‘Poor behaviour in schools cannot be tolerated and that both teachers and pupils have the right to work in an orderly environment’,a quote from Alan Steer who has an extensive background in schools and education and has particular expertise and interest is in Behaviour and Discipline. His report Learning Behaviour,lessons learned, builds on his findings from four interim reports between March 2008 and February 2009. The purpose of Steer’s report was to make recommendations supporting the development of good behaviour and raising behaviour standards higher. Steer’s report is made up of subjective evidence from sources including The Practitioners Group and Ofsted as well as other published reports.
Steer recognises that ‘a clear and consistent approach is essential for teachers and parents, but this needs to be balanced with a recognition that it is the nature of childhood that it is a period when mistakes are made and lessons learned.’ Mistakes made is the key point here and ‘Without opportunities for restoration, punishment really can damage relationships’ (Hook & Vass, 2002). The `Yellow card` idea mentioned in the Steer Report appears to be an effective way of doing this.
Steer is very right to note that ‘Different schools face very different circumstances and the application of a behaviour strategy in one school may be far more challenging than in others. Very few children cannot be taught to improve their behaviour and where firm boundaries are established and maintained, and consistent, caring and intelligent support is provided, successful improvement is more likely to occur.’ In 2005 the Practitioners’ Group identified ten aspects of school practice that, when effective, contribute to the quality of pupil behaviour: a consistent approach to behaviour management, teaching and learning; school leadership;
classroom management, learning and teaching;
rewards and sanctions;
behaviour strategies and the teaching of good behaviour;
staff development and support;
pupil support systems;
liaison with parents and other agencies;
managing pupil transition; and
organisation and facilities.
These are all very valid aspects that most teachers have in place within their classrooms. I feel that a gap that was not recognised fully in the reports by Steer is the consistency of staff. I have worked at an EBD school (9 -19 Yrs) and a rural mainstream Primary school in which behaviour varied to great extents. The most negative behaviour I witnessed was on days when the ‘regular’ member of teaching staff was moved to another part of the school without prior knowledge. Even the usually well-behaved children became disruptive in this situation. It appears that the children found it difficult to adapt to the change in routine. When there is a consistent member of staff children feel secure, they know their boundaries and expectations. Take this away and the security blanket is also removed. Researching the work done by Maslow (1943) this important psychological paper is still referred to by many teaching practitioners today as a way of mapping pupil`s motivation. The second box on his `Hierarchy of Needs` is `Security` which when relating to the classroom setting suggests that pupils need to feel a sense of safety and regulation when they are being taught. This security is achieved by consistency in expectations and I also believe by the consistency of staff.
Chris Barnes, Senior Adviser for EYFS in Cornwall is currently researching this and feels that job shares within the early years have a negative effect on children.
It is important to recognise that another of the core beliefs contained in the Steer Report (2009) is that "Overall standards of behaviour achieved by schools is good and has improved in recent years" (DfES, 2009, pp2). Could this be suggesting that factors such as the media can often distort the image of bad behaviour in schools, making it seem a great deal worse than it actually is....
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