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When good teaching and behaviour management strategies are just not enough

Jae Bray

We have all had years when, for whatever reason, a number of the new intake is unusually difficult, do not settle and will need more resources and support than other year groups.

But what happens when good teaching, behaviour management and intervention support are just not enough? This is the challenge facing one school (and probably several more) this year.

The school is well used to managing students with a variety of behaviour issues and has a strong team of support staff (over and above teaching assistants) with excellent skills and experience to provide for, and work with, students with diverse behavioural, social and emotional needs. They also work closely with the local multi agency groups to access more specialised/higher level interventions when required. Yet all the experience and efforts had not resolved many of the issues. The academic and behaviour monitoring systems and feedback from staff indicated that there remained 10% of the year group (15 students) who were still moderate level disruptors (mlds). These students had still not made the transition from primary to secondary school, were not making progress in line with targets and were also disrupting the learning of too many classes, mainly in middle sets. (Key issues were frequent calling out, not following staff instructions, not bringing equipment to class, constant arguing with staff and peers, lack of concentration and completion of tasks. During social time they often ended up in scrapes or fights and did not seem to know how to use this time appropriately)

Having exhausted all of the usual interventions, senior management decided a more radical approach was required. The plan was to remove the students from normal classes for six weeks and teach them together, providing a timetable that would include as much of the usual curriculum along with additional literacy and numeracy lessons. Additionally, specific classes on learning to learn, behaviour for learning and specialised sessions by Inclusion staff and Learning Mentors to focus on the social and emotional aspects of not only learning, but also how to manage themselves during break and lunch time. The students would also have a very structured break and lunch, not being able to join other students in general social time until they had shown an ability to manage themselves appropriately and, importantly, return to lessons in an appropriate way, ready to learn.

All the students and their parents were seen by the deputy Headteacher. The concerns and specific issues for each student were explained along with the likely outcome if the student was not able to make changes to their behaviour. All parents were keen to support the school and disappointed that their child had to be taken out of normal class. Only two of the students displayed an ambivalent attitude to the programme.

All staff were briefed on the programme and were asked, where possible, to volunteer to take the group for lessons. Lessons were also to be supported by two additional staff, one of the behaviour team plus a TA. Every lesson was to be carefully monitored with a zero tolerance to the mld aspects. In a lesson a student would be given a reminder, then warning in line with the normal school code but then they would be removed from class to the Learning mentors for an immediate discussion about the problem. They would be returned to class next lesson but if they had to be taken out of class a second time that day they would be sent to the ‘on-call’ room for the rest of the day. Misbehaviour in on-call would result in an immediate isolation and further incidents would result in them being sent home, with the parents needing to bring them back to see an SLT member before return to the group.

The Deputy Headteacher was to take the group for registration and many of the breaks and lunch time sessions. Good behaviour would result in a student having additional privileges; being sent to on-call would result in immediate hour detention after school.

This may seem an extreme programme but the school needed to turn around the students’ behaviour before the end of year 7. The SLT felt that if change was not achieved before the start of yr 8, progress for all students in the year group would be severely affected.

Only time will tell if the programme is successful.

How would you deal with this problem?

Perhaps you have had a similar problem, how did you manage the situation?

What are your views on the school’s programme?

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