Behaviour Support for Schools
Beacon School Support
Behaviour Support for Schools
Behaviour article

What to do when a student walks out of class.

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If it's got to the point where pupils are freely leaving class without permission, this can massively knock a teacher's confidence; it feels very challenging and can be humiliating, especially in front of the rest of the class. Let's look at what we can do to try to prevent this occurring, and maintain the illusion of control.

The reasons why pupils walk out of class, usually fall into two main categories:

1. There is a genuine need for time away from peers / a situation within the class.

Clearly, if something has gone wrong and a pupil feels embarrassed or overwhelmed, they may genuinely need time and space to recover, in a quiet place, away from others looking at them. In this instance, give the pupil permission to take some time out, monitor and offer support when ready. Remember to welcome them back into class on their return.

2. The pupil has realised how powerful this makes them appear, they have usually tried it before, and know that nothing 'really bad' happens, so it's fun and exciting to do it again. After all, 'What are you going to do about it?


Here are some proven strategies for managing this situation...

Do have a visual reminder on the door that pupils need to ask permission before leaving class.

Don't panic. Always (pretend to) be calm.

Do give rule reminders as they approach the door 'class, remember our rule about asking permission to leave the room. I need you all to stay safe.'

Don't give ultimatums e.g. 'If you walk out, you will miss playtime for a week!'

Do keep pupils in view. If the pupil leaves the class, get help to monitor them.

Don't fall into the trap of chasing or giving any attention whilst they are in the wrong place.

Do give permission after the fact, if they are leaving anyway e.g. 'good idea Joe, take some time alone to think things through'

Do have a 1-1 chat with the pupil when they are calm, set targets and negotiate rewards for following instructions.

Hopefully, that's given a few pointers to get you started in regaining the illusion of control.

If you are interested in understanding and dealing with challenging behaviour, why not download our book 'Taking Control,' based on years of experience of teaching permanently excluded pupils in Pupil Referral Units.

You can get it here.

Thank you to J. Silverton, Head teacher at Frederick Bird Primary School, Coventry, UK for suggesting the theme for this month's newsletter.

If you've got a good idea for a newsletter, please get in touch:

Staff meeting activity

This activity will take approximately 15 minutes and will enable your staff be proactive in planning for the occasions when pupils might leave the learning area without permission. This will enable a confident and consistent approach across all staff.

You will need:

  • Flipchart paper or a whiteboard.
  • Pens.
  • Pupil profiles or education plans
  • Copies of page 1 of this newsletter (at least one between two)
  • Access to the internet / the facility to show this month’s Beacon video (optional)

As a staff team, you are going to problem solve the issue of walking out for individual pupils in your school. Have their individual pupil profile or education plans to hand if they have one. Or you could plan for an imaginary child.

  • Work together to brainstorm why the pupil is walking out. What is driving their behaviour? Attention seeking? Sensory overload? Control? Boredom? Work avoidance?
  • Draw up a plan of what to do next time the pupil goes to the door, e.g. teacher will give a reminder to stay in class, attention will be given to other pupils who are on task, calm body language / voice to be used.
  • Plan what will happen if the pupil remains in class, e.g. ’Good choice Joe, we want you to stay in class with us'. Or a verbal or non-verbal signal given to the pupil to recognise that they made a good choice.
  • Plan what will happen if they leave, e.g. help hand sent for another member of staff to monitor whereabouts, all other adults to completely ignore, time granted out of class in designated place (use sand timer), consequence such as 5 mins work to be completed during playtime (must be able to enforce, identify staff to support)
  • Share the plan with the pupil, parents and all staff to foster consistency of approach.

Now print out a copy of this newsletter and leave it where people can refer to it in future (eg. in the staff room, on a staff noticeboard).

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