Tom Bennett, England’s “behaviour tsar”, has today published a report on behaviour in schools entitled “Creating a Culture – How school leaders can optimise behaviour”.
The report recommends
- Behaviour in schools should be tracked and collated through anonymised surveys.
- Head teachers and prospective head teachers to be given behaviour management training.
- Funding for internal inclusion units in schools.
- More guidance for schools on how to manage behaviour.
- Make schools responsible for excluded pupils with control over alternative provision funding.
- “Further discussion” on SEND funding, including potential pooling of resources/funding.
Good behaviour is important and as Tom Bennett rightly says there must be different strategies that suit the needs of different schools with diverse demographics working in different circumstances. One size doesn’t fit all schools.
He also said,
“You also want them [schools and school leaders] to be inculcating in children fantastic habits, great learning habits but also great habits of being a citizen and a member of a society. So those two things have to go hand in hand, and that’s what really good behaviour means . . . What you’re trying to do is encourage children to flourish as scholars and as people.”
Which is presumably one of the reasons why our government has finally decided that a coherent strategy for the learning and teaching of relationships is long overdue, and in fact must be compulsory in all of England’s schools.
In his radio interview Tom Bennett cited what he said were good examples of behaviour management:
“In schools we went to that had great behaviour we saw lots and lots of good things. For example, one of the things we saw was a really close attention to detail when it came to things like routines. There was a very strong culture which had been communicated to all the members of the school society which they were all very aware of, and by culture, I mean they knew how things were done at that school and there was a lot of consensus about how they could work together to help one another.
Lots of schools will have a side down the corridor where children can walk, and that’s agreed and people make sure that happens and because that happens the school becomes more efficient.”
Admittedly it was a brief interview and we’re sure that Mr Bennett has other strategies to impart (See his suggestions for classroom behaviour management) but as he said, one size doesn’t fit all and for some, having an orderly single-file line of pupils marching down a corridor – potentially disabling conversation and interaction – will not fit the needs of those young people or will be at odds with the school environment, its ethos and its values.
Also, having a culture “communicated” to members of the school community rather than having the community play an integral part in the development and implementation of a coherent behaviour strategy and culture might be inappropriate for many schools. The alternative to direction and regimentation is NOT a free-for-all, and the value of co-owning a shared set of values and processes cannot be underestimated.
The striking omission in his Radio Four interview, Tom Bennett’s article in the TES on his report, and the additional media reports, is that there’s no reference to Ofsted’s judgement category for “Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare”.
Isn’t this something that the Behaviour Tsar might have referred to?
There’s a clear judgement criteria on behaviour management in schools within the current Ofsted Framework, and inspectors are supposed to be making valid, accountable judgements on both this separate behaviour criteria and on how behaviour is managed within the “Leadership and Management” judgement.
When referring to Ofsted Mr Bennett is accurate when he says the problem of poor behaviour is probably under-reported and that “At present, the way we evaluate behaviour isn’t sufficiently nuanced – it’s quite blunt” (or peripheral, or bland, or tokenistic).
Therefore, within his report it’s a pity there isn’t a clear recommendation to ensure that Ofsted inspectors are adequately trained to inspect and effectively judge “whether leaders have the highest expectations for social behaviour among pupils and staff, so that respect and courtesy are the norm”. Or “how well leaders and governors promote all forms of equality and foster greater understanding of and respect for people of all faiths (and those of no faith), races, genders, ages, disability and sexual orientations (and other groups with protected characteristics), through their words, actions and influence within the school and more widely in the community”. Both of these are vitally important to the smooth running of schools and in fostering respectful behaviour in those working and learning in a school environment.
We’re not suggesting that training Ofsted inspectors to make valid and worthwhile comments on the “Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare” judgement category would be a solution to all the behavioural problems within a school. Neither are we suggesting that schools should base their attitude to behaviour policies on the need to “pass” an Ofsted inspection.
However, there are some helpful suggestions within the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, particularly when looking at the grade descriptors, that are certainly worth reference when reporting on behaviour management.
Our own comments on the implementation of the “new” Ofsted Framework and the importance of the “Behaviour” judgement can be seen in these posts:
In them we’ve recommended a personal development pupil tracking system as an effective method of managing both personal development and behaviour (social and learning) – a different approach to behaviour tracking from the one Tom Bennett suggests but potentially having a similar outcome with regard to increasing and encouraging positive behaviour.
We’ll review the report in greater detail in a future post.