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CPD, Outstanding Lessons

Nudging the Behaviour Brake Pedal

Behaviour across the academies within the Trust is pretty damn good.  This is pleasing to report but is it good enough and could it be even better?  The answers are “no” and “yes” respectively and this half term we will be reviewing the Behaviour Policies for each academy.

Accelerator Pedal

Photo Credit: Frankieleon via Flickr cc

How can we make behaviour systematically great in every class room, from supply teacher to newly qualified teacher to senior leader, with minimum effort and maximum outcome?  As a leader you sometimes push, other times pull and occasionally just keep nudging.  When things are already good the challenge is not to overdo things but nudge them a bit more in the right direction.

For example, the St. Mary’s Behaviour Policy has two basic elements:

  1. A set of five basic expectations which if not kept leads to a student losing points.  Too many points lost and parents are contacted and interventions start to be put in place.
  2. A set of four rules which if not adhered to has a three step system with the final one being the students sent out of class, parents contacted and a sanction.

The Average Speed Check Analogy

I’ve banged on about the issue of consistency, with respect to implementing the Behaviour Policy and many other things, as a head teacher ad nauseam.  I’m hoping this latest analogy – courtesy of David Didau’s speed awareness course, my rhetorical question and the insights of Dylan Wiliam – might just hit home.

Dylan William Quote


Here goes … imagine you drive home along a twenty mile stretch of dual carriage way, maximum speed of 40 mph, with speed cameras at the beginning, a couple six or seven miles apart and then one at the end of the road.  Drivers’ behaviours will vary from sticking to the limit, all the way along the road, to driving at whatever speed they can and slowing down rapidly to 40 mph whenever they come to the cameras.  Just like the behaviour of students in school there is some adherence to the rules, bright spots, but too much nonsense going on in between, the hot spots.


Now imagine the twenty mile stretch is an average speed check area.  If you average above 40 mph overall or between any of the two cameras you will be caught and given a fine and a ticket.  The severity of the punishment is the same as above but drivers’ behaviour is radically changed.  The inevitability of being caught means they will overwhelmingly modify their behaviour and drive at 40 mph or less.


Speed camera & check

This is what schools, their leaders and the teachers need to grasp.  Keep consequences proportionate to the misbehaviour and you can easily push very hard on the “no excuses” style of approach to discipline, after all they have only lost one point in our system.

It is the moment when every teacher responds to …

… “Sorry I’m late Miss” with, “You need to be on time for lessons that’s one point lost, sit down and start your work, thank you.”

… “Sir, I haven’t got a pen” leads to the response, “You need to be more responsible and ensure you have a pen for every lesson that’s one point lost, here’s one, now start your work, thank you.”

Every time a point is taken, students have their understanding reinforced that the consequence is inevitable and lost points soon add up to further consequences.  For your information, the points are taken away using a computer programme which has a log in for every parents, so lose a point and your parents will know before you get home.  Any school Behaviour System is as strong as its weakest implementation link.  All teachers and leaders need and deserve support of all the other teachers and leaders by sticking to the agreed plan.  If the plan isn’t working then change it and implement the new one consistently to support your colleagues.

Add to the analogy above a little nugget from Simon (@Head_stmarys) Eccles about the efficacy of speed awareness training.  At the end of the average speed cameras some motorists may speed up again.  This bad behaviour can be challenged by them understanding the impact of their speeding.  The school equivalent of the speed awareness course is the fantastic form tutor who day in, day out reminds students of the need for great behaviour, the positive impact on the community and learning and deals with any issues arising in a timely manner. 

The Average Becomes the Bottom Line

The transformation, in this criterion referenced system, is that the expected behaviour becomes the norm as in the average speed check scenario.  The bar is raised and the gap between the behaviour of students, in different classes and situations, is closed dramatically.  In the end it’s the inevitability, predictability and consistency of the implementation of a Behaviour Policy by staff which is key not the severity of the sanction.

In case this all feels a bit negative, I think the same applies to rewards as well.  Be consistent.

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#5MinBehaviourPlan - Example (http://wp.me/p3Gre8-aw)

#5MinBehaviourPlan – Example (http://wp.me/p3Gre8-aw)



5 thoughts on “Nudging the Behaviour Brake Pedal

  1. I agree that being positive works brilliantly BUT only in a context where the negative sanctions are also in place and known. I wholeheartedly agree with the severity of the consequence. In primary 2 minutes off play are fine doesn’t need to be the whole thing. However, I would operate a ‘time starts again’ policy so if a child started talking their time started again. It was manageable because the time had to be observed which they could do in 2 minutes or 10! They made the choice. I do think that this if fantastic on the whole. However, what I would like to see if more behind the scenes from SLT and less in front of the other children – what do I mean? I mean if you think there are reasonable reasons why a child is acting or behaving in a particular manner then any leeway needs to be away from the class somewhere else. Children are not stupid and worse than lack of consistency is blatantly seeing two sets of rules applied to different children. The elephant in the room is then why don’t they get to follow the rules that have fewer consequences or none at all? The idea that you can have two systems running at the same time is false and the cause of many of the problems I have seen. Also I think that asking teachers to constantly give leeway is pointless. As you said fewer rules consistently applied are better than lots of rules half of which are arbitrary but at that level SLT and Heads have to work together and be consistent. While it is true that teachers vary so do SLT in their response which does not help or if it is decided on the day that a particular rule is not being enforced by them.

    Posted by teachwell | May 23, 2015, 11:25 am
  2. A very clear and useful way of looking at it. How do you support the weakest link though – what do you do to ensure consistency across your staff? My school has 1600 pupils and consistency is a real problem. Any advice?

    Posted by Nick | June 2, 2015, 9:30 pm


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