Memorandum submitted by The British Psychological
The British Psychological Society thanks the
Education Select Committee for the opportunity to contribute to
The British Psychological Society ("the
Society") is the learned and professional body, incorporated
by Royal Charter, for psychologists in the United Kingdom. The
Society has a total membership of almost 50,000 and is a registered
Under its Royal Charter, the key objective of
the Society is "to promote the advancement and diffusion
of the knowledge of psychology pure and applied and especially
to promote the efficiency and usefulness of members by setting
up a high standard of professional education and knowledge".
The Society maintains the Register of Chartered
Psychologists and has a code of conduct and investigatory and
disciplinary systems in place to consider complaints of professional
misconduct relating to its members. The Society is an examining
body granting certificates and diplomas in specialist areas of
professional applied psychology.
This response was prepared on behalf of the
Society by Professor Pam Maras (University of Greenwich), and
Dr Patrick Leman (Royal Holloway, University of London), with
specific expertise in the area of pupil behaviour and discipline.
Professor Judi Ellis
Chair, Research Board
The Society represents a wide range of expertise
in the field of education and behaviour, both at academic level
and on the ground via the Educational Psychologists' community
currently advising schools and Local Authorities. As such, we
welcome the opportunity to contribute to these discussions. The
response is based upon evidence from psychological and related
Educational Psychology Services work
closely with other agencies at individual, organisational and
The term anti-social behaviour can be
unhelpful because it implies a punitive approach and does not
take account of the range and complexity of causes.
Over-individualisation of pupils' behaviour
fails to take account of the social context or pupils' individual
agency and responsibility.
Young people can become more negative
about school at a time when they are required to make important
educational and personal choices
Schools are not independent of communitiesthere
is evidence that clusters of schools operating together can impact
on exclusion rates.
Engaging parents and families is crucial:
this engagement needs to be carried out within the context of
the communities within which schools are located.
Individual agency (and consequential
responsibility) within a welfare context is likely to be the most
conducive to positive change.
Research has shown that pupils with behavioural
problems are not a homogenous group and that such pupils can be
identified within at least eight different categories.
The disciplinary climate of schools,
school ethos and school leadership is an important factor.
Psychologists have a key role in bringing
scientific rigour to the design and evaluation of interventions.
Psychologists have documented successful
interventions working at the institutional, the classroom and
the individual pupil levels, with teachers and with pupils and
Psychological interventions address both
pragmatic strategies and the intense emotions that often surround
serious behaviour difficulties.
Published accounts document psychologists'
involvement in successful mediation between teachers and parents
and in devising joint strategies that have produced significant
improvements with KS1 & 2 pupils originally judged by their
teachers as the most difficult they had encountered.
Pupil educational choices and opportunities
at Key Stage 3 and 4 need to allow for those pupils not Able and/or
inclined to follow single routes to higher and further education
Psychological research can make a central contribution
to this inquiry through both empirical research and the systematic
collation of the experience of practitioners such as educational
psychologists and clinical child psychologists. As a scientific
discipline, psychology is well-placed to provide an evidence base
for effective intervention to improve pupil behaviour and learning
at both the individual and school level, and more widely to inform
policy decisions. The Society has been active in linking scientific
evidence in relation to different types of behaviour difficulties
and guidelines for practice (eg British Psychological Society,
1998; 2000; 2008).
1. Supporting and reinforcing positive behaviour
The Society welcomes the focus of the inquiry
on supporting and reinforcing positive behaviour; well-established
evidence from psychology suggests that this is most likely to
be fruitful. The following points reflect psychological research
in this area:
1.1 Over-individualisation of pupils' behaviour,
fails to take account of social context or pupils individual agency
and responsibility (Norwich, in press*). Approaches located in
restorative justice principles, which require engagement of all
and focus upon restoring relationships address this deficit.
1.2 Teachers' perceptions about the causes
of pupils' behaviour are important factors in the way they subsequently
respond (Maras, 1996; Maras et al., 1997, 2000; Mavropoulou &
Padeliadu, 2002; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Weiner, 1992).
1.3 Research on effective interventions
includes: peer mediation around bullying (Smith, 1999), "Circles
of Friends" interventions (Newton et al., 1995, Frederickson
& Turner, 2003), social skills training (Maddern et al., 2004),
peer tutoring and mentoring (Maras, 2001; Maras et al., 2000;
Southwick, Morgan, Vythilingam, & Charney, 2005) and moral
reasoning (Kuhn & Udell, 2003; Leman & Björnberg,
1.4 Psychologists have found that early
intervention work with teachers reduces disaffection and improves
pupils' behaviour (BPS, 2009; Cooper & Whitebread, 2007; Murphy,
2005). Clarity in communicating successfully with pupils with
conduct problems is essential; aggressive adolescents can attribute
ambiguous teachers' intentions as hostile and personal (Wyatt
and Haskett, 2001).
2. Understanding challenging behaviour by
pupils in schools and its impact
2.1 Challenging behaviour generates intense
emotions in staff, parents and pupils. Psychological interventions
to help teachers manage deleterious and demoralising emotional
responses have been positively evaluated (Bozic & Carter,
2002; Hanko, 1999; Stringer et al., 1992)
2.2 There is persistence of commonly reported
sex differences in the prevalence and type of behaviour difficulties;
teachers' perceptions of young men's emotional difficulties are
significantly lower than their estimations of young women's, compared
with perceptions of behavioural difficulties (Maras & Cooper,
2.3 The nature of difficult behaviour, and
how to address it, change with age; teenagers tend to become more
negative around the ages of 13 to 15 (Maras et al, 2007) and show
stronger affiliation with their peers and lower affiliation with
their schools or families (Maras, in press*). This is also the
age when they are now required to make important decisions about
their education, including GCSEs, which will affect their future
educational and employment opportunities. Life events such as
school change, educational stress and general life worries often
co-occur at this time (Maras et al., 2006). If at this critical
time pupils do not have adequate support systems then anti-social
behaviour becomes more likely.
2.4 Changes in adolescence, including neurological
changes are likely to impact on emotions and behaviour (eg see
Eisenberg et al., 2005; Sisk & Zehr, 2005). Pupils struggling
with the transitional process may manifest their difficulties
in sudden outbursts of inappropriate behaviour or detachment from
their new environment (Morgan (1999). Kee Tony (2003), found positive
correlations between negative attributional style and self-reported
school discipline problems, such as the use of foul language,
bullying, habitual lateness, substance use, property damage, cheating
2.5 DeWit et al. (2000) reported correlations
between school culture characterised by perceptions of low teacher
and classmate support, pupil conflict, unfair school rules and
disciplinary practices, and low pupil autonomy and low attachment
to learning and peer approval of deviance.
3. Approaches taken by schools and local
authorities to address challenging behaviour, including fixed-term
and permanent exclusions
3.1 Professionals' perceptions about young
people are likely to affect young people's attitudes towards schools,
subsequent behaviour and their own roles as agents in changing
that behaviour in a negative way (Maras, Brosnan, Faulkner, Montgomery
& Vital, 2006).
3.2 Reid (2008) suggests that at least 10
aspects are crucial to a framework and strategies for improving
school behaviour and attendance: school leadership; school transitions;
the quality of pastoral support; training and professional development;
internal school structures and organisation; parental involvement;
pupils' voices; early intervention; multi-agency working; and
finally, the role of the education social work service.
3.3 Young offenders sentenced in court have
often been excluded from school. Parsons (2009) has shown that
an alternative curriculum, whether managed in school or at other
sites, is a key strategy for keeping young people involved with
education where they might otherwise be on the streets.
3.4 School ethos is important. Well-disciplined
schools create a whole-school environment that is conducive to
good discipline rather than reacting to particular incidents.
Prevention rather than punishment is central. Head teachers play
a key role in developing policies and practices alongside other
key members of staff, and teachers as a whole are committed to
the pupils and their work. Most routine discipline problems are
dealt with by teachers themselves, and there are strong links
with parents and community agencies (Wayson et al., 1982).
3.5 Schools with high levels of communal
organisation show more orderly behaviour. Schools differ in their
degree of community, collegial relations being central to this,
coupled with a role for teachers which frequently bring them into
contact with other staff and pupils outside of the classroom (Bryk
& Driscoll, 1988).
3.6 Attitudes of staff, particularly senior
management and head teachers, are important in explaining the
different rates of exclusions between similar schools (Maras et
al., in press*).
There is a tendency for higher rates of exclusion in schools where
staff believe that they do not have the power to address issues
of poor behaviour (Maxwell, 1987).
3.7 Secondary schools with low levels of
disruptive behaviour have pastoral care systems with the aim of
enhancing educational progress. Tutors are the core of pastoral
care, pastoral care for teachers is in evidence and the school
climate promotes discussion of disruptive behaviour without recrimination
3.8 Positive outcomes have been documented
from the adoption of multi-disciplinary teams within schools,
and on-site learning support (Hallam & Castle, 1999a; 2001)
as well as following the employment of home-school links workers
(Hallam & Castle, 1999b; Castle & Hallam, 2002).
3.9 Behaviour audits enable schools to identify
particular difficulties, allowing schools to explore issues relating
to school climate, policies and practices across the school, as
well as identifying those pupils at risk of exclusion who may
then be offered additional support.
3.10 Benefits have been identified from
the appointment of lead behaviour professionals, learning mentors,
home-school links workers, Behaviour and Educational Support Teams,
nurture groups, alternative curricula, parenting programmes and
therapeutic activities. The most effective schemes are those where
there is whole school support, and which are integrated into whole
3.11 Classroom teachers need to establish
an "activity system" which includes attention to goals,
tasks, social structure, timing and pacing and resources. These
activities need to be planned and managed to support good behaviour
(Doyle, 1990). Where teachers are pressured to take increased
responsibility for standards of attainment they tend to become
more controlling and the development of learner autonomy is reduced
with potentially negative effects on behaviour (Ryan et al., 1985).
3.12 Pupils can participate in addressing
behaviour issues by engaging with school councils and school leadership
programmes. Pupils need to internalise the need for responsible
behaviour and value it for the benefits which accrue to themselves
as well as others. Strategies for fostering and developing prosocial
attitudes should be explored and developed alongside those targeting
4. Engaging parents and carers in managing
their children's challenging behaviour
4.1 Tensions can often exist between teachers
and parents around instances of difficult behaviour (Hanko, 1999,
Dowling & Osborne, 1995). Psychological research has demonstrated
that teachers, parents and pupils can often hold clashing beliefs
the major causes of difficult behaviour
in schools (Miller et al., 2000, Miller et al., 2002; Norwich,
Cooper & Maras, 2002); teachers consistently see home backgrounds
as the principal cause of the misbehaviour and a large
scale national study involving the parents and teachers of over
2,000 pupils found that parents and teachers differed significantly
in their estimations of the extent of an individual child's difficulties;
the ways in which parents can most effectively
support schools in managing behaviour, (Miller et al., 1998);
the persons who are most able to effect
positive changes (Miller & Black, 2001).
4.2 Systematic collations of highly successful
interventions involving educational psychologists, teachers and
parents have revealed the nature of the consultative skills displayed
by psychologists in moving potentially explosive situations towards
positive outcomes valued by all parties (Miller, 2003).
4.3 Studies highlight the value of incorporating
support for parents or caregivers into interventions. A wide range
of proven parenting programmes is now available including Parent
Support Advisers, dedicated expert parenting practitioners and
the increased availability of "Think Family" services.
although the majority of parents attend these programmes voluntarily,
some must to do so because they have been issued with a Parenting
Contract or Order (DCFS, 2010a).
5. How special educational needs can best
be recognised in schools' policies on behaviour and discipline
5.1 Pupils with behaviour difficulties are
not a homogeneous group but can be typified under at least eight
headings, including: delinquency, emotional difficulties, behavioural
difficulties, emotional and behavioural difficulties, social problems,
challenging behaviour associated with learning difficulties, and
mental health problems (Maras, 2001). Individual pupils rarely
fall under one category and they therefore require different and
5.2 The term anti-social behaviour has a
generality about it that encompasses both disturbed and disturbing
behaviour (Norwich, in press*). The 2009 Home Office definition
of anti-social behaviour which informed a policy framework with
powers to address the regeneration of disadvantaged areas, gave
powers to antisocial behaviour that could be applied to 10-17
year olds (Norwich, in press*). This definition does not lend
itself easily to a special needs framework within which the types
of difficulties encountered by many pupils with disturbed behaviour
might be best located.
5.3 It is important to distinguish between
school level processes and the exceptional needs of certain individual
pupils. Today, most pupils with SENs are educated in mainstream
schools; mainstream education and the nature and level of support
that they receive will vary from region to region.
5.4 Research shows that young people attending
behavioural support units and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) have
accurate perception of their behavioural and conduct difficulties.
In the same study, young people scoring high on the hyperactivity
tended to attribute significant amounts of blame to themselves
for negative events, suggesting a greater tendency towards problems
in these areas (Maras et al., 2006); evidence suggests that high
levels of negative attributional style in childhood are linked
to later depression in adulthood (Hilsman & Garber, 1995).
5.5 Current methods of identifying young
people's difficulties in school and the subsequent targeting of
appropriate interventions remain very much dependent on teachers'
and others' judgements rather than common agreed criteria.
5.6 Tabassam and Grainger (2002) found that
pupils with learning disabilities and/or AD/HD had an overall
negative attributional style, whereas typically achieving pupils
report an overall positive attributional style for academic success
5.7 Ofsted (2003) reports that only one
third of secondary schools adequately meet the needs of pupils
with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties; in fact 64%
of the pupils given permanent exclusions in that same year had
special educational needs (Boyle & Goodall, 2005, as sited
in McIntyre-Bhatty, 2008).
6. Alternative provision for pupils excluded
from school due to their behaviour
6.1 Improving behaviour in school depends
on addressing a range of inter-related issues at the whole-school,
classroom and individual pupil level (Gottredson et al., 1993).
6.2 A distinction is commonly made between
the extent to which orderly behaviour can be brought about by
effective school policies and classroom management skills, and
the size of that proportion of pupils who require specialist and
6.3 Research in primary schools has shown
that even pupils judged by their teachers to be most extreme in
their behaviour can be "brought around" by effective
interventions devised between teachers and educational psychologists
6.4 Opportunities for pupils who are not
inclined, or best suited, to follow current conventional educational
routes geared toward further education are common across Europe
and elsewhere; however, they are more generally only offered to
pupils as a last resort as part of a portfolio of alternative
6.5 Research and practice in psychology
has shown that effective school level processes can positively
influence some pupils judged extremely difficult to manage (Miller,
2003). Conversely, some detailed individual management strategies,
with their roots in psychological research, have been shown to
have wider implications for more general practice within schools
6.6 In terms of these interventions with
individual pupils, a large and convincing evidence-base demonstrates
the effectiveness of approaches based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
(Graham, 2004) and Solution Focused Brief Therapy (Rhodes &
Ajmal, 1995, Young & Holdrof, 2003).
7. Links between attendance and behaviour
Lloyd-Nesling (2006) provides evidence linking
pupil disaffection in areas of socio-economic disadvantage to
effective or ineffective school leadership. The evidence from
research suggests that effective school leadership can be improved
in terms of managing pupils' behaviour and attendance by:
Encouraging parents and the wider community
to feel part of the school process;
Creating stability in the school's organisational
Being consistent with disciplinary, behaviour
and attendance policies;
Encouraging senior pupils to act as role
Encouraging pupil involvement in the
day-to-day school life and implementing a culture of shared visions
and goals, high expectations and a positive ethos; and
Addressing issues of bullying, including
verbal and cyber bullying (as cited in Reid, 2008).
8. The Government's proposals regarding teachers'
powers to search pupils, removal of the requirement for written
notice of detentions outside school hours, and the extent of teachers'
disciplinary powers, as announced by the Department on 7 July[MU1].
8.1 We recognise perennial concerns about
the balance between pupil behaviour and discipline and the appropriate
provision and tensions between the care/welfare and the justice/control
approaches (Macleod, 2006; Norwich, in press*).
8.2 There may be times that require urgent
school action. A key factor in managing pupil behaviour relates
to the disciplinary climate of schools. Longstanding but still
valid research identified four types of climate: controlled (low
misbehaviour, severe punishment); conflictual (high misbehaviour,
severe punishment); libertarian (high misbehaviour, light punishment);
autonomous (low misbehaviour, light punishment) (Cohen & Thomas,
8.3 It is clear from work in low and zero
excluding schools and Local Authorities that managed moves and/or
alternatives to exclusion, that these approaches are likely to
be more fruitful and less socially and financially costly.
We hope that these initial comments are useful
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19 References marked "in press*" in this
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full reference list Back