There is quite a loud demand currently on social media and in educational publications for the implementation of tough whole school behaviour systems. Our profession is worried that we are losing potentially good teachers due to the poor behaviour of students and the lack of support within schools to ensure that teachers can teach and students can learn in an environment where excellent behaviour allows that to happen. There have also been highly publicised discussions between new Free Schools, behaviour Tsars and so on and supporters of ‘zero based tolerance’ and their child centred antagonists. In our own microcosm of MCHS there are the same discussions but they aren’t really channelled into ‘traditionalists v progressives’ and the terms wouldn’t really mean too much!
Whole school behaviour systems may also be interpreted differently as a definition and I would have thought that most schools had some kind of policy that was imposed across the school but perhaps not all have agreed and discussed criteria, centralised detentions and administration, built in systems of rewards/consequences and so on. To be honest, whatever system you have, unless it is fully supported, consistently applied, makes a real difference to learning and teaching and has the weight of leadership behind it; it won’t work and so it doesn’t matter what it is called! It’s also very easy to shout and call for systems to be put in place, but not so easy to do it. I do get really frustrated when I see populist tweets calling for strict all-encompassing systems of any nature e.g. feedback, assessment not just BFL, but no follow up to how their own school has achieved this successfully or at least what their policy is. It may be easier when you are a new school with a small staff and a new students who you can educate to your ways but the ‘turning a tanker’ analogy is a real one for many school leaders. That doesn’t mean of course that it can’t be done and nor am I saying that ours is a good way. I’m just sharing what we have talked about and agreed on because I think that as many schools as possible should be part of the discussion. It’s a warts and all shared experience and it may have a relevance and interest for others. Is it a solution? Time will tell!
As well as the retention issue and natural desire to have good behaviour to enable learning and teaching to happen, each school will have its own individual needs and school systems can never be a ‘1 size fits all’ scenario. Our main concern was that although we have worked very hard on the mind-set of our students over the last few years so that they were far better prepared to learn than they were, the new G.C.S.E. examinations and curriculum demands frightened us [and them] Early discussions amongst ourselves suggested that perhaps only our most able students would be able to achieve well in/access the challenging learning that is now going to be needed. I’m not going to go into great detail on our school profile, you can see it on any of the public data areas, but in terms of progress and Ofsted, we have perhaps punched above our weight for a long time and there is a positivity and almost aggressive approach here to taking on any learning barriers. Our school vision for ALL in our community is ‘Inclusive Excellence for ALL’ and although we mean it, we were still worried! If some of our students weren’t ready to learn straightaway, didn’t have the right equipment, hadn’t completed homework, wasted time being late and not properly attired and we didn’t do something about this; our vision was merely words and not reality.
Both students and staff were involved in the initial surveys to find out exactly what their thinking was on our current behaviour for learning policy. The name itself gives a clue to the age of the system which was introduced 12 years or so ago. I had borrowed some ideas from a SFE course, I think delivered by Ninestyles School, and after a staff discussion and with behaviour LA colleagues, we had a very early BFL system with centralised detention rotas, enforced criteria of rewards and punishments and although it trialled with 1 troublesome year group, the staff quickly asked that it cover the whole school and I am convinced that despite some inconsistency, it was a key factor helping the school to improve massively over the years before our last Ofsted inspection. However time moves on and I was listening to concerns and moved as quickly as possible this year to find evidence for what would be a more effective way of managing behaviour. Students were asked to discuss questions about behaviour and their wellbeing in their tutor group and I shared both the questions and a summary of their views on the school bulletin which goes to all parents and governors.
Student Survey Xmas 2016
All of our tutor groups were invited to discuss some question re our school vision and issues leading from ensuring that all students are able to achieve excellence in all of their lessons. The questions are below.
- Did you notice the school vision had changed? It would be an interesting start to your discussion if you talked about what you think the words mean and why you think that we chose them.
- If we do have a vision of what our school should offer to you; it is important that you tell us if what we are saying actually is 1] what you think we should be offering, 2] is actually happening right now or needs more support put in place.
- Our vision wants to offers quality teaching to ALL students in all classes and all year groups and support to all students when appropriate-is this happening? Is the challenge different in some subjects or year groups? Are expectations of your learning always high in every subject and every year group?
- Do you as an individual have a positive enough mind-set towards your learning? Is your behaviour good enough to allow others to learn well? What kind of attitudes and behaviour get in the way of excellent learning for all-what do you suggest our action should be if this is the case?
- There are times when you may not feel ready to learn-you might be worried about something, you might feel poorly, you may need to talk to someone. If you have felt like not being able to learn as you would want to, has support been available and have we supported you so that you have been able to make the most of classroom and extra-curricular learning opportunities?
Our students are always honest and enjoy the opportunity to give their opinions! Some of the students liked the new vision, others preferred the old one, which they found easier to understand, although, once they had discussed the new one, they could see why it was important. Some worried that constant excellence was a tough ask [it should be!] and 1 group pointed out that perhaps the vision was more to show others about us-it is important that our own local community has a clear understanding of what we are and what is important to us. The biggest issue raised was probably low level disruption that was annoying and preventing learning as it should be at certain times. Nobody felt unsafe or that behaviour management was weak but that we should make the current MC system tougher, take away a couple of stages, cut chat/any messing, any delays to learning etc. They were quite adamant about this and interestingly the staff in their survey, agreed and the MC system will be tweaked and shared again over the coming weeks with suggested changes. The new examinations and curriculum do expect very high standards of focus and a readiness for learning that isn’t easy for all of our students, and we need to help them develop the resilient mind-set that is needed to be successful. Thank you to all who participated.
Our staff were asked these questions.
I need your ideas and suggestions to make us even better in 2017!
The BFL/MC [Meols Cop] system is 12 years old now and was an innovative and unusual whole school approach when introduced. It was initially designed to deal with a badly behaved year group and then staff, in the following year, asked that it be used for all years with a staff rota of all teachers. In the early days only the MC4/5s were recorded and now, as the focus has moved to deal with low level disruption too, this information is supposed to be monitored by learning tutors and is shared with parents every 6 weeks.
My name appeared most on the rota because it was my idea and I wrote the rota! I would imagine that the use of non-teachers to run the detentions is a popular one but is the whole thing fit for purpose anymore? The weaknesses have always been that the students [and staff] complain that MCs aren’t given for the same things by different teachers, it does take away older teaching skills of dealing with discipline by individuals [although the big plus is that it supports all to be able to get on with teaching], some teachers follow it up by phoning home etc.-some don’t, some subject leaders are far more pro-active than others in supporting their subject colleagues, misdemeanours aren’t always communicated to learning tutors/progress leaders or parents, some teachers don’t use it at all, some jump straight to 3, some use it before the students get through the door, some are frightened to use it because they think they will get told off for having too many 4/5s and so on
I’ve tried to think of questions that will cut to the heart of some of the MC system/whole school behaviour issues. It has been too long since we discussed this and you are the people who teach 20 lessons a week and deal with these issues. I’ll collate responses and feedback-then we can agree as a majority and move forward.
- It is also time for us to re-visit and agree on the crucial role that learning tutors play in our school. It may be time to have a longer AM reg and straight to lessons in the afternoon. If agreed, the extra time would give important chances for learning tutors to reinforce whole school issues and offer support for both wellbeing and potential mental health concerns. What should be the accountability and role of learning tutors? Have we made it high profile and recognised the importance it really should have? Or shouldn’t be! Your opinions please.
- What do you feel that the accountability of subject leaders/progress leaders/SLT should be for the behaviour of students in your class? What should they do to follow up behavioural issues and support you with the behaviour of your students? If you are MLT/SLT what do you think your accountability and support should be?
- If you don’t use the system-why don’t you-what puts you off? How can I reassure you?
- I’ve talked about the weaknesses in the system but what are the benefits/weaknesses for you?
- The new vision is to provide inclusive excellence for all-is there anything that I need to try to ensure happens that will get us closer to achieving that? I’m focusing on aspects of school that haven’t changed or been discussed for a while but I’m open to all views that will help us to become a better school. Feel free to add anything!!
We do need to go over the expectations of what an MC1, 2, 3, 4, 5 is again with the whole staff-anything that you feel should be made transparent and agreed upon?
As a subject teacher, what do you feel you should be accountable for in terms of student behaviour? What should you do to follow up behavioural issues yourself?
Is there a breakdown in communications at any time for you in the current system?
How can lines of communication be improved?
An open ended question to finish with-I’ve focused deliberately on behaviour so we can have systems that best support you and that you agree with. We have tried to reduce workload and consider wellbeing and have encouraged collaboration and focused CPD I hope! What more can I do to help you become the best teacher that you can be and help you to make 2017 the best teaching year of your career so far?
Once I had a few responses, I shared those to encourage more discussion and the process went on for a couple of weeks. I tried to originally raise what I had been asked about and it was a fascinating experience and of course there were very diverse and opposing opinions at times. Fortunately our pastoral deputy, Annette, took on the role of trying to make sense of it all and reach staff consensus. Everybody agreed that the criteria should reduce from 5 to 3 but we had to have a good old fashioned hands-up staff vote to decide on a couple of issues! The On Call and Remove facilities, our internal behaviour rooms had been staffed by 2 non-teachers for a long time and the teacher rota for detentions had been replaced this year by the two colleagues who administer the BFL rooms. This was a small workload initiative to free more time but with the anticipated rise in detention numbers, we had to decide that the rota would have to come back. A couple disagreed but a big majority were happy to be on the rota. The biggest debating points were about homework and equipment and both probably merit a blog on their own! After voting it was decided that homework should be dealt with by departments and not the new system and that the students should be given packs of equipment and be expected to look after it, rather than equipment being given out at the start of each lesson. The ‘giving out of the packs’ happened in the assemblies led by Annette which launched the system with the students and emphasised the mind set required to be a successful Meols Cop learner.
A package of information, accompanied by a letter from me went to all parents to explain the system and to seek their support. An early response will be solicited at our Easter Review Day. Posters are displayed in classrooms and around school and these are basic and clear
Behaviour for Learning
Sanction 1 (S1) Low level disruption
- talking and distracting others e.g. turning round after verbal warning
- failure to follow instructions after whole class explanation
- leaving place without permission
- failure to start work promptly
- equipment pencil case is missing
- chewing in class
- arriving late
- arriving with an aspect of incorrect uniform that takes teacher and class time e.g. coat on/hoodie on
3 S1’s in a week will result in a half hour school detention
Sanction 2 (S2) 30 minute school detention
- talking again after S1
- distracting others again after S1
- leaving place again after S1
- refusal to follow instructions
- throwing items
- chewing again after S1
- failure to focus once learning has begun after S1 prompt start
- inappropriate language/comments to other students or staff
Sanction 3 (S3) sent to On Call, 1 hour detention or a more serious punishment depending on the seriousness of the incident.
- constant disruption in lesson e.g. continued talking, turning round, failure to focus after S1/2
- refusal to follow instructions again after S2
- inappropriate language/comments after S2 Or immediate S3 if deemed serious enough-homophobic, racist, gender specific
- rude and disrespectful to a member of staff in actions or words
- unsafe behaviour that endangers self and others
- swearing at a member of staff
- using a mobile device in lesson
- having a drink that is not allowed in school e.g. energy drinks, fizzy drinks etc.
- other inappropriate behaviour in the classroom that the teacher feels should be brought to the immediate attention of SLT and parents.
Failure to attend a school detention will result in a Senior Detention
Amazingly some students forgot equipment very quickly and there were some early 3 S1s in a day especially from year 9, who are always risking their chances in every school, before they settle down to become young adults! Staff reaction was equally swift with a few students isolated for a day and the majority of both staff and students seemingly happy with a tighter ship. Students will be asked for feedback after Easter and staff consulted again before I move on to asking for opinions on our assessment system [again]-have we got that right?
Each teacher will have appeared once on the detention rota before summer and there are always 3 teachers together for the S1 detentions whilst the 2 behaviour colleagues run the S2 and S3 detentions still, which have less numbers. Students who miss any detention automatically have to attend SLT detention on Friday afternoons. The regulations for the detentions are here;
Guidance for staff conducting S1 detentions:
- All detentions will take place in the …..Staff should separate students as appropriate between the 3 classrooms allocated
- Students should not be taken to another classroom
- Students should sit in silence for the duration of the detention
- Students can complete homework if they have work with them – they must not be allowed out to collect work or see a teacher
- There is no expectation for staff to provide work
- All normal school rules apply during the detention
- Mobile phones are not allowed and students will be given an immediate senior detention for having a mobile phone in an S1, 2 or 3 detention
- A named member of SLT will be available during each detention and any students who cannot follow the basic rules should be sent to them
- KD will be at the detention at 3.10 in order to provide a list of names to the staff on duty
Staff should email the leadership group with all non-attendees as they will be placed in senior detention
We have 800 students in our school and the vast majority, of course, don’t get any detentions-ever! There are far more who receive positive feedback and commendations going home or made publicly and I would hope that this was a really good place to work and learn. Our emphasis on a positive Meols Cop Mind Set is a theme which runs through many previous blogs and it still pervades everything that we do. Mind-set grades are given each lesson and the whole school emphasis, whether it be behaviour or anything else, is there to develop the best learning and teaching possible.
|Mature behaviour and ‘can do’ attitude.
|Never give up.
|Determined to learn from mistakes.
|Super smart, punctual and ready to learn.
|Effort 100% in both class work and home work.
I’m not afraid to write about behaviour or admit that not every student behaves perfectly every lesson in Meols Cop. It would be foolish not to listen to what colleagues, students and parents tell me and if they feel that behaviour needs tightening-it does! Equally I have to listen to everyone as an individual in their own right. Although we are a mainstream school, we do have the highest percentage numbers of SEND students in our LA and an Asperger’s and dyslexic unit. Parents wish to send their child to us to access our expertise and mainstream education and our vision and BFL policy applies equally to all students. However if a student has behavioural issues due to medical conditions of any nature or perhaps a turbulent home situation, then of course we will appraise situations accordingly but the rules expected are basic ones that we believe all of our students must abide by so that our highest expectations of them all can be met. We have a wide range of both internal and external mentoring and counselling support available to support and make good behaviour and learning possible.
By 2020, I would hope that I will be able to write another blog to provide persuasive evidence that these adaptations to our behaviour policy have had a measureable impact on learning, teaching, academic success and well-being in our a school. It’s early days and I’m always optimistic-I asked, was told and have acted but I expect to have to ask a couple more times yet before we have anything like the evidence and impact that I would like.
Thank you to everyone who participated in any of our surveys, shared their ideas and thank you to all in our community who are determined to play their part and make this crucial initiative succeed.