Seemingly constant ‘Bad Behaviour’ without resolutions can make for a very despairing atmosphere in schools. As leaders, it is our position to support the staff within the moment, as well as find longer-term solutions.
In this situation there are two sets of people we need to support: the staff and the pupils.
This vloggy-blog concentrates on the staff, however it is worth remembering that pupils will be being affected by this too – both the ones causing the most distressing behaviour (who most likely need our support the most), as well as the others who are missing out on their learning as a consequence.
1. Get on the front line.
Find out what’s actually going on. You will most likely have received complaints and reports from staff, pupils, carers and parents on behaviour – find out yourself what’s going on, especially if you are no longer teaching as part of your timetable. This comes with a caveat: you may hear criticism towards the school, your behaviour/relationship policy – maybe even your own management style. At this stage resist the temptation to react or find solutions if possible. Listen. Learn.
Watch your language!
Unfortunately, I have heard too many leaders say something like ‘they’re fine with me.’ This is not helpful for a demoralised member of staff to hear; the underlining message with that is: it’s not the pupils that’s the problem, it’s you. It might be that that is partly true – in that case this member of staff needs individual guidance and support, not an undermining comparison.
2. Provide regular training on behaviour
Whilst all teachers will have had some form of behaviour management training, for some it could have been a couple of decades ago (not always easy to remember when a pupil has a chair above your head), some teaching assistants may have not received any formal training.
Provide regular, relevant training. It doesn’t have to be whole inset days every time – I have two Free Video series on How to manage challenging behaviour in the classroom, aimed at teachers and TAs; and How to support staff to manage challenging behaviour in the classroom, aimed at leadership staff. Both are 3-part, 10 min videos – share these in a staff briefing, department meeting or email them out. Alternatively, you may have some members of staff who are able to lead mini sessions/support for others.
It may be that you have gone past this point, and you do need a wider scale, more in depth overhaul of your behaviour approaches. If so, bring in a behaviour specialist to work alongside your school; to create audits, focus groups with pupils, staff, governors, parents and carers.
3. Staff Wellbeing
There are lots of resources to support staff wellbeing – I have linked to some recommended ones below. Some are more general, other members of staff may need specific emotional wellbeing support through counselling etc. ensure this is available to them: without judgement.
Specifically linked to behaviour could be the workload. I have often seen ineffective behaviour policies, because the workload associated with reporting an incident is so convoluted that the staff don’t get around to doing it, then the consequences for the incidents don’t happen – and the vicious cycle continues.
4. Longer-term strategies
With all the information you’ve gathered, go back to your Behaviour/Relationship policy. Be honest. Is it working? Where are the holes? For example, does it say that after 3 warnings a teacher should call a Senior Leader – but the Senior Leaders are not available when in meetings between 12- 3pm.
It may be that something in the policy needs to change, or it may be that you need to change something within your school that enables the implementation of the policy to be realistic. This may take consultations with various groups across the school community – or again, you may need to hire a Behaviour Specialist to help you with this work.
The linking thread throughout these ideas is remember to be human. Look after yourself in the process and remember that whilst policies, systems and approaches are important, it is vital to realise that you are a human collaborating with other humans to find the best solutions for our young people and their learning.