Developing a behaviour management policy
Any behaviour management policy should be clear, and well understood by staff, parents and pupils. It must be consistently applied. In developing the behaviour management policy, the school should reflect on the following aspects of school practice that contribute to improving the quality of pupil behaviour.
1) identify responsibilities of all involved in the behaviour management process
2) defining how to achieve a consistent approach to behaviour management
3) make explicit the rewards and sanctions that are integral to the policy
4) make clear integration of behaviour management within pupil support systems ensuring the safeguarding of all pupils and ensuring pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are supported adequately
5) clearly explain liaison with parents and other agencies
6) identifying classroom management approaches and routines that can contribute towards good behaviour
7) teaching good behaviour to pupils and behaviour strategies that add value
8) provision of staff development and support to make the policy work
9) outline how the management of pupil transition from primary to secondary education adequately prepares pupils for the behaviour policy
Some behaviour policies set out the disciplinary action that will be taken against pupils who are found to have made malicious accusations against school staff. My preference is to simply to make it clear that gross misbehaviour is likely to result in exclusion from school.
The best way to encourage positive standards of behaviour in a school is a clear set of rules which outline expected behaviours, backed up by a balanced set of rewards and sanctions, which are set within a positive school community ethos or culture.
There will always be a need for sanctions, but the purpose of any school behaviour policy is to encourage good behaviour.
It is crucially important to have a clear set of school rules which reflect the principles of the behaviour management policy and ethos of the school.
For any set of rules to be effective they should be framed in positive language, not “do not do this”. There should also be a very small set of simple rules that everyone can remember. If rules get beyond six in number, the system can get too cumbersome. I can recall one school I went to as a pupil had two pages of rules which covered every conceivable action in the school with lots of “don’t do”. Therefore, neither teachers nor pupils were clear about which rules were being enforced.
Rules should be discussed with pupils in class and in whole year assemblies. The point of this is to make clear the behaviours the school wants to see and give pupils a chance to discuss classroom behaviour. In my experience pupils are often more draconian in their views than teachers! Discussion also gives teachers the opportunity to emphasise the reasoning behind the rules – what they are set to achieve and what they intend to discourage. Rules without purpose are suspect! I would encourage discussion of school rules every year with a termly refresher for the first year joining the school. Teachers on meeting each class for the first time should explain the classroom rules and underline what is expected and how they will deal with respond to good behaviour and poor behaviour.
Rules need to be enforced fairly and firmly – there should be no doubt about what acceptable behaviour is, in a classroom. A lack of clarity or slackness in enforcing the rules does none of the pupils a service.
There should always be a balance between rewards and sanctions. Rewards should be clearly signposted and consistently given to encourage positive behaviour. Rewards need to be accessible to all pupils. If only the best academic work is rewarded the rewards will be limited to a very small proportion of the school and will not work as an incentive. Good behaviour has to be rewarded as well as good work at whatever the pupil’s ability level. The types of reward should also be varied, as unsurprisingly 12-year-old pupils respond very differently to 16 years olds in terms of appreciation of particular rewards. Parents need to be kept informed of their child’s successes so they can support the school and reinforce the positive message that rewards offer. Positive behaviour management policies which emphasise the use of praise and reward can be successful in creating a more orderly and purposeful environment for learning.
Systems which emphasise the punitive approach are more likely to have worse standards of behaviour because good behaviour isn’t encouraged. The observation that praise is a good motivator is nothing new, as the quote below indicates.
"There is no such whetstone, to sharpen a good wit and encourage a will to learning, as is praise."
Roger Ascham in "The Schoolmaster" 1570.
The sorts of rewards that could be offered in a school include: -
· Public or private praise
· Certificates, merits, stickers
· Letter/postcard to parents
· Phone call home
· Send pupil to senior staff for praise
· Class rewards, such as outings
· Ceremony at end of unit/course/year
· Opportunity to work towards monetary rewards such as vouchers
· Special privileges e.g. activities, lesson break, homework pass etc.
I have to admit when changing my school’s behaviour system in 1994 I decided to take a risk and offer rewards that weren’t always appropriate, but the need to be eye-catching and grab pupils imagination was more important than attracting external criticism. I obviously can’t leave that hanging in the air!
The top reward we offered for a limited time was a Friday afternoon off school (with parental permission). It was used to kick start our rewards system and although it got a commitment from pupils in terms of good behaviour, hardly any of them took up the offer, which was only available for a very short time period. The other rewards which probably wouldn’t sit well with the healthy diet approach was vouchers for McDonalds. This was very popular, initially, McDonalds had just opened in Inverness and they gave us thousands of free vouchers. They were keen to show a commitment to the local community and they did get a lot of publicity and local goodwill from their support. The local cinema initially offered us some free tickets, then we were able to buy more at a substantial discount to offer as rewards.
I had started my planning for a new behaviour management policy in 1993, two years after I had taken up post as headteacher. I launched the staff training in 1994 and implemented the system the same year. By 1995 we were attracting a lot of media attention, partly from the rewards we were offering but also because poor school behaviour was a very current news item in 1995 and a number of schools throughout the UK were being lambasted for being unmanageable. The Ridings School had a particularly hard time in the press.
Not surprisingly the press looked for catchy headlines and because many of the nationals covered us, stories were syndicated around the world. On the positive side, I was getting letters of encouragement from former pupils from far and wide including Australia and the Gulf.