school
  • during which lesson
  • supervising teacher
  • antecedent (issues which led to the problem)
  • consequence (sanction used, etc)

Using all of the above information, it should be possible to produce an effective ‘plan’ for an individual pupil that will have a positive effect on his or her challenging behaviour.

The success of such a plan, however, is dependent not only on the content or the accuracy of the recording and reporting systems used by the school. It is much more reliant on how the agreed plan is put into action; how teaching and non-teaching staff apply the arrangements in the day-to-day teaching and learning environment. It is highly unlikely that the named pupil will be able to make the necessary changes to their behaviour by themselves, simply because they have been highlighted in a plan. Success depends on all the adults linked to the pupil (teachers, support assistants, parents and carers) being:

a) aware of the plan

b) willing to put the plan into practice

c) in possession of the necessary skills for (b)

A successful individual behaviour plan will include clear, measurable targets, named adults involved in the plan, a description of any resources or recording systems to be used, a clear description of the role you will play in the plan and a clear and realistic time-frame to run the plan (including baselines for evaluation and key success criteria).

Practical tips
There is a tremendous amount of background work involved in producing an individual behaviour plan. It makes sense, therefore, that the first (and perhaps most obvious) tip is to ensure that you know which pupils in your teaching groups actually have behaviour plans. Have copies of all up to date plans available and take some time to familiarise yourself with any targets and special arrangements which may be in place.

Merely having an individual behaviour plan is unlikely to produce any significant changes in the behaviour of the pupil. Any changes that take place are going to be the result of a pupil making some good choices and becoming more responsible for their actions. All of these changes will be directly linked to how you are prepared to help the pupil achieve these improvements. Key points to keep uppermost in your responses are:

  • be a role model with your own appropriate behaviour
  • follow the guidelines within the IBP
  • set and agree clear, age-appropriate rewards for when the pupil does achieve targets
  • adhere to and be consistent in applying agreed consequences when the pupil fails to comply or achieve
  • operate a hierarchical system to your plan; remember you are trying to achieve appropriate behaviour and not accelerate inappropriate behaviour
  • give regular feedback
  • record all progress
  • work in partnership with your colleagues including teaching assistants, SENCO, parents, etc
  • provide a working environment that supports the individual behaviour plan

All behaviour plans should be proactive and involve all stakeholders. Base your arrangements on objective observations, not just ‘feelings.’ Be prepared to give regular feedback directly to the pupil, and also to all other staff involved.

Finally don’t set the plans in stone. If a plan is clearly not working, take a close look at the reasons and be prepared to make changes. If changes are made, don’t forget to let everyone know, including the pupil, and update your written records and reports.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2008

About the author: Dave Stott has 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools, and Local Authority behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.