Behaviour and Discipline in Schools - Education Committee Contents

4  Leading and managing good behaviour; challenging poor practice

49. Effective school leadership is critical to supporting good behaviour in schools. We were told by several witnesses that, where staff are closely supported by school leaders, this has a significant impact on behaviour.[92] The Chief Inspector's Annual Report 2009-10 found that leadership and management was "good or outstanding in 65% of schools inspected this year - a higher proportion than for overall effectiveness. However, governance was one of the weaker aspects of leadership inspected, being good or outstanding in 56% of schools".[93]

School behaviour policies

50. Section 88 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 places a responsibility on the governing body of a relevant school[94] to "ensure that policies designed to promote good behaviour and discipline on the part of its pupils are pursued at the school". The head teacher must determine the standard of behaviour to be deemed acceptable and must "determine measures" to promote good behaviour and publicise them in a written document. Witnesses agreed on the need for all members of the school community to be involved in construction and implementation of behaviour policies, in order to achieve a common understanding and application:

The school behaviour policy, which should be discussed by all members of the school community, especially staff and pupils and not just considered by Governors as a paper exercise, is of paramount importance to the effectiveness of behaviour management in schools. The NUT believes that a school behaviour policy must be a practical document which includes clear guidelines to staff on practice and procedures relating to any incidence of inappropriate behaviour within school.[95]

51. During our visit to Beaumont Leys School in Leicester, the school's expectations of its pupils were made clear immediately on entering the premises by way of a large wall mural naming the school's values. A comprehensive behaviour policy—consulted on and understood by all staff—underpins the school's approach to behaviour management. At New Woodlands School in Lewisham, we were told of the importance of having a clear school behaviour policy, backed up with strict boundaries, good "old-fashioned" manners and respect.[96] Mr Paul Dix, a behaviour consultant, told us of the need for schools to be absolutely clear and consistent about the parameters within which the school expects their pupils to behave:

The best schools have a sign above the door regardless of what context they are working in, which says, "This is how we do it here." When you walk through the doors of that school, the expectations of behaviour are different from those outside. The behaviours that you use in the community or the behaviours that you use with your parents might well work out there, but when you walk through that door, that is how they do it there. The best schools have absolute consistency. I don't care whether the system they use is behaviourist or whether the system they use is extremely old-fashioned, the critical difference is that people sign up to it and teachers act with one voice and one message: "This is how we do it here".[97]

52. A key element to effective leadership of behaviour is engagement with parents. Although some of the factors which have an impact on children's behaviour—such as parenting and family breakdown—are beyond schools' control, that does not mean to say that schools are powerless to support parents and carers in promoting the good behaviour of their children. At both Beaumont Leys School and New Woodlands School, relationships with parents and carers were viewed as critical to the success of any intervention, and both schools saw it as a priority to make their premises welcoming to pupils and their families and to maintain regular contact. As Sir Alan Steer told us, "communication between school and parents is important".[98] Mike Griffiths, Head Teacher of Northampton School for Boys, explained that his school saw effective behaviour management as "a triangle of parent, child and school", with all three facets needing to work together to be effective.[99] Witnesses highlighted the fact that it is often easier to engage with parents at primary school as there is a culture of meeting parents "at the school gate", making it easier to "have quiet words and conversations [with parents] that are more difficult to have at secondary".[100] Charlie Taylor, Head Teacher of Willows Primary Special School and Acting Head Teacher of Chantry Secondary Special School in the London Borough of Hillingdon, also suggested that "parents are a lot more up for changing the behaviour of a three-year-old than they are for a 15-year-old"[101], which makes it easier for schools to approach parents to discuss possible interventions.

53. A good school behaviour policy, agreed and communicated to all staff, governors, pupils, parents and carers, consistently applied, is the basis of an effective approach to managing behaviour. We note that the Schools White Paper made no mention of the work which schools can—and should—undertake with parents and carers to reinforce and promote good behaviour and address poor behaviour. We also note the statement made by Ofsted to the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, led by the Rt Hon Frank Field MP, that "more remains to be done to convince some schools that parental engagement is central to their core purpose of raising attainment".[102] Schools should see it as part of their core work to engage with parents and carers, particularly those who are hard to reach. Schools must be proactive in establishing these relationships upfront with all parents and carers, rather than waiting for problems to occur.

54. The inquiry notes written evidence from Ofsted and the Children's Rights Alliance for England on the importance of pupil involvement in creating and maintaining order in schools[103] and recommends that the Government encourages such involvement through its policies and guidance.

Leadership of behaviour policies

55. Ninety three per cent of teachers responding to a survey organised by NASUWT said that their schools had a whole-school behaviour policy.[104] However, Dr Patrick Roach of NASUWT cautioned that "having a policy and what happens in practice are two very different things [...] where policies do exist and everybody is familiar with what that policy happens to be, around half of classroom teachers are actually saying that those policies are not being applied consistently, largely by school managements where the judgment of the classroom teacher isn't always backed up in terms of leadership and management decisions".[105] Dr Roach referred to research undertaken by the University of Leicester for NASUWT which examined the experiences of new and recently qualified teachers, including their experience of poor and challenging behaviour.[106] The report found that "teachers were very consistently reporting that they were being left to their own devices. Where senior management were coming in was to monitor and critique the quality of their practice within a classroom, not necessarily to offer development support, leadership and professional guidance about how to do things differently or how to do things better".[107] These findings chime with the views of the teacher witnesses we questioned, who all agreed that where there was a lack of leadership on behaviour and discipline, it was a major issue for teachers.[108]

56. While we received evidence of some successful leadership training programmes, such as the National Programme of Specialist Leaders in Behaviour and Attendance,[109] we also heard that the current lack of any requirement for head teachers and school leaders to undertake specific training and continuous professional development relating to behaviour and discipline may be one of the main reasons for poor leadership on behaviour in some schools. As the National Association of Head Teachers suggests, "it is recognised in research that school leaders need to be trained to be effective school leaders and this is particularly relevant to the context in which they will be working - for example in areas of disadvantage, developing different skills, but we are not sure to what extent this is being promoted".[110] The National Professional Qualification for Headship is a prerequisite for becoming a head teacher, but ongoing continuing professional development on behaviour management is not a requirement for school leaders. Sir Alan Steer said to us that "it strikes me as absolute nonsense […] that somebody like me could be a head teacher for 23 years without any requirement to undergo training. That is not professional. I know we have things like NPQH now, but once you become a head teacher, where is the requirement to maintain your skill level?"[111]

57. The recent Schools White Paper includes proposals for the National Professional Qualification for Headship to be reviewed by the National College and subsequently reformed.[112] Continuing professional development (for both teachers and head teachers) would be provided through a new network of Teaching Schools. We support proposals in the White Paper for reforms to the National Professional Qualification for Headship, which should have a clearer emphasis on leading and supporting staff in maintaining and improving standards of behaviour in schools.

58. During our visit to Leicester, we heard of the significant impact that changes in school leadership can have on behaviour and discipline in a school. A school which has been successful under one leadership team can face serious challenges under another.[113] Hence there is a need for robust mechanisms for holding head teachers and senior school managers to account on their school's approach to behaviour and discipline, particularly in a climate where devolution of responsibility for behaviour to individual schools will become the norm and where routine inspection of schools previously judged as outstanding will cease. The Schools White Paper proposes that schools judged to be outstanding in routine inspections will be re-inspected only if there is evidence of decline or widening attainment gaps. The Government aims to work with Ofsted to identify suitable triggers which might indicate a need for re-inspection.[114]

59. The Government's proposals to cease routine inspection of schools rated 'outstanding' may not be conducive to the regular and rigorous external oversight of schools which we consider to be necessary. In particular, changes of leadership can be difficult for schools, and pupils can be quick to sense and to take advantage of any uncertainty among staff about the school's new direction and ethos.

Role of the governing body

60. School inspection is one way of holding schools to account for standards of behaviour; governing bodies can also play an important part. As Sue Bainbridge (representing National Strategies) pointed out, it is also "the governing body's role [...] to challenge the head". Ms Bainbridge referred to work she had undertaken in a school in Sheffield where there were disproportionately high levels of exclusions. The work showed that, where the governing body took a leading role in analysing and challenging school data, it was able to get to the root of problems of behaviour management in the school.[115] Dr John Dunford, former General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, pointed out that governors can also act as an important "early warning system" for the school when parents are not happy.[116] Gillian Allcroft, Policy Manager at the National Governors Association, explained that "the best governing bodies will absolutely know what is going on in their school. The chair will have a good relationship with the head".[117] However, there are schools where the governing body is weak and where the necessary challenge will not be forthcoming.

61. Responding to proposals in the Schools White Paper for the National College to take on the training of governors to equip them in providing robust strategic challenge to head teachers, all witnesses in our final oral evidence session felt this was an excellent idea.[118] However, Dr Dunford added that

it's a great pity that the White Paper has suggested the end of the school improvement partners, because they were providing some degree of external challenge to head teachers, and head teachers, on the whole, welcomed that. Where that external challenge will come from in the future to schools that are not going to be inspected and are not going to have school improvement partners and so on, I am not quite sure. That is something that needs looking at within the White Paper. Is it going to come from governing bodies? If it is, we're back to [...] earlier comment about the skills of governing bodies.[119]

62. Although school governors should be taking a role in challenging poor leadership, we are not confident that this always happens—whether because governors and head teachers do not see this to be their role, or because governing bodies do not know how to go about doing this. The White Paper reinforces the role of school governors, giving them the tools to challenge school leaders more effectively. It also announces that the National College will be responsible for providing high quality training for chairs of governors.[120] We welcome training for chairs of governors, which is to be provided by the National College, and hope to see the highest possible take-up. It is vital that governors are able to challenge and support head teachers effectively to ensure that behaviour policies are applied consistently.

92   See for example Ev 115 [NUT] para 17 Back

93   HMCI Annual Report 2009-10, p32 Back

94   A community, foundation or voluntary school, a community or foundation special school, a maintained nursery school, a pupil referral unit, or a non-maintained special school approved by the Secretary of State Back

95   Ev 114 Back

96   Annex 1 Back

97   Q 232 Back

98   Q 95 Back

99   Q 161 Back

100   Q 163, Gillian Allcroft Back

101   Q 150 Back

102   The Foundation Years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults, report of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, led by the Rt Hon Frank Field MP, December 2010, para 4.12 Back

103   Ev 139; Ev 157 Back

104   Ev 124 Back

105   Qq 27, 29 Back

106   NASUWT, Sink or Swim? Learning lessons from Newly Qualified and Recently Qualified Teachers, 2009 Back

107   Q 42 Back

108   Qq 213, 214, 215, Katharine Birbalsingh, Daisy Christodoulou, Tom Trust Back

109   Ev 131  Back

110   Ev 143 Back

111   Q 80 Back

112   The Importance of Teaching, para 2.39 Back

113   Annex 1 Back

114   The Importance of Teaching, para 6.21 Back

115   Q 124 Back

116   Q 325 Back

117   Q 165 Back

118   Q 326 Back

119   Q 390 Back

120   The Importance of Teaching, para 6.29 Back

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