How can we teach good behaviour?
In a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) there is a complete mix of children who don’t fit the mainstream mould. For many of them this is behaviour related which could vary from a one-off extreme incident to constant low-level disruption.
PRUs are successful because they focus on a child-centred approach which includes, but is not limited to, behaviour.
It is realistic to say that in 2018 not all children are taught good behaviour and for various reasons this hasn’t happened in their home life. I think it is often an assumption that good behaviour should be well established by the time they reach secondary school and all too often I see staff trying their hardest to manage behaviour, which in turn takes up most of their time and focus.
As David Stott reminds us, “Admittedly behaviour (good and bad) can certainly be caught by role models, but it is absolutely essential to recognise the role of the adult in actually teaching how we expect students to behave.”
Lessons from a PRU
But PRUs have a different approach.
Every opportunity is a learning opportunity and this includes behaviour.
If a child is constantly removed or restricted from the main part of the school then all they learn is to exist in the model they have been provided. However, it is really important that children are given the freedom to make mistakes so they can learn from them.
5 Considerations for Teaching Good Behaviour
There are many things that are an essential part of the day in a PRU which contribute to teaching good behaviour. This involves teaching good manners and social awareness too. Behaviour is taught through a variety of methods including modelling, conversations and restorative justice to name a few.
It is important to note that when I talk about staff I don’t just mean teaching staff. Everyone is responsible for teaching good behaviour choices. Here are 5 things to think about:
1. The start and end of the day
All staff are present at the front entrance to greet the students and encourage them into the school. This is important because it gives students a sense of belonging and gives staff an opportunity to observe moods and feelings.
2. During lessons
Staff are encouraged to experiment with who works with who. Sometimes the most surprising combinations ‘work’. Students soon learn who they work best with and who they don’t. They are encouraged to have conversations around helpful and unhelpful behaviours for learning, for example, supporting each other in their learning.
3. Break and lunch time
All staff sit with the students and are encouraged to make conversation, which is a very important social skill. However, this opportunity is also used to focus on manners, for example, asking someone else to pass the salt, not using phones at the dinner table and use of appropriate language.
Staff also interact with the students away from the dinner tables. Playing cards is an important lesson in communication, fairness, winning and losing, strategy and social skills.
4. A serious incident
When something serious happens, which is inevitable, staff are well trained to work strategically to separate and deescalate situations.
Communication is key, allowing the students to have their say and get things off their chest. When they are able to, they are encouraged to reflect on their contribution to the situation.
5. A new day
Every day must be a fresh start. Staff work hard to make sure they don’t carry things over from one day to the next. This teaches the children about the power of forgiveness.
If I had my time again back in the local comprehensive then I would certainly use lessons that I learnt from my days at Aspire, the Bucks PRU and AP. As Debra Rutley, Headteacher, Aspire says:
Behaviour management at Aspire isn’t a policy or an add on, it’s our culture and the way we do things. We build relationships, we make connections with our students, show them that they are worth it and give them a sense of belonging. It’s not a strategy it our culture.