Last week, the Department for Education released Tom Bennett's independent review on behaviour in schools alongside the Government's response.
The report entitled Creating a culture: how schools can optimise behaviour, emphasises the importance of a strong culture of behaviour, initiated and led by the head teacher and running through the school.
The report also highlights strategies school leaders can use to prevent classroom disruption, maintain good discipline and promote pupils' education.
Recommendations for school leaders
1. Design the school culture you want to see
Good school leaders have a clear idea of the behaviour they want to achieve, and the methods they will use to achieve them. This includes:
- Creating a vision of the school culture - Leaders have a responsibility to provide their school with a clear behaviour vision, commonly understood, and explained point-by-point. This vision should refer to permitted, prohibited and encouraged behaviour, as well as attitudes, values and beliefs.
- Making behaviour a whole school focus - This means ensuring that school behaviour is a high-status topic in every meeting, in public discussions and at every level of strategy. Effort, finance and industry must be directed constantly in its direction.
- Social norms - Leaders must ask, 'What would I like all students to do, routinely?' 'What do I want them to believe about themselves, their achievements, each other, the school?' Once these questions have been answered, the leader can then translate these aspirations into expectations. Social norms are found most clearly in the routines of the school. These routines should be communicated to, and practiced by, staff and students until they become automatic.
- Communicating that culture to the school community and beyond - Leaders are responsible for setting the terms of what constitutes good behaviour.
- Leadership team curation - School leaders must ensure that their team is loyal, well-supported to perform their roles, positive and ambitious towards the students' wellbeing, and possessing skill sets suited to their designated roles. This might include retraining existing staff, recruiting new ones, or moving unsuitable members into different positions.
2. Building the culture in detail
Staff and students need to know how to achieve this, and what the culture looks like in practice. This includes:
- Managing staff through transition - School leaders involved in taking a school from existent circumstances to an improved state must be ready to offer high levels of support to staff so they understand new systems and expectations, and clear descriptions of the benefits to be obtained.
- Teacher training - Staff must be inducted clearly into the behaviour culture of the school, as soon as (and preferably before) they join the school.
- School routines - The school must have well-established and universally known and understood systems of behaviour.
- Internal inclusion units -The best schools seen during this review had mature, well-planned internal inclusion units, where children with extreme behaviour could be supported in their journey back towards education. Exclusions must be only used when they are needed. This means they must be used when all else has failed, and not before
- Using premises to support behaviour - All schools should have an area where students presenting temporarily challenging behaviour can be housed safely, quickly and quietly without fuss. This zone should be staffed with personnel trained in its management.
- Attendance and punctuality - In successful schools, the expectation is 100% attendance and 100% punctuality. This admittedly near-impossible goal is embedded as an aspirational norm. Crucially, it is monitored and tracked in real time rather than retrospectively.
3. Maintaining the culture
School systems require maintenance. This is often where good cultures break down. This includes staff training, effective use of consequences, data monitoring, staff and student surveys and maintaining standards.
Challenges that frequently impede improvement include:
- Lack of clarity of vision, or poor communication of that vision to staff or students;
- a lack of sufficient in-school classroom management skills;
- poorly calibrated, or low expectations;
- inadequate orientation for new staff or students;
- staff over-burdened by workload, and therefore unable to direct behaviour effectively;
- unsuitably skilled staff in charge of pivotal behaviour roles;
- remote, unavailable, or over-occupied leadership;
- and inconsistency between staff and departments.
Key Policy Recommendations
For the Department of Education to consider:
1. Fund schools to create internal inclusion units at schools with higher than average levels of challenging behaviour. The units would offer "targeted early specialist intervention" with the primary aim of reintegrating pupils back into mainstream.
2. Design a revised certification process for all headteachers that includes a requirement to demonstrate an appreciation of behavioural cultural levers and how to use them.
3. Support the use of a national standardised method, for capturing data on school behaviour that goes beyond present formal recording methods. This could then be used as a comparative metric between schools, and over time.
4. Ensure school leaders have access to training in a range of behavioural strategies and examples of best practice in the school system, by the creation of an optional training scheme. School leaders should be encouraged to visit other schools of similar structure and demographic where excellent behaviour is apparent.
5. A pilot scheme of the above could be trialled in areas of identified need, including consideration of Opportunity Areas, and evaluated after one year.
6. Further discussion is needed about the way special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision is funded, both inside mainstream schools, and in specialist sites. Schools, particularly in clusters such as multi- academy trusts could be incentivised to pool resources and share expertise.
7. Guidance on how to manage and support the most challenging students.
8. Ofsted should review its arrangements for obtaining staff and pupil views on behaviour and ensure those views are taken into account as part of school inspections. This should include:
- considering how all sources of evidence on behaviour management can be taken into account during inspection;
- reviewing the coverage of behaviour related issues within Ofsted's pupil and staff questionnaires, and exploring ways to ensure that inspectors have appropriate access to the views of the range of staff and pupils at the school;
- and maximising staff and pupil discussions to establish school culture and practice in relation to behaviour levels, support and structures.
9. School leaders should be interviewed to account for the results of the staff and student interviews and survey.
The Government welcomed the report and findings and outlined the following responses in relation to the recommendations of the report:
1. The Government's planned changes to alternative provision (AP) support the spirit of the first and sixth recommendation. Under the planned measures, schools will be given control of budgets for AP, alongside introducing stronger lines of accountability for schools when placing pupils in AP. Schools would be responsible for commissioning AP for pupils who need it and for the pupil's educational outcomes.
2. National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) will help to deliver the desired outcomes of the second recommendation. The new qualifications, will support participants to develop the range of core knowledge, skills, and behaviours set out in the new NPQ Content and Assessment Framework, which includes the knowledge and skills they need to address behavioural issues, including amongst those with particular needs (e.g. SEND pupils).
3. Rather than launching a new national survey, the Government plan to encourage school leaders to monitor staff and pupil views on behaviour regularly. They will also look to update their guidance to schools to reflect this and explore further the merits of providing schools with an example or template on how they could collect and record their own behaviour data (in the form of an annex in existing guidance).
4. Within the NPQ reforms, providers will be required to deliver evidence-based content that equips participants with the knowledge and skills they need to address behavioural issues. Providers will also be allowed to develop original, context-based course materials around these core requirements. This could include, for example, content that offers an enhanced focus on behavioural issues or qualifications that specifically target SEND or PRU school leaders, or visits to and coaching from schools where excellent practice is taking place. The Government also announced the first bidding round of the £75m Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund on 16 February. Bids should have an overall focus on improving the quality of teaching and leadership in challenging areas and schools. Therefore, organisations could consider bidding for funding to develop and run professional development for leaders in challenging areas on behavioural cultural levers and how to use them to improve the quality of teaching and leadership.
5. As part of the work in opportunity areas, the Government will explore the possibility of piloting a training scheme on behaviour management for school leaders in opportunity areas, where this meets the identified needs in the area.
6. The Government will review their existing mental health and behaviour in schools guidance to ensure it reflects the changing context for support with the implementation of the SEND reforms and changes that are happening in children and young people's mental health following the Future in Mind report. In addition, they will support new research into how pupils arrive in AP including PRUs, and develop and disseminate new evidence on what works.