If every school in the country had excellent behaviour then how much better would the jobs of thousands of teachers be? We got into the profession to teach, not referee! Some places I have been in it feels like you spend 90% of time challenging behaviour and only 10% actually teaching (probably about the equivalent amount in energy spent too) but that isn’t always the case and I think, although there are many factors, there is one thing that makes a big difference, behavioural policy consistency.
I want to pre-empt this by saying what works in one place, won’t always work in the exact same model elsewhere. However, I think that consistency in behaviour policies across a school is a must.
It stands to reason that every classroom will have a different feel and atmosphere to it because each classroom is led by a different individual. This is the way it should be. Students spend about five or six hours a day in lessons, if they were all the same in every aspect, it would be boring. Variety is the spice of life. However, when it comes to the procedures followed by staff for rewarding good behaviour and, of course, punishing bad behaviour, systems should be in place in a school that ensure that from lesson to lesson it is the same.
Students and adults love routines, we love knowing exactly what is going on to the extent that it becomes instinct. Behaviour is instinctive too so there is strong correlation here. Whatever your school policy is, everybody should be following it we, for example, do names on the board. One side is for negative consequences and the other for positive. A name on the board is a warning, a circle is a detention or an essay and it can escalate from there. Alternatively, a name on the board is acknowledgement of good work and effort and a circle is a reward (we give students a pretend currency they can use once a half term to bid on prizes). This means from classroom to classroom there is consistency. Your trainee teachers will be using the same techniques in behaviour management as SLT as they are tried and tested.
There are numerous benefits to this. Firstly, new staff are more likely to struggle with behaviour management so providing them with a system that is embedded in the school gives them a crutch through which they can control the class. Execution of this will vary in the sense that skilled practitioners will adapt consequences to the situation and individual but the first step, routine, is there. It takes away the danger of being seen as too lenient or too strict as everybody is doing the same thing and the consequences are the same. Our NQTs and new staff in our school love how this works as the students behave when they are given a warning or recognition because of the sheer consistency of what will happen next if their negative or positive behaviours continue. I loved this when I joined the school and I still do.
Secondly, it works brilliantly for the students. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifteen, you want clear and consistent expectations in what you do. A strong, clear policy does this because It becomes ingrained into their school day routines. You shout out, consequence. You don’t focus, consequence. You don’t pay attention consequence. You show excellent effort in your answer, consequence. You put everything into your work, consequence. It’s simple. Students love it because they know that what happens in maths lesson 1 happens in PE lesson 6. The beauty is in the simplicity.
There are so many positives to it that, for balance, downfalls should be considered. Your staff will need support in adapting to these policies. There may be inconsistencies and struggles and that can easily derail the whole initiative. One or two people not following the policy can bring it down because it makes some staff look strong and some look weak in the eyes of the students. You need training set aside to ensure this doesn’t happen. Everybody who has been teaching a few years will think they have policies that work for behaviour, they probably do, but they need to follow the policy just as everybody else will. Newer staff need to see the policy be used from the most experienced practitioners to have confidence in it and the students need to see the most experienced teachers use it for the same reason. Consistent behaviour policies work but this is the weakness you must avoid.
Overall, I think that if you have ever been into a school with a clear behaviour policy you will know it is a godsend. Implementing one can be tough in terms of buy in, especially from people who have been doing the job for a while and have their own, perfectly valid ideas, but getting that buy in is a must as the consistency across all classrooms and levels is compulsory for this to work. I love it. I worked so hard on my behaviour management during my training but when I moved to my current school in 2013, having one clear policy has been amazing for everybody from Year 7 to 13.