Getting it Right

In one of my schools visits I came across a new initiative to improve pupil behaviour.

It came about through a discussion with pupils about how the school could be improved. The thing which kept coming up was that those children who got their heads down and just got on with their work didn't feel they got the recognition they believed they deserved.

This is often a common theme in schools and I recal how pupils at my previous school responded in an HMIe survey that they weren't treated fairly. The inspectors investigated this and found that it was a response to the excellent work which was going on in the school to include vulnerable children – however, it did promote a feeling amongst other pupils that such children received a disproportionate amount of teachers' time.

Anyway – this school has established a “Getting it right” programme. The scheme – which is similar to many reward type initiatives I've seen in other schools – involves the teacher allocating a star/sticker to each pupil who has adhered to basic classroom rules throughout the week. The system aims to target low level disruption e.g. repeatedly talking when the teacher's talking, constantly forgetting homework, interfering with other pupils, not lining up properly – i.e. all the minor things which wear teachers out. In most cases every child gets a sticker which is posted on a noticeboard in the classroom.

Now here comes the difference with other similar systems I've seen previously – where a child doesn't get a star the headteacher speaks to the teacher to get more information. If it starts to happen regularly the headteacher phones the parents to inform them and speak about the low level disruption it is causing and impact it will be having upon the individual and the others in the class. The parents have all responded positively to this early contact and this has led to dramatic improvements in children's behaviour. All too often schools only contact parents when a serious breach of discipline has taken place. By lowering the threshold of what is unacceptable behaviour a significant change has taken place in classrooms.

I think schools are getting better and better at handling pupils with severe behavioural problems – but I would fully support any school who set out to involve parents in such a positive manner about behaviour which would previously have escaped under the radar. I know this next term may upset some people but perhaps we do need to “train” children about what is “unacceptable” and what “acceptable” behaviour – and our response needs to be consistent – at school and at home.

On reflection this post links with yesterday's – is this a trend?