I co-posted the original #5MinBehaviourPlan with RossMcGill (@TeacherToolkit). This post is about converting the Behaviour Plan, from one produced by an individual, into one that may be used across the school.
Before going into detail I would just like to thank Simon Eccles (Deputy Headteacher, St. Mary’s) who has led this strand of our work and also acknowledge the great help, support and generosity of Nigel Ranson (Headteacher, Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Preston) who shared his school’s work and thinking on Behaviour for Learning with us. As with all these things we adapted and developed it to suit our own school and way of working and I’m sure you will do the same.
When we first introduced the new Behaviour Policy to staff in 2012. I used a biblical “law, prophets and wisdom” explanation with staff as to how we would implement it.
- The initial “law” part requires the policy to be implemented without deviation by individual members of staff, that is, we want consistency. Until you’ve actually implemented something fully and properly you can’t sensibly evaluate it! We are still working on consistency and it will inevitably be a long haul. Every group of stakeholders, including teachers, said much more consistency was required during our end of the first year review.
- During the year there were a number of reviews with staff and towards the end of the year a major review with students and parents. This is the “prophetic” part with everyone given an opportunity to comment on aspects they think are working well and others parts that need tweaking, changing or removing.
- The final part “wisdom” cannot come before you have actually tried implementing the policy and the recommended changes have been made. However, the “wisdom” bit – ability to make good judgements – is crucial as a policy cannot ever hope to cover every eventually. In the end, a policy gives a number of fixed points that provide a basis for operating and helps ensure a unified approach. What is need, however, is the skilful connecting of the dots, fixed points, if the policy is to have the desired impact on behaviour.
The two challenges with the wisdom part of this process are: keeping a level of consistency with all staff adhering to the fixed points in the policy whilst devising their own effective ways of filling the spaces between the points.
Expectations, Rules & Routines
The following expectations and rules were devised by staff and students at St. Mary’s in 2012 and will be similar to those used in many schools and classrooms. It was our first attempt to have a set of expectations and rules across the whole school that were positive in nature, limited in number and agreed.
Expectations are focussed on behaviours that affect me and my learning with Rules focussed on behaviours that affect others. If students fail to meet expectations they lose a point but if they break the rules there are a set of sanctions imposed.
These have since been reviewed by staff, students and parents and have remained unchanged. The rules have probably been the aspect of the policy that has produced least discussion during the reviews. It may be that the rules we want in our schools are pretty obvious and don’t vary much from school to school.
Routines – a boy/girl seating plan (as far as class numbers allow) operates across Years 7-11. There are no fixed procedures beyond this at a whole College level but I know some schools do have an agreed way of starting and ending lessons. Transitions can be very different from subject to subject and lesson to lesson so again we leave this to an individual member of staff’s discretion. Our work on behaviour is still very much a work in progress so it will be interesting to see over coming years whether we decide to adopt whole school approaches to routines or prefer the flexibility of leaving it to a member of staff’s discretion and judgement. What is crucial though is that there are efficient procedures and routines in place for these key transition points in a lesson.
We originally had four steps but the review suggested the original steps 1 & 2 were pretty much identical so the steps have been reduced to just three. The steps are linked to the rules, that is, they are used when a student’s behaviour impacts on other students’ learning.
Step 1 is a simple formal warning to the student – this is the point at which a student can stop his or her poor behaviour without any further consequence.
Step 2 sees a final warning and a requirement to move seat. This step is recorded on our management information system and from this September 2013 both students and parents will be able to access, via a web portal, their own or their child’s behaviour record in real time. If the software will permit it there will be an e-mail or text message sent to the parent when the step 2 is recorded by the member of staff. I sometimes say to parents, “You might not know what your child is doing at secondary school but remember they like it that way.” This new system has the potential to blow a massive hole in this and allow a greater flow of information to parents by bypassing the student! This would be incredibly powerful.
Step 3 builds on the simple notion that “teachers must be allowed to teach and students must be allowed to learn”. It’s important that we strike the correct balance between:
- Not tolerating low level disruption in the classroom for too long as it denies people the right to teach or learn and lacks common sense.
- A teacher with a … “step 1, step 2 and step 3, now you’re out!” … type of approach: simply shows no professional skill at all, passes the problem on and is seen as grossly unfair by students.
The key to good classroom management is using the minimum possible intervention to get a student to behave appropriately. Nigel referred to it as the “left eyebrow wiggle” and tells a story about a teacher controlling a difficult class with a raise of their left eyebrow – now that’s skilful!
What needs to happen at our current stage of policy implementation if for each member of staff to determine a few different proportionate and escalating strategies, within each step, to support their implementation of the fixed points determined by policy. A simple table of possible disciplinary interventions that a teacher may use is below:
Rewards & Sanctions
Never forget the simple power both verbal reprimands and praise can have amongst the other strategies you may use:
In terms of rewards we used to give students 90 points up front at the beginning of each half term with bonus points for attendance above 95% and community service including representing the school in sports or at concerts. Points were deducted for attendance below 90% or for failing to meet the stated expectations. Interestingly all groups of students, who took part in the review, saw the system as very negative and the awarding of 90 points each half term wasn’t really noted. So the system will now change to being awarded 4 points for each day of attendance and bonus points may also be added by teachers for exceptional home learning in addition to the service element. The points lead to a badge system, rewards trips and the ultimate reward – the much prized Y11 Prom.
After discussion with students we have decided to look at rewards again using a blank piece of paper approach – what would students value most in terms of rewards? There is a gap in our policy whilst this piece of work is done. In addition to a whole school set of rewards it is important that teachers have their own more immediate ways of recognising students’ good behaviour and work in the little ways.
There is a real tension here between the freedom of staff to determine their own sanctions and consistency of application. What should be in policy and what should be up to professional judgement – it’s a real balancing act and each school has to determine their own “pivot point”. I hope this year we will encourage and allow staff to use more “mini rewards and sanctions” whilst still pursuing the greater consistency we need. Phone calls home, notes in planners, affirming chats, stamps& merits etc. all of which would sit outside the policy but add to the system.
Interventions are also about putting some students in “intensive care” – not literally you understand – but wrapping around them a support system and looking at amending the behaviours that are leading to them getting in trouble and ultimately failing at school.
Lost points and departmental referrals (step 3) are combined into what we call units of non-compliance. These lead to a whole series of additional interventions and in the latter stages sanctions including fixed and ultimately permanent exclusion.
- The interventions start with form tutors contacting home and meeting with parents and looking to resolve the issues.
- Heads of Learning Houses and Senior Heads of Learning Houses who will put in place specific support programmes in an attempt to address the issues that are leading to students requiring intervention. They are ably supported by pastoral managers.
- The Learning Support Department & Inclusion staff become involved and multi-agency plans are devised and implemented.
- Stages 11 & 12 of Behaviour for Learning are there if required.
The #5MinBehaviourPlan @ St. Mary’s looks like this – a number of fixed points and gaps that staff need to fill in:
Five Minute Behaviour Plan – St. Mary’s Plan – (PowerPoint Version)
The thinking behind the #5MinBehaviourPlan is in the post, “Getting Behaviour Right: Research Plus Experience”.
Our full policy is available below and it brings in both anti-bullying and attendance as well as aspects of behaviour outside of the classroom. The initial sections contain principles, evaluation criteria and processes and the underpinning statutory components of the policy. It is very much a policy that we are still implementing but I share it in case it is of some value to you.