This is my second post on Behaviour Management in our schools. The other two posts are entitled:

Good schools encourage good behaviour through a mixture of high expectations, clear policy and an ethos which foster discipline and mutual respect between students, and between staff and students.

An OfSTED (a UK-government Office for Standards in Education) report concluded:

Some school leaders are failing to identify or tackle low-level disruptive behaviour at an early stage. Some teachers surveyed said that senior leaders do not understand what behaviour is really like in the classroom. This supports the findings of the recent international survey from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which found that there were marked differences between headteachers’ and pupils’ views of behaviour.  This showed, for example, that twice the proportion of pupils compared with headteachers said that disruption hindered their learning.

Typical features of this sort of behaviour include students:

  • talking unnecessarily or chatting
  • calling out without permission
  • being slow to start work or follow instructions
  • showing a lack of respect for each other and staff
  • not bringing the right equipment
  • using mobile devices inappropriately.

In the best schools, creating a positive climate for learning is a responsibility shared by senior leaders, teachers, parents and students. The Senior Management Leaders in these schools are uncompromising in their expectations and do not settle for low standards of behaviour.

Mr Barry Smith, taking over a failing school had a vision outlining his beliefs in a letter to the parents:

My job, as Headmaster of Charter Academy, is to ensure that teachers and pupils have a safe environment free from abuse, in which they can excel.

Your children’s job is to attend every day on time, follow all instructions first time every time, treat everyone they meet politely, and get the top grades they possibly can in everything they do.

Your job is to support their school and their education. By supporting us you support your children.

This could be the beginning of a whole new life full of possibilities for your children.

To make that happen, we need your 100% support.

Leaders, like Mr Smith, do not shy away from challenging teachers, parents or students, where this is necessary. These leaders:

  • are visible in classrooms, school corridors and grounds.
  • know if – and where – low-level disruption occurs and ensure that all staff members deal with it.
  • have high expectations of behaviour and are consistent in dealing with disruptive students.
  • explain and enforce their expectations successfully to staff, students and parents.

The School Behaviour Policy

It is the lynchpin in setting the tone for the rest of the school. However, the Headteacher/Principal must set out measures in the behaviour policy which aim to:

  • promote good behaviour, self-discipline and respect;
  • prevent bullying;
  • ensure that students complete assigned work;
  • regulate the conduct of students.

The Headteacher/Principal decides the standard of behaviour expected of students at the school. He or she determines the school rules and any disciplinary penalties for breaking the rules.

Teachers’ powers to discipline include the power to discipline students even when they are not at school or in the charge of a member of staff.

Lastly, the headteacher must publicise the school behaviour policy, in writing or on the school website, to staff, parents and students.

Developing The Behaviour Policy

It is vital that the behaviour policy is clear, that it is well understood by staff, parents and students, and that it is consistently applied. In developing the behaviour policy, the Headteacher should reflect on the following ten key aspects of school practice that, when effective, contribute to improving the quality of students’ behaviour:

  • A consistent approach to behaviour management;
  • Strong school leadership;
  • Classroom management;
  • Rewards and sanctions;
  • Behaviour strategies and the teaching of good behaviour;
  • Staff development and support;
  • Student support systems;
  • Liaison with parents and other agencies;
  • Managing student transition; and
  • Organisation and facilities.

The school’s behaviour policy should set out the disciplinary action that will be taken against students who are found to have made malicious accusations against school staff.

Behaviour And Sanctions

A clear school behaviour policy, consistently and fairly applied, underpins effective education. School staff, students and parents should all be clear of the high standards of behaviour expected of all students at all times. The behaviour policy should be supported and backed-up by senior staff and the Headteacher.

Good schools encourage good behaviour through a mixture of high expectations, clear policy and an ethos which fosters discipline and mutual respect between students, and between staff and students.

All good schools have in place a range of options and rewards to reinforce and praise good behaviour, and clear sanctions for those who do not comply with the school’s behaviour policy. These are proportionate and fair responses that may vary according to the age of the students, and any other special circumstances that affect the student.

When poor behaviour is identified, sanctions should be implemented consistently and fairly in line with the behaviour policy.

Good schools have a range of disciplinary measures clearly communicated to school staff, students and parents. These can include:

  • A verbal reprimand.
  • Extra work or repeating unsatisfactory work until it meets the required standard.
  • The setting of written tasks as punishments, such as writing lines or an essay.
  • Loss of privileges – for instance the loss of a prized responsibility or not being able to participate in a non-uniform day.
  • Missing break time.
  • Detention including during lunch-time, after school and at weekends.
  • School based community service or imposition of a task – such as picking up litter or weeding school grounds; tidying a classroom; helping clear up the dining hall after meal times; or removing graffiti.
  • Regular reporting including early morning reporting; scheduled uniform and other.
  • Behaviour checks; or being placed “on report” for behaviour monitoring.
  • In more extreme cases schools may use temporary or permanent exclusion.

Before your school starts throwing money away on reward systems or intervention packages for those who refuse to play ball, schools should spend time on arming all teachers with positive notes. Not postcards that have to be approved by management, stamped and posted out at the end of term but simple notes that can be given to children with kindness and sincerity.

What Do Students Want?

Students in high school don’t want a catalogue of rewards or gifts, money or stuff. They don’t want impersonal credits or merits logged onto a machine. They want to show their parents that they are doing well. They want to feel pride. They want what every human being wants, the chance to feel important and valued for their efforts.

In this example of a school where behaviour improved from good to outstanding, the Headteacher sets the tone, but all staff are engaged in ensuring high standards:

‘The atmosphere in classes and around the school is calm and positive. The number of students who are excluded for a short amount of time has fallen rapidly in recent years. Students understand the school’s behaviour policy and know it will be implemented rigorously by staff. The system of sanctions and rewards works well and staff apply it consistently. Students were happy to talk about how much they enjoy school and their lessons.’ (Ofsted inspection report)

Here is a typical set of rules at secondary level. It is of course best to devise your own according to your needs and circumstances:

  1. Treat others as you want to be treated yourself. Be positive and helpful.  Try to help two other people every day.
  2. Treat other people’s property at least as well as you would treat your own.
  3. Hands up if you want to say something when the teacher, or another student is talking.
  4. Don’t distract others from their work. Only talk to neighbours, and only about work.
  5. If you are stuck ask neighbours for help first, then ask your teacher.
  6. No unpleasantness, snatching or hitting. If you can’t resolve a disagreement yourself, or with your group, consult your teacher
  7. Leave the room better than you found it.

Other Uses Of Rules     

  • Remind students of any relevant rules before a potentially disruptive activity.
  • This is more positive than only responding to disruption and has been found to reduce disruption by about 25%. You could even gather students around the poster that illustrates the rule(s) and ask them for the justification for it.
  • If a rule is broken remind the student that, “we agreed…..” and remind them that they are part of a team so must keep to team rules. Be a ‘team player’ could be a heading on the list of rules
  • Get students to self-assess their own behaviour against the rules with a self-assessment form. Then use this to set themselves targets for improvement. See the example below:

 Is…(student name here)…….  a team player?


I kept to this rule:

always often some-times never
Treat others as you want to be treated yourself
Hands up if you want to say something when the teacher is talking
Don’t distract others from their work
Improvement since my last self-assessment:

 What I need to work on most is:

If you use self-assessment consider the following:

  • Asking students to remind themselves of their self-assessed targets at the beginning of a class (see the last row in the self-assessment form above). Tell them you will ask them to self-assess any improvement at the end of the same class.
  • Allow students to reward themselves with a sticky blob against their name on your notice board if they have improved, say, twice running in these self-assessments.

What Are The Good Schools Doing About Behaviour Management?

  • The best headteachers and their senior leaders are usually visible in classrooms, corridors and around the school grounds. These senior leaders know where low-level disruption might occur and if it does they make sure that it is dealt with by staff and that parents are informed, so that it is less likely to happen in future.
  • In these schools, high expectations of behaviour have been spelt out by senior staff and are applied consistently, with similarly consistent responses to any students who engage in minor or other disruptive behaviour. Staff, students and parents know what is expected of them and any transgressions by students are met with a robust response.
  • Behaviour logs show that the rare instances of poor behaviour are dealt with effectively by staff, and that full records are kept and analysed for trends. Students themselves are clear that staff will deal with bad behaviour. They know who to report concerns to and are clear these will be followed up.
  • School teachers who communicate informally with students have a lot of student cooperation. Don’t just talk about learning issues. When they are coming into, or going out of the classroom ask their opinion:  “Do you think your haircut would suit me?”…. “What do you think of the new library?”….  Ask about hobbies, attitudes and opinions, etc.
  • In another school, where behaviour had improved from good to outstanding, any problems were addressed immediately:

    ‘The behaviour of students is outstanding…They show a great enthusiasm for their learning and are keen to do well. As a result of the good teaching they receive and the consistently good management of behaviour by all staff, they show positive attitudes to learning… The school is quick to identify students at risk of underachieving due to poor behaviour and to work to change their attitudes.’ (Ofsted inspection report)

  • Many teachers are reactive, waiting for disruption and then responding to it, yet good teachers keep a bag of disciplinary interventions in the form of:
    • Reminders – Reminding students of relevant rules just before they start an activity. g. reminding them of the ground-rules for working in groups before starting a group-work activity.
    • ‘Sticks’ – Mild punishments. This means approaching class management with a firm, unemotional, matter of fact, unapologetic, confident and business-like tone. It often includes a reminder to the student that you are implementing agreed class rules, not personal dictates.
    • ‘Carrots’ – Strategies that reward students for appropriate behaviour including recognition, praise, symbols etc.
    • ‘Carrots’ plus ‘sticks’ – Using both mild punishments, and strategies that reward students for appropriate behaviour with recognition symbols.
  • Some schools engage classroom issues through class meetings. They feel that difficulties with classroom management should be raised democratically at class meetings where:
    • Teachers can call meetings, but students can also ask for them.
    • Everyone sits in a circle.
    • Names are not used, the purpose is to discuss issues not people.
    • The teacher or a student acts as chair to ensures the meeting keeps to the topic under discussion and minutes are written and posted on the board.
    • Class meetings are sometimes held in conjunction with students keeping a journal.  Here they record the behaviour of the class in general, and their own behaviour in particular.
  • Good schools insist on a dress code. The belief is that where teachers’ attire must not be too casual, instead, dressing decently will foster and promote high professional standards or expectations.

In the classroom things are happening all at once, with so much coming at you, you’re liable to let infractions pass. But, you have to impose some sanction every time a student breaks a rule, or “it goes out of control.” And for a new teacher to be able to do that, it has to become automatic.

Thus, the general power to discipline falls squarely on the teacher delivering the lesson. Despite all what has been done and postulated, the adult in that room has sole responsibility to deliver. Classroom management comes with a lot of challenges as students come in different shapes and sizes, and are different in personality-wise.

I hope you take on board some of the challenges that have made me who I am – a teacher of the 21st century.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!


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