Improving behaviour in schools

New guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation finds good evidence that personalised approaches, like daily report cards, can improve disruptive pupils’ behaviour. We look at the report’s six recommendations for preventing and responding to misbehaviour

Published last month by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the guidance report Improving Behaviour in Schools reviews the best available evidence and, as a result, offers schools six recommendations for improving behaviour. It suggests that universal systems are unlikely to work for all students and, for those pupils who need more intensive support with their behaviour, a personalised approach is likely to be better.

The report also reveals a current lack of evidence when looking at the impact of ‘zero tolerance’ policies – which aim to create a strict and clear, whole-school approach to discipline. In the absence of such studies, the report’s evidence on how to improve behaviour in schools suggests that understanding individual pupils, training teachers in classroom management and having a consistent approach across the school will support better behaviour.

While the report says there is little evidence that today’s pupils behave any worse than previous generations, when problem behaviour does occur, it can have a significant impact on learning outcomes and teacher wellbeing.

The report’s six recommendations for improving behaviour in schools are:

  1. Know and understand your pupils and their influences
  • Pupil behaviour has multiple influences, some of which teachers can manage directly.
  • Understanding a pupil’s context will inform effective responses to misbehaviour.
  • Every pupil should have a supportive relationship with a member of school staff.
  1. Teach learning behaviours alongside managing misbehaviour
  • Teaching learning behaviours will reduce the need to manage misbehaviour.
  • Teachers can provide the conditions for learning behaviours to develop by ensuring pupils can access the curriculum, engage with lesson content and participate in their learning.
  • Teachers should encourage pupils to be self-reflective of their own behaviours.
  1. Use classroom management strategies to support good classroom behaviour
  • Effective classroom management can reduce challenging behaviour, pupil disengagement, bullying and aggression.
  • Improving classroom management usually involves intensive training with teachers reflecting on their classroom management, trying a new approach and reviewing their progress over time.
  • Reinforcement programmes based on pupils gaining rewards can be effective when part of a broader classroom management strategy.
  1. Use simple approaches as part of your regular routine
  • Some strategies that don’t require complex pedagogical changes have been shown to be promising.
  • Breakfast clubs, greeting children at the door and working with parents can all support good behaviour.
  • School leaders should ensure the school behaviour policy is clear and consistently applied.
  1. Tailor targeted approaches to meet the needs of individuals in your school
  • Universal behaviour systems are unlikely to meet the needs of all your students.
  • For pupils with more challenging behaviour, the approach should be tailored to individual needs.
  • Teachers should be trained in specific strategies if supporting pupils with high behaviour needs.
  1. Whole-school
  • Consistency and coherence at a whole-school level are paramount.
  • Whole-school changes usually take longer to embed than individually tailored or single-classroom approaches.
  • However, behaviour programmes are more likely to have an impact on attainment outcomes if consistently implemented at whole-school level.
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