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Why manage behaviour in schools?

The importance of managing behaviour in schools should be obvious because it cannot be separated from other aspects of learning such as academic achievement and pupil welfare & well-being. Without managed behaviour other school aims will not be met and it should be a priority in any school. Behaviour does not manage itself, and if left to chance can damage a school’s ethos and effectiveness.

A pupil’s experience in school is one of the most significant indicators of success in later life, however that may be measured. A school should be run to enable pupils to have opportunities to flourish. How young people conduct themselves at school is so important in forming their early life experience. Encouraging good behaviour is therefore one of the most important tasks a school undertakes.

‘Behaviour’ in not just about poor conduct in classrooms, public areas, in and out of school. It is about encouraging good communication, good study techniques, how pupils relate to each other and their teachers, encouraging positive social behaviours which enhance the school ethos.

All types of schools in widely different social and economic circumstances can achieve high standards of behaviour. I’ve worked in schools serving areas of multiple deprivation for most of my working life, including 23 years as a headteacher. I know it is possible to achieve high standards of behaviour in disadvantaged schools. Yes, the difficulty in achieving these standards varies from school community to school community and there may be challenges for specific schools, that require a lot of time and effort to achieve this goal.

If schools are to be successful in radically reducing poor behaviour and enhancing the school ethos by encouraging good behaviour the school leadership team and in particular the headteacher are key. Headteachers have a unique position in the school and wider community and if they can capitalise on their positive relationships, they can be very influential in moving their school forward. What headteachers do or do not do - is crucial to their school’s success.

Although schools vary enormously in the challenges they have to meet, through their economic circumstances, staffing, demographics, buildings etc.

One might assume that the approaches and strategies to achieve improvement in behaviour management might vary greatly. I would argue that although there may be differences in approach in different schools these are not as significant as they first appear and are more down to building on what is already in place in the different schools. If a school is in a leafy suburb with high academic achievement and very positive parental involvement – some obstacles are already less significant and the emphasis in improving behaviour will be able to build on what is already positive.

The fact that schools are all dealing with children and human behaviour, which is to a large degree, strongly predictable, motivated by biological drivers, is more important than the cultural differences between different communities. Therefore, the strategies that schools use to shape behaviour tend to be very similar. Rewards, sanctions, modelling of behaviours, peer and parental pressure are all called into play, even if the strategies are slightly different between schools. The main threads of managing pupil behaviour are therefore similar across schools and best practice is transferrable between schools. Schools have to be sensitive to the communities they serve, an awareness of community norms and expectations is important in taking any improvement forward. Particularly one that relies on co-operation and support from that community.

Schools should aim to influence pupil behaviour and attitudes in order to help students to achieve as learners, as individuals and socially as members of their wider community. With less time spent on indiscipline, time is reclaimed for productive learning

The aims of schools and education in general can vary depending on a school’s circumstances or the political outlook at any particular time. However, most schools would agree that the aims are likely to revolve around the following broad principles:

- Academic achievement

- Preparing young people for the world of work

- The development of good citizens

- A protective, safe and nurturing environment and ethos

Regardless of how we view education’s purpose, the goals we set for our schools cannot be met without good behaviour being the norm. In order, to achieve this, good behaviour has to be encouraged and behaviour which is anti-social or disruptive has to be minimised. Apart from the benefits to pupils, being educated in an orderly, safe and nurturing environment, which helps to meet the schools aims.

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