There are two reasons why a school revisits their Behaviour Policy. The most benign of these is that the allotted time for review has arrived and the governors expect a revised copy for review. The second reason why a Behaviour Policy is up for review is that your school has been experiencing difficulties, either in behaviour, attendance or engagement and you need to take steps to address this.
Whichever angle you are coming at this issue from, now is the time to turn your Behaviour Policy into a Positive Behaviour Policy.
This article will give you a step-by-step guide to creating this kind of policy and, even if you already have such a document in place, these tips should allow you to revisit and revise it to ensure you get the most out of it both as a leader and as a school.
Think about what you want
As you sit down to write or revise a Positive Behaviour Policy, it can be tempting to slip into a list of school rules which make it easy to focus on the negative aspects of behaviour. This is especially true if a particular issue or challenge has arisen which has prompted the decision to amend the policy.
The key to a successful policy is to think long term and think about how you would like the children in your school to behave. Try to establish what behaviours would represent the ethos of your school as well as support the learning.
This stage is an ideal one to involve not only SLT but the staff as a whole. Why not move a staff meeting into the hall? Put up flip chart papers and start gathering ideas using headings such as: what would an ideal learner do? An ideal friend? A successful child? A happy child? These types of headings will allow you to think about what the ethos of your school really is as well as gather phrases and concepts that will feed into your policy later on. It also allows you to create a sense of engagement with the policy within the staff which is crucial to its success.
This activity can be extended, albeit in a simplified form, to the pupils of your school as well. Use a PSHCE lesson to gather information under similar headings from the pupils, or even give them phrases to choose from and stick onto a picture of a ‘happy learner’.
If you have the capacity to capture this information, you can even use it as a piece of data to measure the impact of the policy by repeating the activity further post-implementation and recording which words/phrases are most used before and after.
This sort of qualitative data can add flesh to the bones of the quantitative data presented during Ofsted inspections, and can be crucial when under pressure to show speedy improvement.
Be joined up
When it comes to actually writing the policy, make sure you set out very clearly what you both do and do not expect, alongside the rewards and sanctions associated with the outlined behaviours.
You can also take the chance to link your behaviour policy to many other policies associated with safeguarding and pupil outcomes, as joined-up thinking benefits everyone when it comes to policy and procedure. A great way to ensure you stay focused on the positives, as well as enabling you to cross-reference your policy, is to follow through each positive expectation to its logical conclusion.
“A N Other Junior school pupils are kind and considerate of others on the playground. This means they will have fun at playtime and lunchtime, as well as able to have good friendships. They will also be able to use the equipment on the side yard. If someone struggles with this we would expect them to firstly apologise to anyone they upset and then they would not be able to use the equipment for one session. If they did it again, we would then supervise them taking steps to make it right to the person. If they seemed to be struggling with appropriate behaviour during unstructured time, then we would work with either the SEN or Learning Mentor Team to support them with this, as appropriate.”
This one paragraph in the example above sets out an expected behaviour, why it is expected, the reward associated with the behaviour, outlines the sanction pathway, and links to Restorative Justice, SEND and Learning Mentor Policies. This makes for an effective policy, as everyone knows where they stand, what they should do and why they are doing it.
As you go through the policy, you may come to realise that you do not have a reward associated with every positive behaviour.
Despite all the research suggesting the efficacy of praise over criticism and positive reinforcement, we are all human beings and it is often easier to err on the side of retribution than reinforcement. And for children who increasingly spend more time with school staff than their parents, the time and attention shown by sanctioning pupils can be unconsciously interpreted as a reward. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to make the positive more attractive than the negative in your policy.
Often the reward may not be obvious, or may be something that is a reward is only perceived as such by an adult, not one that a child would identify. So get creative. It is not necessary to start giving away laptops for being nice to each other, but you can identify existing opportunities that simply need rebranding or upgrading to be considered a reward.
You may also come to the realisation, and this is often true for schools that have been challenged by the behaviour of their students for a while, that there simply aren’t enough opportunities to reward positive behaviour in your school.
When staff morale is low and pressure mounts, the urge to punish can become overriding and negative bias begins to stop staff even noticing the positives around them. This is exactly when a Positive Behaviour Policy is most needed, and a leadership team may have to consider bringing in rewards that inspire and motivate both staff and students.