It’s now exactly a year since we launched our original Behaviour for Learning System. I described the principles and the details of the system in these posts: Towards Impeccable Behaviour. Together and Towards Impeccable Behaviour. Ready for Launch.
A year on, after another round of reviews and consultations, we’re about to re-launch the system with some significant changes. The details are described in this guide: BfL Guide Final
Why are we changing the system?
We’ve made major strides in improving behaviour. If you walk around the school during lessons, there is a calm learning atmosphere and, overall, standards of uniform, punctuality and general behaviour have improved significantly. I get lots of positive feedback from parents. However, we’re not at ‘Impeccable’ yet. There’s always been a tension between our mission to challenge behaviour that is below expectations whilst maintaining the warm, friendly, relaxed atmosphere that many students, teachers and families value. No-one wants the school to feel oppressive. Whilst we may think we’ve done a reasonable job with this, it’s not been quite right.
There were several flaws in the original model that needed to be addressed:
A C3 – one hour detention is a strong sanction and, increasingly, it felt uncomfortable for staff to issue C3s for certain issues – odd bits of equipment missing, minor uniform deviations, being just a little bit late etc. As a first wave improvement, the automatic C3 has helped us to lever up standards but we’ve more or less reached a plateau with it now. The students who get C3s for the more minor infringements are very often the same; for them, it doesn’t serve as a preventative measure, only a retrospective punishment. There’s a cohort of students for whom the C3 system hasn’t supported them to self-regulate. I find teachers, myself included, are often reluctant to give one of these students a one-hour detention for something small when there are actually much bigger issues to address.
The in-class sanctions with C1, C2 warnings and a C3 detention left students in a classroom having been given a detention – very often they would continue to be difficult, with added grumpiness to make things worse. A C3 hasn’t been a strong enough deterrent to moderate in-class behaviours for too many students. The next step – a C4 – would be given after sending them out leading to a whole day in our isolation room. The aim was to create such a strong deterrent that students would self-regulate in class but it hasn’t worked as well as we’d like. Here the consequence has been too harsh for a sending out. Teachers have been less comfortable with going that far and because of the repeat offenders factor, the same students have been missing too many lessons sat in the isolation room. Again, awareness of the consequences does not lead to improved behaviour for too many students (a good 10%); they live in the moment- and what happens later is just what happens later. The gap between C3 (too weak) and C4 (too harsh) has been problematic.
The neatness of a one-size-fits-all central detention has increasingly felt too unsophisticated. A hard-working well-disciplined student who had a shirt hanging out sitting next to a student who had disrupted learning in a lesson sitting side by side in the hall? It’s been too crudely black and white. It’s not a binary world.
The next-day consequence has been problematic. Very often, with so many separate issues leading to a C3, students would sit in the hall unable to identify exactly why they had been given that particular detention. Of course we’d have told them and their parents but, too often, for the repeat offenders it was all a blur. In addition, they have had too much protest time. For some students a default response to getting an in-class C3 has been to try to negotiate out of it.
Above all, the system has not empowered staff enough in the most important area: securing impeccable behaviour in the classroom, every lesson, every day.
How is it changing?
Earlier this term I visited Central Foundation Boys School in Islington – run by the super-impressive Headteacher Jamie Brownhill. At his school they run a system of same-day detentions that focus exclusively on lesson behaviour. Students are sent out of lessons for misbehaving and sit a Protecting Learning detention the same day. We explored the details and felt that this system would dovetail really well with ours, addressing most of the issues cited above.
The key elements of the changes are as follows:
A Basic 8 or B8 lunchtime detention served at lunchtimes for 30 minutes. These detentions will be given for not meeting the 8 basic standards as shown in the diagram – uniform, lateness, equipment and so on. This is a more proportionate sanction; teachers will give B8s more freely and students will accept them more readily. We think this will tighten up the basic standards because more students will be given B8 detentions rather than being let off with a quiet word. The Bus Lane Fine effect will still hold and will seen as much more fair. Already students have expressed warm support for this change.
A C3 Protecting Learning detention served the same day, for up to 90 minutes. These will be given following a similar system to Central Foundation. Teachers will issue C1 warnings and C2 final warnings in class. The rules are very simple:
- Respond promptly to the signal for attention
- Follow instructions from teaching staff when given
- Remain on task as directed
- Listen when others are speaking
If students can’t keep to these rules after the final warning, the next step, a C3, will be given leading directly to students being sent to our Exit Room. The consequence will be a same-day detention where they will be required to work for up to 90 minutes. Students who complete a good amount of work or reading will leave after an hour; those who don’t will stay for 90 minutes so they have a very strong incentive to use their first hour productively. We’re putting the onus on students to continue the work from the lesson they’ve missed with some general work available for those that don’t have any. As at Central, if students fail to attend a C3, parents will be called to attend an early morning meeting the next day.
So, our in-class consequences are much stronger and more immediate than the old C3, but less severe than the C4 isolation day. It’s a much better balance with the big bonus effect that student who disrupt learning are always removed. Warning, Final Warning, Exit. That’s going to help students self-regulate to a far higher degree, helping teachers to teach and student to learn with great consistency. The same-day effect will remove the possibility of negotiation or parental intervention. We’ve said that students are not allowed to call home to get their parents involved in a protest; we need parents to trust us to make decisions and to back us up.
The C4 Isolation. This will now be reserved for much more serious issues. A six hour day in the Isolation room is gruelling and we need to be sure that this is given only when the behaviour warrants it: defiance, aggressive behaviour and so on. Our Behaviour Support Centre has been very successful in providing a buffer zone before permanent exclusion and we will continue to develop that. Already several students have had a successful reintegration after making fundamental shifts in their attitudes to behaviour and learning.
We’re prepared for quite a lot of students to be Exited every lesson in the first phase of the new system as they learn where the boundaries lie. I want staff to set the bar very high. We need the warnings to be given very clearly but no teacher should tolerate low level disruption at any point. It’s in the classroom where impeccable behaviour is the most crucial. Time will tell how it works out but I’m much more confident that this system will address the issues we face fairly, proportionately and effectively.