What kind of interventions can you introduce as a SENCO to address pupils’ behaviour difficulties? Linda Evans discusses in her second e-bulletin on BESD (behavioural, emotional and social development)pdf-1808284

SENCO Week – Helpsheet 17.pdf

Managing behaviour is one of the most important aspects of any teacher’s role (many would say THE most important); until the behaviour of pupils is conducive to learning, all efforts at teaching may be in vain. As mentioned last week, it’s important that all staff feel confident in using a range of techniques in the classroom to nurture positive behaviour and discourage negative action (or inaction!). Consistency is vital; pupils need to know that rules apply throughout the school. (See attached helpsheet for notes about establishing ground rules with TAs). Teachers also need to be in touch with their own feelings and behaviour, and know when to ask for help. It is often the SENCO who is approached for guidance, and a good place to start is often to help the teacher think about the cause of a pupil’s behaviour difficulties;

  • Is there a difficult situation at home?
  • Are there problems with other pupils in the class? Would changing the seating or grouping arrangements have a positive effect?
  • Does a medical condition adversely affect behaviour?
  • Children with speech and language difficulties may be seen as badly-behaved when the problem really lies in a lack of understanding and the ability to communicate.
  • Is there a mismatch between pupil and task?

This last point is important. Expecting children to sit still and listen for long periods of time can cause problems, as can collaborative working or asking pupils to do something which they don’t understand or feel unable to do well. Conversely, boredom can also trigger unwanted behaviour; children need to be engaged and challenged, with the most able being presented with opportunities to broaden and deepen their learning so that they are moving forward rather than waiting for others to catch up. (See news item about personalised learning, below.)

In spite of our best efforts in the classroom, however, some children will need specific support to overcome behaviour difficulties. There is a range of appropriate interventions to consider, including those listed below.

Social skills and emotional literacy training
There are children and young people who genuinely do not understand how to behave appropriately in different situations. Some of these will be on the autistic spectrum, but others will simply not have learned good manners and the finer points of dealing with tricky situations. Setting up specific sessions for explicit teaching of these skills can be very effective in improving behaviour, either as whole-class circle-time activities or with small groups, using role play, for example, and discussion of real-life scenarios. There are excellent published programmes available to lead a teacher or TA through a series of sessions, with off-the-shelf resources included for different age ranges. The NAS is a good place to start and most schools have acquired at least some of the SEAL materials. Use a search machine to find a wide variety of publications. (For KS3/4 students, look at the ‘Basic Skills for Work’ series by Phil Freeman; Axis Education.)

Anger management and conflict resolution
Helping pupils to understand and control their own emotions can be an important part of a school’s role. Again, there are plenty of published resources, but outside agencies such as the Educational Psychology Service and the local children’s mental health team are often available to provide courses.

Breaktimes and lunchtimes often produce the ‘flashpoint’ for bad behaviour. Lunchtime supervisors need to have training on behaviour management, and by overseeing organised games in the playground can minimise opportunities for bullying and ‘getting into trouble’. Many schools find that providing some sort of ‘sanctuary’ for pupils has a very positive effect. This might be quiet reading or playing board games in the library; helping a member of staff with tidying or photocopying; joining some sort of activity club; or simply retreating to a quiet spot. This facility member can also be worthwhile where time-out is provided as an option for youngsters in danger of ‘losing it’ in the classroom. The pupil may use an agreed signal to communicate this need to the teacher and be allowed to withdraw from the lesson for a specific period of time (accompanied by a TA). In some cases, the school will have a room supervised by a member of staff to which pupils can be sent to work (in silence) as a punishment and as a way of improving the learning conditions for other pupils in the class.

Personal mentors
Support staff, adult helpers and peers can act as mentors, providing a good listening service for troubled children on a regular basis and providing a sympathetic response. It’s a good idea to provide some training for mentors, as well as ongoing support and encouragement for them. (More about this next week.)

Make sure that parents and carers are kept informed about any intervention and involve them in the initiative wherever possible. If they can be helped to work with you in presenting a united front, the outcome for the child are likely to be better and more quickly achieved.

SEN News
There is a lot of talk about personalised learning but many schools are still in the early stages of developing effective approaches. The government has committed to transforming the support available for every child and has made £1.6bn available for schools from 2008 to 2011, to spend on personalised learning and special educational needs.

Personalised Learning: A practical guide is now available to download or order from the Online Publications for Schools website. The guide is designed to help school leaders and teaching staff to explore key aspects of personalised teaching and learning, and is divided into chapters which focus on practical aspects. It aims to support schools in moving to a system based on progression, underpinned by accurate assessment for learning, and with pupils supported with relevant interventions. Contents:

  • towards a pedagogy of personalised learning
  • high quality teaching and learning
  • target setting and tracking
  • focused assessment
  • intervention
  • pupil grouping
  • the learning environment
  • curriculum organisation
  • the extended curriculum
  • supporting children’s wider needs

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2009

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.