School leaders on six-figure salaries need to get behaviour policy right

Having taken down the tree and slowly climbed down from the highs of Christmas, it was back to my Sheffield school this week in an attempt to get 2020 off to a roaring start.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 2:49 pm
Keeping children in lessons is admirable, but if it affects the learning of the other 29 people then that problem needs to be taken elsewhere – as happens at most schools.

Perhaps predictably given it was the run-up to Christmas, there was a dip in behaviour towards the end of December as excitement built up and, quite frankly, teachers were on their knees.

Kids were rowdier in the corridors and there were more distractions in lessons, but the New Year is a time for fresh starts and a chance to make a good impact on teaching.

Sadly, I’ve been shocked and disappointed to see that some of the children have come back in the same frame of mind, meaning that behaviour at the school continues to nose-dive and life is more difficult for everyone.

Chatter with other teachers during December and this opening week has confirmed other schools are also experiencing some increasingly challenging behaviour.

We’re not talking about throwing chairs around and fighting with staff, but are looking at more situations when argumentative and confrontational kids refuse to follow simple rules and disrupt activities in the class.

While the blame for this fall in standards lies chiefly with the kids themselves, there is also a massive need to address school policy because every time a class is disrupted it means the majority of children in there are being let down by teachers and senior management.

A school that does not tackle poor behaviour is a failing school where standards will slip, and it’s the majority of well-intentioned children that are the ones to suffer. It may seem like a patronising generalisation, but getting the school behaviour policy right is not as hard as it might appear, and it should be something dealt with effectively by school leaders on six figure salaries.

There are some secondary schools now operating a silent corridor’ system in which children swap lessons with unquestioned perfect behaviour, and while I think that ‘robotic’ approach is a little extreme and perhaps unhealthy it’s a stark contrast to the rowdy behaviour this week.

It happens because there isn’t enough teacher presence on corridors, it happens because some senior managers are rarely seen patrolling, it most significantly it happens because not all teachers are team players.

Far too many teachers ‘let stuff go’ on corridors when they should be talking to kids and logging it, be it boisterous play, bad language, pushing, poor uniform or football chanting. Letting stuff go daily is akin to letting the school go; if only three out of five teachers are addressing issue on corridors the problem isn’t going to get sorted.

The most ludicrous thing I’ve heard about this week is from a school that has dropped its isolation room for students who disrupt lessons – instead choosing to send in a senior teacher to ‘have a word’ and keep them in. Keeping children in lessons is admirable, but if it affects the learning of the other 29 people then that problem needs to be taken elsewhere. Adopting a ‘softly, softly’ approach on poor behaviour will lead to a dramatic fall in standards, as the school will learn and then reverse the policy.

Apparently, the reason for doing it is because kids ‘wanted’ to go to isolation, but if you bundle every isolation incident with an after-school detention then perhaps the isolation room wouldn’t be viewed as a haven.

Meanwhile, ill-judged reward programmes in some Sheffield schools increasingly overlook those children who are putting in good work every day and instead shower poorly behaved students for making slight increases.

Yes, it’s right to motivate all students, but I’ve noticed a real anger amongst some traditionally ‘good’ children who see their consistently positive approach taken for granted while others are showered in pizzas and visits because they have not been sent out of lessons for a week. If 2020 got off to a bad start in your school, let’s hope the issues are quickly ironed out.