Behaviour and Discipline in Schools

Memorandum submitted by Dominic Boddington, Respect4us


1. Developing positive behaviour in schools is a complicated process requiring a focus on individual children and their needs, great school leadership, and a motivated, committed and highly skilled staff.

2. Punishment is ineffective in changing behaviour and making schools more effective as institutions of learning.

3. Good relationships are the key to good discipline.

4. Political pressure to meet targets based on academic performance makes the job of building inclusive schools almost impossible.

About me

5. I have been a teacher since 1975 in a variety of schools and for the last two decades as a school leader in a challenging school in Norwich. I was a teacher co-ordinator of the Norwich Area Schools’ Consortium action research project on pupil disaffection which had published outcomes.

6. I have recently left the public sector to form a CIC working with secondary schools in Norwich to provide alternative education for excluded pupils and those close to exclusion.

How to support and reinforce positive behaviour in schools

7. Develop a collegiate approach

8. Emphasise the crucial importance of relationships

9. Throw out all the old clichés and folklore about teaching. School cultures often turn teachers into control freaks.

10. Shift the grip of the negative cynics who have occupied the same seat in the staffroom for years– The movement of teachers between schools should be routine as in many other countries, a reminder that schools belong to children not the people who work in them.

11. Always treat young people with respect

12. Listen to young people

13. Understand the young person’s needs and starting point

14. Involve the young person in decision making and allow them to take control of their learning

15. Individualise and personalise learning as much as possible,

16. Be non-judgemental in discussing behaviour

17. Treat cultural differences including class cultural differences with respect

18. Model respect, politeness, tolerance and patience at all times.

19. Always be positive – "catch them being good", notice the good stuff,

20. Make sure young people know what their strengths are, not always academic.

21. Praise, praise praise

22. help teachers to analyse their own emotions in dealing with stressful situations. Social workers always get debriefed and counselled – given opportunities to dump their stuff – it’s unheard of in teaching.

23. Be aware that there are no quick fixes. Progress towards improved behaviour requires patient, consistent practice.

24. Never give up. Make sure young people understand you will never give up on them

The nature and level of challenging behaviour in schools, and the impact upon schools and staff

25. In the 35 years since I began teaching, secondary schools have been transformed. They no longer use corporal punishment nor is there the ethos of the military boot camp that used to be commonplace. Teachers are far better trained, far more accountable, far less likely to be alone in a classroom with children and there are many more sources of support than there used to be. The average lesson is far more imaginative and engaging and the majority of children are making more progress with learning than ever (all the data supports this).

26. Children have changed in that time. They are mostly subject to the same media pressures and experiences as adults and as a result mature earlier than they used to. Like most adults when treated with disrespect they will respond in kind. The unquestioning obedience of children to authority is as rare as it has become in the adult world – yet some teachers still behave as though nothing has changed since the time of Dickens. Nonetheless, schools in general are happy places where children are treated with respect.

27. Most comprehensive schools have some pupils who find the school experience alien. From an early age they struggle to make progress and fall behind their peers. They learn patterns of avoidance and behaviours that enable them to maintain their self-esteem, becoming rebels often admired and aped by their peers. In some schools they will be very few; in challenging schools serving areas of deprivation there will be many more.

28. In a secondary school with good leadership, and an energetic and committed staff, it is possible to break these patterns but there are impediments that seem to get greater year by year:

29. Curriculum - The introduction of National Curriculum from 1988 did great damage to the ability of schools to provide a curriculum that met the needs of all pupils. From 2000 it became possible to pick up again the threads of the new curriculum that had been in development in the 1980s, in particular the centrality of social and emotional aspects of learning. However, this was only at KS4 and schools were and still are under immense pressure to meet academic targets.

30. Poor teaching – there are still some shockingly poor teachers in schools. There are teachers who don’t like children. There are teachers who only like teaching children who have similar manners and social skills to them. There are teachers with appalling communication skills. There are teachers with only a couple of broken tools in their behaviour management tool kit. Good teachers have an ability to form a relationship with each child as a unique individual.

31. Schools - schools should be places where the needs of all children can be met. Unfortunately this has never been the case and all the trends of recent years – academies, targets, league tables, competition, 5A*-C etc – are pressures that drive schools away from being genuinely inclusive. There are children who will not achieve academic success but are nonetheless capable of making a massive contribution to their communities and society. In the inclusive school their talents, skills and achievements would have parity with academic achievement. Yet at the moment schools where 71% of children achieve only non-academic success are labelled as failing. There will inevitably be disaffection and behaviour problems in schools until we recognise that education is about more than examination passes, until we adopt a whole child approach to learning, and we acknowledge the centrality of relationships in pedagogy.

Children know that the relationship is all important – when we discuss options at KS4 they want to know who the teacher is before deciding on the subject. We tell them that this shouldn’t matter to them but we are absolutely wrong! The subject is far less important than the relationship.

Approaches taken by schools and local authorities to address challenging behaviour, including fixed-term and permanent exclusions

32. Working in challenging schools I have seen it all! One becomes a little cynical when one sees the same failed strategy being adopted for the third time in twenty years. Exclusion rooms, inclusion rooms, isolation rooms, three strikes, zero tolerance, detentions, Saturday detentions.

33. The main findings of the NASC (Norwich Area Schools’ Consortium) research project on rewards and sanctions* were that

rewards(including praise) were far more effective than sanctions in shaping the desired culture

systems had to be followed and used by all staff or they broke down

consistency was key

* Shreeve , Ann and Boddington , Dominic (2002) Students’ perceptions of rewards and sanctions in Researching Disaffection with Teachers edited by John Elliott and Barbara Zamorski special issue of the journal Pedagogy, Culture and Society Vol 10, No 2 2002 pp 239-256

34. For the majority of young people disapproval from a teacher who is respected is the only sanction necessary. For serious incidents restorative justice works. Generally sanctions further damage relationships and for the most damaged young people school sanctions can never be anything but ridiculous and laughable.

35. Few schools exclude young people without much soul searching. Those excluded are almost always the most damaged children for whom it is yet another rejection confirming their own self-view of worthlessness. The reason given is always the greater good of the majority.

36. Respect4us exists to provide schools with an alternative. We take young people who are in danger of exclusion or who are simply not thriving. Relationships are central to everything we do. We work on our young people’s behaviour, through listening and acknowledging the issues in their lives. We work with them to help them identify their own needs, help them select worthwhile projects that they want to do and we help them to construct futures for themselves. We talk with our young people about behaviours that we find unacceptable but they know our support for them is unconditional – they will never be chucked out, we will never give up on them. This work has to be small scale and done by committed staff. The ethos is that of the loving family. We build relationships and use restorative practice. There are no sanctions. We involve and share our practice with parents.

Ways of engaging parents and carers in managing their children’s challenging behaviour

37. By the time young people are in secondary school and the school is ready to send them to Respect4us parents are very often in despair – embarrassed, angry, and defensive. We deal with behaviour issues ourselves and only when we think it might have a positive impact on the young person do we refer issues to the parent. Instead we tell them the good news. We report on progress. We find the young person’s strengths and qualities and write about them – we tell the parents, we tell the school, above all we tell the young person and then we tell them again.

We make our young people proud of what they achieve with us and make them want to share it with their parents. Meetings with parents are informal and as un-school-like as we can make them.

How special educational needs can best be recognised in schools’ policies on behaviour and discipline

38. Throughout my time in teaching there has been a deep philosophical divide between those who believe that once children have crossed the school threshold they should all be treated in the same way and those who believe that allowance has to be made for the differences in life experience, social culture, learning ability and needs of children. This divide explains the contradictions between policy and practice in many schools. Like successful families schools need to be flexible institutions, able to waive rules and bend structures to accommodate the child who is different.

The efficacy of alternative provision for pupils excluded from school because of their behaviour

39. Where this is of the boot camp style it has little long term impact (there are plenty of examples). Provision that sets out to engage, that deals with the whole child etc etc can have an impact. Our belief in the latter led me and my colleagues to leave the maintained sector and set up an independent alternative provision. See

Links between attendance and behaviour in schools

40. The causes of poor attendance are normally the same as the causes of poor behaviour. Sometimes schools give up chasing attendance because some teachers would rather not have the child present. At Respect4us we don’t give up. If the young person is not present and there is no reason we go and get them out of bed.

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.

41. This is all about giving teachers more weapons when what they need are more tools. Introducing these will send out a get-tough message that might be good politics but don’t expect them to make any difference. Have the highest prison rates in Europe turned back the tide of crime in Britain?

September 2010