Nevertheless, and despite the ‘behaviour and safeguarding is outstanding’ stamp, we felt that we could up our game at the end of last school year and that there were specific examples of where behaviour could be improved to overall impact on learning including:
- Further improving classroom routines and expectations so that higher standards of classroom behaviour were displayed by all children and so that learning opportunities aren’t missed.
- Improving transitions and movement around school so that it is slicker, quicker and that lesson time is maximised.
- Reducing lunchtime arguments/injustices and resolving them quickly to minimise any spill in to afternoon curriculum time for teachers.
Influences in our Approach…
There has undoubtedly been a shift in tone and thinking on behaviour over the last few years from educational reading including social media. Previous training that we’d attended for example around OFSTED expectations had given messages that outstanding behaviour was less about being silent in the corridors/opening doors/ folding your arms and more about the learning behaviours in the classrooms such as peer feedback and being self-reflective which probably described our children well. A new wave of prominent and more ‘traditionalist’ voices in education was challenging this and pointing out that conformity, good order and high expectations were still the right things to insist on and debates around schools approaches such as Michaela were useful for us to follow and to challenge our existing beliefs and expectations. OFSTED have also made it quite clear that they are not looking for any particular methods when they inspect (follow Sean Harford’s mission to bust all the OFSTED myths here) which really frees you up as a Head to think less about what other people might want to see in your school and more about what works for your children and staff.
Collaboration across our Multi-Academy Trust is also healthy as we get to go and review other schools within the partnership and see what standards are like. In one of our most challenging schools, I sat through an impeccable singing practice with over 400 children engaging 100% and, at another, I watched as 210 children in the Eastern District of Northampton filed inside, outside then inside again in smiling silence at a lunch time. What becomes so apparent when you see such well-licked routines, is the absence of distraction and how much easier it makes the teachers job who doesn’t have to start lessons by calming classes down or establishing order.
Whilst searching and reading for inspiration about how to move forward with September’s school improvement, we also stumbled upon two useful documents from the most unlikely source: The DfE. These were ‘Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training (ITT)’ and the new ‘Standard for teachers’ Professional Development’. If you haven’t read these documents yet, they’re really useful and products of DfE expert groups on behaviour and Teacher working parties led by Tom Bennett and David Weston respectively, both experts in these fields and whose work I have a lot of respect for.
So this September’s training days were about re-securing some of the basics and paying attention to the two key areas of teacher development and classroom behaviour. We unpicked the two different papers as described below with staff in order to kick-start a new way of working.
Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training
Although this document was mainly written to influence Initial Teacher Training providers, we found some of the content really useful – in particular the section around the ‘3 Rs of the behaviour curriculum’: Routines, Responses and Relationships which we used as a lens to view different aspects of behaviour management across the school. This also prompted us to carry out further reading and use other sources to support some development work under each of these headings as follows:
We had year groups (Teachers and Support Staff) working together to write down all their different routines that take place (there were hundreds) and then got them to evaluate how good each routine was using highlighters and then picked 5 to improve on. They then spent some time working on a plan with staff in the year group on what attention to these routines they would give to make them ‘consistently slick’. Our focus routines included: coming in to class in the morning, coming in and out of assembly, children going to the toilet, lunch hall, transitioning from carpet time to working at desks, Getting out whiteboards, coming in from the playground, having snack (in reception) etc. etc.
The first thing we did here was to evaluate the different responses that already exist within our behaviour policy and check that 1) everyone understands what these mean and is confident to use them and 2) got them to rank how effective they felt each strategy is in different situations.
Next, we revisited some of the principles of 1, 2, 3 Magic which underpin our 1, 2, 3 system in school and unpicked some of the key parts of this around stop/start behaviours and teacher talking – particularly with younger children.
Then we looked at relationships and introduced this model which is from ‘Evidence-Based Teaching’ by Geoff Petty. This was a great exercise and we got staff to plot their relationships with different classes/children and then asked them to discuss in groups as to how they feel they could develop these in the year ahead. Staff were really honest and typically felt that they were too cooperative at times, particularly with classes or children they had taught before where over-familiarity played a part.
The paper also makes some suggestions as to how ITT can be extended into the NQT year so that there is mandatory training and accreditation that happens once teachers are in the job. I feel that this would be a positive move and would welcome additional measures to strengthen behaviour training for teachers who are young in their careers.
Teacher CPD Standard
This document made a lot of sense to us and we were able to unpick the different parts of the standard and really reflect on where we were using these already and where we had gaps. An interesting exercise was for us to go back and evaluate some different school improvement initiatives we’d implemented over the previous 4 years and then match how effective they were with how many of the different CPD elements we’d included. Our handwriting implementation ticked all the boxes and stands as a really successful implementation in school that has impacted standards significantly. In other school improvement areas which had been less effective, we were able to reflected on where perhaps we hadn’t had the real expert challenge in this area or that initatives hadn’t been ‘sustained over time’.
The biggest change we implemented was around how we planned staff CPD across a term. Co-ordinating the weekly staff meetings, if I’m honest, used to feel a bit like being air traffic control: trying to land all the different demands for statutory training, Improvement Priorities alongside teacher developmental time, research and reading etc. A particular challenge at Primary level is the constant need to update teacher’s subject knowledge as the curriculum changes and they have to deliver so many different subjects and inevitably this can lead to limited training time being a compromise.
So we reflected on this and decided that we would just focus on two (which we then reduced to one) area of teacher development which would stick to and only allow one ‘indirect’ professional development opportunity per half term to get in the way. This meant that we had to get comfortable with saying ‘no’ and staff who were chomping at the bit to get moving with other initiatives would have to just be patient until their turn came around, knowing that they would have a bigger opportunity to make an impact when it did.
A key part of this was to reintroduce lesson study as the predominate form of CPD which we felt was the perfect tool to use for the ‘Collaboration, Reflection, Challenge’ element. We have used Lesson Study over the past 4 years in different guises but within this model, it allowed us really see it through and avoid the usual barriers of not enough time, attention and empowerment that get in the way.
The lesson study triads were set up and after the initial input in September, were asked to identify two or three specific behaviour priorities to focus on over the half term.
Over the half term, two lesson study observations took place alongside various other coaching, planning and evaluation sessions with the idea being that all teachers involved would be able to take away elements to develop their own classroom practice.
Here were some of the areas of focus from the teachers’ lesson study triads:
- Ensuring all students on task
- Getting all students actively listening during whole class input
- Need to establish culture for learning with effective routines.
- Transitioning effectively from teaching activities to the main tasks.
- Reducing any low level disruption
- Was the starter engaging and useful for all the children bearing in mind the huge range of abilities within the class?
- How long could the children apply themselves to a teacher-led task and concentrate for?
How independent are the children in the class?
Feedback from Lesson Study Triads
In order to make sure teachers were accountable for the outcome of the lesson study, each triad was asked to present to the staff as part of our training day at the beginning of November. This was, without doubt, my favourite training day afternoon as I just got to sit back and hear them present back on the following questions:
- What have I learnt so far from the Lesson study about my own practice?
- What changes have you made/ will you make to your practice as a result of the LS
- What has worked well so far?
- What impact have the changes had?
- Which pieces of research have supported your change?
Feedback from the staff was of a significant positive impact on behaviour with some of the following pieces of feedback from their reports on their reflections of what they’d developed:
- The importance of table and seating positioning. I knew the importance of this but looking at someone else’s classroom made me think about my own more carefully.
- The importance of routines – they are now more clearly set each day and are consistent
- Increased awareness of how children respond to clear direction.
- Need to be explicit and expect 100% compliance.
- Made me think more about the boys as individuals and the challenges they face. Also, the impact their behaviour has on the rest of the class. Just one action of moving someone’s peg in the cloakroom has had a huge impact on her daily experience at school.
- I now use ‘do it again’ (Lemov strategy) consistently and children respond well without me having to ‘over-intervene’.
- Overall classroom behaviour is really good in classes across school with really high levels of engagement and few issues of disruption.
- There is a common language which is developing well including ‘Track the Speaker’, ‘100%’, ‘Gorilla sitting’, ‘Whole body listening’, ‘Set the Standard’.
- Assembly routines are now ‘consistently slick’. 432 children enter the hall and leave in silence and behaviour in assemblies is good.
- More rigorous tracking of behaviour incidents and follow up has meant that where issues happen, they are picked up and dealt with quickly.
Feedforward into Policy Change
As part of their presentations, staff were asked to make any recommendations to the Teaching and Learning Handbook and also to the Behaviour Policy. These have now been reviewed over the Christmas break and incorporated into the new draft policy which will go back out to staff this half term and help us further improve behaviour in 2017.
I really like this cycle of teacher action research informing policy and we’ve started a new cycle for the teaching of Reading this January which we’re equally enthusiastic about.