It seems perhaps a little of a coincidence that all of a sudden the government has released guidance on behaviour whilst at the same it becomes headline news once again. Issues to do with behaviour are nothing new, neither are they likely to go away because some new information has been made available on a DfE website. For some schools it is and has always been a daily issue and they have stoically constructed their own means of addressing the challenges that some children present.
Although the coalition government is keen to raise the topic of its support for schools in maintaining and improving behaviour, one of their first directives was to reduce the effectiveness of behaviour and attendance partnerships by removing the requirement for schools to take part in them. Collaboration between schools where there are local issues is essential. It will remain to be seen where these pupils will go now. Back to the documents you ask about.
The documents that the government has released are grouped under three headings:
- Behaviour and discipline in schools
- Advice for school leaders and governing bodies on bullying
- Advice for teachers on allegations and anonymity
To focus on the materials under the behaviour tag. These include:
- Guidance for governing bodies
- Guidance for teachers and school staff
- Ensuring good behaviour in schools
- Confiscation – guidance for school leaders, staff and governing bodies
- Consultation on new guidance to improve behaviour in schools
More detailed information about what each of these documents includes is available in our leadership briefing. However, you ask me if they are worth the read.
It is important to stress that these are consultation documents. The consultation is quite tight with responses required by the 30th May. However, it is hard to understand exactly what we are invited to consult on. The guidance document ‘Behaviour and discipline in schools’ is really a summary of the powers that school staff have. An intention which the document itself stresses in its introduction. It is perhaps useful as a reminder about where schools stand in relation to the school behaviour policy, sanctions including detention and confiscation and the power to use reasonable force. However, everything contained in it would already seem to be available in other formats.
The document ‘Ensuring good behaviour in schools’ is an even shorter document that seems to be a summary of the previous one. This one does include, however, a very brief outline of parents’ responsibilities. Interestingly, although it refers to pupils in its subtitle there is no specific section on what their responsibilities might be.
Perhaps the two documents that provide most additional information and clarification are ‘Screening, searching and confiscation’ and ‘Use of reasonable force’. Both these documents are useful in order to clarify your school’s approach.
However, even these two documents do not, I believe, fulfil their brief to ‘give teachers the confidence to exercise their authority and ensure good behaviour in the classroom’. Any teacher will want far more guidance and support from their school before taking these ‘letters of the law’ at their word.
There is a big difference between exercising what you are empowered to and achieving good behaviour in the classroom. Some schools will, quite rightly, decide that aspects of this empowerment are not for them. We should have moved past a culture of ‘I’ll make them behave or else’.
The consultation questions reflect entirely the spirit (or lack of it) of the guidance documents. They simply ask against each document whether you understand your powers better and if you would feel more confident in using them. I hope your school and your teachers will use your judgement to not use some of them at all.