As a headteacher, you know that how a child is feeling is often reflected in their behaviour. Many children have relished a return to the more structured school day routine this year and are happy and thriving in their learning bubbles.
But you will also have some pupils who may be struggling to get back to normality. You are not alone.
In the latest Ofsted briefing, schools noted a deterioration in pupils’ concentration and a reduction in their mental and physical stamina in recent weeks. Some schools also reported that children seem less willing to follow the rules than when they first returned to school in September.
Lockdown has brought new challenges for families, increased the number of vulnerable children in many areas and brought new safeguarding concerns to the fore.
So, today our team of education experts would like to offer you a few ideas to free up more Child-Time and help you ensure that every pupil gets the support and encouragement they need to make good choices, both inside and outside the classroom.
More Child-Time actions
What can I do today?
You know that when pupils are dealing with issues such as bereavement and financial difficulty at home, it can impact their conduct in school.
If you haven’t already done so, now is an excellent time to consider refreshing your school’s approach to behaviour management to ensure it supports and encourages pupils to make good choices.
Separate positive and negative behaviour policies
One option is to separate the rewards and sanctions elements of your school’s behaviour policy. Hence, they run independently of each other so that all children can acknowledge when they demonstrate the behaviour you want to encourage.
A policy that sees positive behaviour points or rewards taken away when a child’s behaviour deteriorates is not motivating for those you are encouraging.
You might want to introduce a positive reinforcement pocket chart for each class bubble, for example, or allocate time at the end of the day when pupils can share compliments to help spread positivity and encourage them to make good choices in lessons.
Then think about how you can design a separate policy focussed on restorative care and consequences for pupils making poor choices.
Accentuate the positives
Focus on positive behaviour by asking teachers to spend some time with their class this week talking about and celebrating the positive choices the children have made. This could be helping a friend with their work, opening the door for an adult or sharing with others.
Teachers could devote five minutes each day to ask the children to write words and phrases on the whiteboard of the choices they are most proud of. Or get them to create a poster on Friday afternoons to highlight their positivity around the school during the week.
The aim is to encourage and motivate children to make good choices in the classroom and the playground.
Order a copy of ‘A School Without Sanctions’
If you need some inspiration, grab yourself a copy of ‘A school without sanctions’, authored by Steven Baker and Mick Simpson, who have worked in education for many years, often in challenging schools.
The book shines a light on some of the reasons why problem behaviour occurs and offers a wealth of suggestions for non-confrontational behaviour management strategies that will provide much food for thought in the coming weeks and months.
What shall I work on next term?
Get a whole-school strategy in place.
Arrange a staff meeting to update the school-wide behaviour management strategy. As part of this, make a clear distinction between what conduct is expected in line with the school’s values, what choices should be recognised with a reward and what will lead to restorative action or non-negotiable consequences.
You might want to introduce a buddy system to pair pupils up with peers who tend to impact each other in class positively. Or share the new strategy with parents to get them on board and support the school from home.
There are many effective non-verbal strategies that you could explore too. Take a look at the exciting ideas in this blog from Teachwire, which gathers 15 top strategies for managing behaviour in primary schools with contributions from heads and teachers.
Having a whole-school plan that’s communicated and shared will make it easier to ensure the new policy is applied consistently across the school, which is key to success.
Support teachers in delivering consistency
Whether your school uses reward charts, badges or golden time to reward pupil conduct, it’s a good idea to maintain consistency across classes and year groups. That way, children don’t need to relearn different rules as they move through school.
Not all staff will have the confidence or experience to deal with more severe issues such as stealing or bullying, so provide additional CPD or training where necessary. This will help teachers develop the skills to identify when pastoral support is appropriate and form go-to strategies for encouraging pupils to make good choices.
Put special dates in the school calendar each term to celebrate and reward the positive choices being made across your school.
Whether it’s an award for kindness offered to an individual child or a badge for the most helpful class, it will give everyone something to work towards and keep the positive message going throughout the school year.
What shall I be working on for the rest of the year?
Measure the impact without overloading teachers
You may want to look at some time-saving options for recording and tracking pupil conduct across the school.
A behaviour tracking system or one linked to your MIS can be quicker and easier to manage and means there’s no need for teachers to log out of one system and into another, saving more Child-Time. You may also want to link to a digital badge or reward system. One example is the Sonar Awards system from Juniper Education. Teachers can also use it to create awards, which are a great motivator for children to make good choices during lessons.
Teachers don’t have to use one system to record pupils’ achievements or homework marks with a single solution. They then log into a separate database to key in details relating to their lessons, creating More Child-Time in the classroom.
Review and tweak behaviour management strategy
Behaviour strategies that worked for 2020/21 may not be as effective next year, so review policies regularly to ensure that low-level disruption and other behavioural issues are identified. Appropriate action is taken to address any underlying pastoral issues.
When every school day counts, you want teachers to be able to encourage children to make good choices and provide the right support at the right time to make a difference.
The strategies that encourage pupils to make good choices in a small, rural infant school may not be as successful in a four-form primary located in an inner-city area. So the time you spend understanding the issues children and families face, and shaping a shared strategy that can be delivered consistently in every classroom, will be time well spent.
The ideas we have provided will help you create a positive learning environment for all, ensure teachers have the confidence and skills to keep pupils’ engaged and on track and generate more Child-Time for staff across your school.
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