5 Steps to Consistent Behaviour Management

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Writing Note Showing Consistency Is The Key

Malcolm Drakes

Malcolm Drakes is a school and systems leader with over 20 years experience. As a National Leader of Education, he has particular expertise in rapid school turnarounds, securing transformational improvements in a variety of settings and contexts. In areas of acute deprivation he has moved...
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Is your behaviour management consistent across the school?

Ask any school leader about behaviour in their school and they will rightly direct you to their Behaviour Policy. Everyone has one, but is there one approach to behaviour management in the school?

Pupils interact with a wide range of adults per day: staff on the gate; their class teacher, cover teachers, specialist teachers, the teaching assistant (TAs), midday supervisors and members of the senior leadership team (SLT). When we tracked some of our most vulnerable pupils through a school day, we found that they had interactions with over 7 members of staff.

If every adult has their own interpretation of the behaviour systems in your policy then pupils can be confronted with several different approaches in just one day. Here are 5 top tips for establishing a culture of consistency for behaviour management, so that every pupil gets the same high-quality deal, no matter who they interact with:

1. Practice the policy as a staff
  • If you have one system and clear strategies in the policy, how often do you practise them as staff?
  • Do you regularly set aside staff meeting time to revisit key approaches?
  • Is your observation feedback informing leaders about adherence to the policy?
  • How open are staff to constructive feedback?
  • Are there ways you can make the expected standard explicit – video clips or checklists of steps that help to exemplify the practice that you want to within your school?

Setting a regular time to review key actions, listen to feedback and practice openly (with SLT involved front and centre) means you are much more likely to keep everyone on message.

2. Know the rules

Linked to above, what are your key school rules? @pauldixtweets highlights the need to keep rules to 3. They are then easy to remember, can be the foundation of any correction that staff need to make with behaviour and are much more likely to be applied consistently. Every conversation should come back to one of the three key rules… we had Ready, Responsible and Respect.

You need to be careful of unintended rules creeping in. If you are always asking the pupils to remove their coats, they will believe that is the most important rule.

Ineffective: ‘Take off your coats inside the building.’

Effective: ‘Our expectation is to be READY to learn. That means we must take off our coats.’

As Paul Dix says, “In the management of behaviour, it is the culture that eats strategy for breakfast.”

3. Scripted responses

Are there scripted responses in place to deal with common responses to behaviours? These are incredibly useful for establishing consistency of response; giving staff confidence (particularly NQTs) and helping to ensure that small issues do not flare up into larger ones. An example might use some of the following ideas:

  • Positive opening that is factual – not a feeling. Avoid getting into a conversation, this is supposed to be short and sweet! “I’ve noticed you’ve not started your work yet.” This can be reinforced with your body language. Make sure you are next to the child, don’t call this out from across the room. Be non-threatening… ideally, kneel or allow them to be over you.
  • Refer to a specific rule – “You know about being ‘Ready’ to start work. Your job is to get on with the task.”
  • Consequence – this depends on your Behaviour Policy. Staying positive is vital. “I know that this morning you came straight in from break and got on with your work. That’s what I need to see now. Thank you (never please).”

4. Specific praise

Modelling the behaviour you want to see from the staff is the best way to inspire them to act in a similar way. When you praise staff, how specific are you? This can be done verbally, through a staff message board, with written notes/postcards. The key is to recognise where all staff have gone above and beyond, praise them for it specifically and then (if they like that kind of attention) praise publicly. The key is to know your staff. Some prefer a quiet word, others like fireworks.

Similarly, do you challenge behaviours that fall below the standards you expect? If you have set expectations in the policy that aren’t followed, do you correct, re-model and check for understanding? The challenge is to keep it strictly professional – what did you notice (not what you felt) and what impact it had. Direct back to the policy, agree the desired behaviour and agree when it will be seen by. 

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

5. Give pupils a meaningful choice

If the pupils are able to retain control and have a choice, it can provide them with a way out. However, one of the choices must be desirable. If both choices are negative, then there is no incentive for the pupil to re-engage. Ideally, both choices can be positive, so the teacher gets the behaviour desired, but the child allows them to feel a level of control.

  • ‘Billy, you can either work quietly on your own, or you can sit and work with Mrs Smith.’
  • ‘When you have completed the task, then you can get ready for PE…’
6. Practise

Of course, the 6th tip is practise, practise, practise. If you are lucky enough to have a TA, get them to observe you and check each other for consistency. If you have access to video, record snippets of lessons from across your team and compare. In staff meetings, take 5 minutes to rehearse delivery of a script. If you are on the SLT, make sure you note the behaviour you want to see from the staff and give that specific praise!

If you believe that there should be a consistent corporate approach to behaviour management, how could you achieve it? What practical steps could you take beyond writing and agreeing on a policy?


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