Behaviour Report Card – 2016 week 1

Section 1: What’s been happening this week with behaviour as we set out into the new term?

  • A behaviour expert, who asked not to be quoted and who shall therefore remain anonymous, has told us that in his personal experience of working in a secondary school, 95% misbehaviour is opportunistic. Children are poised and waiting for the opportunity to muck about unless he can get in there first. These children are just firing up randomly and all the careful preventative teaching and reinforcement of rules hasn’t worked to control their impetuosity. Consequently the best preventative action is to warn them they’re being watched and if the student still makes a break for the gap they’ve been warned so they’ll understand that it’s a fair cop. This is for non-serious behaviour. If this doesn’t work and behaviour is serious it’s time to get the big guns out, we’re told. This means handing the student and the problem over to someone else so they can do the nasty but necessary follow-on work.
  • In Lincolnshire a study gathering the views of lead teachers on behaviour found that TA support for behaviour was more effective than any other intervention. The brief report didn’t mention what the other interventions were or how the teaching assistants were trained, what approach they used and so on. But the claim warrants further investigation as TAs take a major support role with children most greatly in need. This flags up the need for research, training and development around the TA role in behaviour support, in addition to the highly publicised need for high quality initial training for teachers in behaviour.
  • The headteacher of the Sands school in England is in line for a major award, in a school where the pupils have a voice in deciding what rules are useful and how they should be taught and learned. The school has taken this approach for many years, foregrounding student autonomy. A behaviour expert commented that in his view ‘sadly educational experiments like this rarely work outside of tiny privileged communities.’ This was countered by another commentator who has carried out and published research into the issue, who said he had surveyed students in schools in very disadvantaged areas and found that practices that enhanced autonomy and respect are key success factors for students. A third commentator said that she knew of many examples of this approach being successful in schools.
  • Children who are found guilty of an offence are sent to secure training centres. The Medway STC holds up to 78 children from 12 to 18. Seven staff including training centre assistants, team leaders and two duty operation managers at a G4S-run young offender institution were suspended on the 30th December after allegations were made that they used unnecessary force, including claims that staff punched and slapped children and squeezed their necks to restrain them. The Youth Justice Board, under Michael Gove the minister for justice who is advised on re-offending by the ex-Behaviour Guru Charles Taylor, has temporarily stopped placing children at the centre, which can hold up to 76 young offenders aged 12-18. This follows the recent removal of another training centre from G4S control for similar reasons, evidence of another kind of reoffending. What kind of training and supervision do G4S staff have to behave in this way in delivering training to these children and what does it reveal about this private companies’ ethos?


Section 2: Comment

There might be more to bad behaviour than just random opportunism. Maybe it’s often true enough and maybe some students need more than a quiet word and a tap on the shoulder. Maybe they are giving us the nod that they need attention of a different kind than the big gun if they struggle to comply.

What’s your view?

Teaching assistants are part of the team and need great support and the opportunity to develop as much as teachers do. If the problems with behaviour ars related to the quality and type of intial training of teachers this must be true for teaching assistants too. What’s missing is familiarity with the fundamental ideas that support different approaches to support. It might be argued that reward and punishment get results in some cases, but what effective teaching assistants actually do when they support a student will be broader than this, involving human qualities like empathy and the ability to make a productive professional relationship.

What’s your view?

Student autonomy or teacher control? Either/or or both/and? The question here is what is the educational purpose of behaviour support and the teaching of rule-following behaviour? If an overall purpose is to enable children to grow and flourish as active citizens, then in the crucial area of learning to behave an understanding of the importance of autonomy and personal agency is vital and not to be sidelined for ideological reasons. It’s a straightforward educational issue.

What’s your view?

Children permanently excluded from school are heavily over-represented in penal institutions. Ostensibly they are there to be educated but it looks more like punishment is allowable for their being children who made serious mistakes. The use of punishment as a behaviour management strategy comes into question when staff at all levels threaten the safety of children through their actions. But should they be punishing at all.

Note: it costs us £160,000 per year to keep one child in a secure training centre in the UK.

Money well spent?

What’s your view?


Section 3: Making changes

Is there any fairer and more effective alternative to the present use of punishment and control to support children who behave badly? Have a look around this website and see what catches your attention. Be solution-focused.

Look out for Behaviour Report Cardweek 2