Why don’t schools nail behaviour?


In most schools I know of, there seems to always be a lack of organisation in the behavioural system. Bearing in mind behaviour is one of the largest factors in school success and teacher well being..

Why don’t schools nail behaviour?

I’ll explain what I mean by a behaviour system. A behaviour system is something that means that wherever certain behaviours are exhibited by a student there is a clear, published process that is somehow ‘documented’ and with a specific consequence or consequences.

The important aspects are:

  • Everyone knows that if X happens, then Y happens. It’s published, visible and referred to.
  • Everyone follows the system (and if not professional discussions are had). No-one has their own rules in their classroom.
  • Any exceptions are made clear under the lines of fairness not equality
  • The ‘paperwork’ or e-paperwork are manageable, useful, make sense and don’t seriously increase  the workload to the extent that it’s easier to ignore the behaviour than deal with it.
  • If paper/forms/report cards are used they are clear,minimal,published to all, link into the whole school system and most importantly there is an easily accessible supply around the school, available at all times.
  • There are clear stages where a range of people may be involved (in 99% of cases) but each stage must be completed satisfactorily before the next kicks in.
  • The system covers all aspects of school policy where action needs to be taken e.g if school policy is no mobile phones, the system must have a clear consequence of using a mobile phone

It seems so simple yet so many schools fail to do a number of these.

In the schools I worked with that are struggling these core systems are missing and it comes down to individual teachers to create their own system. It works for them but doesn’t contribute to whole school successful behaviour management.

In schools that don’t encounter much negative behaviour without a clear system, things fall apart when it’s needed.

So, if a simple system can seriously impact the day-to-day life of a teacher, why don’t schools do it?

9 thoughts on “Why don’t schools nail behaviour?

    • The binary system seems like a good solution for helping those who want to work by removing disruptions in the class but how are we then ensuring that no one is left behind and we give every pupil an opportunity to do the best that they individually can?

      All learning, behaviour and habits are borne from the unconscious mind. They are a product of upbringing, nature and nurture, the previous experiences of the child and thus the attitudes towards learning that this ‘model of the world’ brings.

      All behaviours therefore usually have a positive intent for the perpetrator. They want attention, they are bored and looking for excitement, they are a cry for help or they are trying to distract everyone around them from making judgements about their intelligence by not trying or mis-behaving.

      What is done in the isolation unit to get to the bottom of the thinking of the student? Thoughts create feelings and feelings create behaviours. Only by dealing with the thought patterns of the student can we begin to reframe the thinking and feelings which cause these behaviours. A holistic view of every child is needed and specially trained teachers working at the mental health level to change mindsets as well as take away the audience.

  1. I think its the consistency of consequences that is also an issue. We have a ‘stages’ system of behaviour at a whole-school level but the consistency at a) what constitutes a ‘level 2’ or a ‘level 3’ that causes most issues and b) the consequence issued. A ‘detention’ with the class teacher is supposed to be the consequence at ‘Level 3’ but there is no consistency as to what the pupil should be doing in that time. Some teachers have pupils doing admin tasks – sorting sheets etc, others will have them sit there in silence, doing work that they missed or writing out lines.

    At what level of specificity should the school have in its behaviour policies. I am towards total control. At present we have good behaviour, but I wouldn’t say it has been ‘nailed’ largely because there is so much inconsistency at the above levels. Good, but not ‘impeccable’ as Tom Sherrington has been aiming for.

  2. Quite simply fear stops schools from doing this. Fear of reprisals from a higher body eg, LA or Academy chain head if too many pupils are getting the higher punishments such as suspension or exclusion. Also fear of parental complaints and subsequent offence on local reputation. There is also a genuine lack of options for students who are unable to cope in the mainstream sausage factory education model where 30 kids to a class is the norm.

  3. Fear seems like a large factor. All the tightenings of school behaviour I’ve seen/heard about have followed a pattern of getting a lot worse before getting a lot better. Combine that with the idea that poor behaviour is caused by weak pedagogy, and I can understand the temptation to bumble on without a clear structure.
    What I find worse is when a school has a behaviour policy that looks clear enough on paper, but has an explicit or unspoken “use this if you must, but expect to be questioned about your teaching afterwards” clause. I once worked in a school which introduced a rule saying that pupils had to follow reasonable instructions from staff. It worked brilliantly for about a week, until it became clear how narrowly “reasonable” was defined.

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  6. You nailed it.
    Transparency, consistency and accountability. All it needs is a strong enough Head/SLT to “enforce” it (like it would need much enforcement) across the staff.
    I bet students would appreciate it too. Gives well-behaved students a bit more of an opportunity to be “seen” by the teacher. Gives badly-behaved students a structure and routine that they often crave, due to a lack of consistency in their lives beyond the classroom.
    Top notch!

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