Confident teacher standing in front of blackboard

Why invest in positive behaviour training for my school staff?

Whether you work in a primary school, a secondary school or a special school, your teachers’ ability to promote positive behaviour in the classroom is the foundation for your students' success.

And that’s never been more important than now.

Pupils are bringing an increasing number (and range) of behaviour issues into school:

  • Increases in difficulties with mental health issues and anxiety, especially following the Corona pandemic
  • Increased diagnosis of special needs and complex needs that affect behaviour (such as ADHD, autism, attachment disorder, foetal alcohol spectrum disorder etc.)
  • Issues with parenting, leading to skewed expectations and low-level disruption in the classroom
  • Increased deprivation (which increases family stress, resulting in more challenging behaviour in school)
  • Children finding it ever more difficult to regulate their emotions

...not to mention Ofsted expectations and more.

And these issues are becoming more commonplace.

England reported its highest ever levels of permanent exclusion for challenging behaviour in 2017-18 - that’s the equivalent of 42 children being expelled every day.

So we need to make sure our teaching staff and support staff know how to use effective behaviour management strategies. So all our pupils can achieve success.

What does effective classroom management look like?

When the adults don’t have the right skills to manage challenging behaviour, or their classroom management isn’t proactive, then children quickly fall off task and relationships between adults and pupils become strained.

This leads to poor student motivation, poor learning outcomes and a strained classroom environment (which is why Ofsted pay particular attention to the management of behaviour in class.)

But when teaching and support staff know how to deal with disruptive behaviour effectively, form positive relations (even with hard to reach students), set out their routines and expectations clearly... then pupils become focused and motivated.

Good classroom management has to be in place before your students can start achieving their potential.

That means senior leaders need to provide teaching staff (and support staff) with high quality training in positive behaviour management and behavioural special needs. And the best schools do this in a systematic and planned way.

But first - we need to think about your behaviour policy.

What makes a good behaviour policy?

Your behaviour policy’s key role is to explain to your teaching staff, in a direct and clear way, how you want them to promote positive behaviour in school (and what to do when faced with student misbehaviour).

The best behaviour policies are short and simple. If we - as senior leaders - don’t make our expectations clear, we can’t expect our teaching staff to give consistent, clear messages to our pupils either.

And without that clarity, any investment you make in behaviour training will be less effective than you’d like.

Because different members of staff will have different understandings of the policy. Or fill in gaps in the policy in their own ways. And then you have different adults pulling in different directions, using different techniques and approaches.

So before you start a programme of staff behaviour training, check that your behaviour policy makes your expectations for behaviour clear, and tells staff how you expect them to promote good behaviour - and discourage negative behaviour.

(If you’re in England, it is an Ofsted requirement that your school has a behaviour policy - but you have a lot of latitude about what can be included. The only guidance from government is that it should include your school rules.)

What should I include in my whole school behaviour training?

It depends on the expertise and experience of your staff.

You need to think about:

  • How long they’ve been teaching and…
  • How long they’ve been working at your school

Obviously, this is particularly important if you’re employing newly qualified teachers.

A survey of Initial Teacher Training students, published by the UK Government, revealed “more than two-fifths (41 per cent) of teachers rated their initial teacher training (ITT) in managing behaviour as ‘poor' or ‘very poor'."

Surprisingly, this survey also included teachers who may have been in the profession for a number of years.

So we simply can’t afford to assume that teacher training provided our NQTs - or even our more experienced teachers - with the skills they need in behaviour management.

We need to make up for the gaps in teacher training with the right training in school.

But that’s not all.

We also need to consider the turnover of our staff.

If you have a group of teaching staff who’ve been with you for a number of years, they’ll be experienced with your behaviour policy and ‘how things are done’ at the school.

You can use them as role models or mentors for newer members of staff.

But if you’ve had a high turnover of staff, or are introducing a new policy, you won’t have that ‘body of experience’ to rely on.

You’ll need to invest more in giving all your staff training, encouragement and reminders.

Here's the best place to start:

Audit your staff’s knowledge and confidence with behaviour management.

Ask them to complete an anonymous survey where you ask them about what elements of behaviour and SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) issues they feel confident with, and where they feel they need support.

Of course, this will only give you their opinion - which may not be entirely accurate.

Which makes the next step to combine this data with your own evidence of classroom observations to get a clear picture of where you should focus your programme of training first.

This will give you a training programme that's specific to your school - and where your teaching staff are right now...

...whether they’re a trainee teacher, an experienced teacher, or a member of support staff. (And don’t forget to include ALL your support staff, including lunchtime supervisors, sports coaches etc.)

What should I include in my whole school behaviour training?

To some extent, the specific content of your behavioural management training programme will depend on your staff, your pupils and whether you’re in a primary school, a secondary school or a special school.

But there are three general areas that will apply in any setting:

Classroom management

Classroom management training focuses on managing students as a class or group.

You’ll want to cover elements like:

  • Setting up a positive environment that encourages on-task behaviour and learning
  • Establishing ground rules and consistent routines
  • Whole class strategies for promoting positive behaviour
  • Managing low-level disruption
  • Using body language effectively
  • Using support staff effectively (in a way that focuses students on their work and minimises disruption)
  • Being proactive in terms of behaviour and learning to form positive relationships with students and parents

By the way, we have a free download that can help your staff in many of these areas called the classroom management scoresheet.

Supporting pupils with complex needs or special needs

This area of training is focused on managing the needs and behaviour of individual pupils.

It’s often referred to as SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) or BESD (behavioural, emotional and social difficulties) training.

You’ll want to include:

  • Understanding behavioural special needs
  • Identifying the underlying causes of misbehaviour and focusing on those (tackling the causes rather than the symptoms of poor behaviour)
  • Understanding how specific conditions like autism (sometimes called ASD or ASC), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attachment disorder or foetal-alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) can affect pupil behaviour
  • Writing simple behaviour plans to remove barriers to learning and encourage more positive behaviour

If your staff need support with this, to get the ball rolling, we have another free guide called the SEN Behaviour Handbook that you may find useful.

Smiling child engaged in a group activity in a classroom

Training to deliver behaviour interventions

If you have learning mentors or support staff, you may include training on running group interventions with young people aimed at improving their emotional regulation, social skills or any other aspect of behaviour.

This training will include how to plan so the group is successful, what material to cover inside the group, and how to assess the success of the group after the intervention is complete.

If you’re running group interventions in school, it’s often worth including your teachers to develop their professional development, even though they won’t be delivering it personally.

This is so they have a deeper understanding of what work is being completed within the group, the thinking behind it - and, most importantly, what positive behaviour strategies they can use to support that work in the classroom.

Who should I offer behaviour training to?

Although the obvious candidates for training are our qualified teachers and support staff, children do best with their behaviour when all of the adults pull in the same direction.

So if you’re investing in training, remember to include other adults in school like:

  • Student teachers
  • Lunchtime supervisors
  • Learning mentors
  • Family support workers
  • Sports coaches
  • Before and after-school club staff
  • Volunteers

But there's one other important group to consider.

Pupils do best when school and home pull in the same direction.

So consider offering behaviour training for parents and carers too. Your support will need to be adapted for the home - but there's no reason why families can’t benefit from some of the techniques you're using successfully in school.

This is especially true of families with SEN children, who may have received little support from clinicians about what their children’s condition means, how it affects their behaviour and using the right kinds of strategies to achieve success.

(Of course, it may not be appropriate to have parents and teaching staff training in the same room, at the same time.)

How do I plan the core content of my behaviour training?

Now is the time to put together your systematic plan for a rolling programme of training.

Your plan will have two parts:

  1. Support given to trainee teachers and new members of staff (induction)
  2. Training given to all your staff on a rolling programme across the year (or beyond)

We’ll tackle these separately.

To do this, we’ll complete a one-month induction plan for new members of staff and NQTs; and we’ll have a twelve-month plan for our staff as a whole.

An action plan

What is good practice for giving behaviour training to trainee teachers (and new members of staff)?

To get the best results, write out the specific content you want your newly qualified teachers to work through during their induction period.

This could include:

  • A walkthrough of the behaviour policy with a senior member of staff (don’t just assume that because someone’s read the behaviour policy, they’ve understood it)
  • Checklists for expectations for the learning environment (ie. Do you have school rules or values you expect to have out on display? Does your school use public behaviour charts in the classroom? If so, what should they look like? Do you have any policy on how pupils are seated?)
  • What common whole school routines should your new recruit know about? Do you have common expectations across classes for asking questions, moving around school, admitting / dismissing children from the classroom, storage of personal equipment etc.
  • Explicit guidance on how your school encourages positive behaviour
  • Explicit guidance about how senior leaders expect your member of staff to manage negative behaviour - including extreme behaviour
  • Who the new member of staff should turn to if they have questions about the behaviour policy, or need support with some aspect of behaviour in the classroom

You may also want to ground your teacher in behaviour strategies for managing low-level disruption, challenging behaviour or de-escalating pupils (or parents) who find it difficult to regulate their emotions.

Make a timetable that covers the first month of your trainee teacher’s employment with you. Write down what topics will be covered, by whom and on what date.

Plus: If you’ve recently invested in whole school training on one aspect of behavioural special needs, you may also plan to train your new staff member in that area as part of their induction, to keep consistency high in the school.

What does a rolling programme of behaviour training for my teaching staff look like?

Now we need to develop a systematic timetable for your group of school teachers as a whole.

Start by opening a document and drawing out a simple timetable for the academic year, divided into 6 half-terms (or 6 week blocks).

We’re going to write down a training theme for each half-term.

We’re going to base these themes on the results of our skills audit and our classroom observations from our performance management programme. We’re going to look for common needs.

We’ll split the programme into two areas: classroom management and behaviour management training.

Classroom management training topics

As a rule, you’ll get a general ‘lift’ in whole school behaviour by focusing on classroom management techniques, because you’ll be looking at strategies about working with the group, rather than the individual.

Common classroom management themes include:

  • Looking and sounding assertive (and using assertive body language)
  • Defining clear rewards, sanctions and boundaries - and how to establish those ground rules with pupils
  • Dealing with behaviour in a proactive way
  • Being consistent with your expectations and response to behaviour
  • Embedding common classroom routines
  • Using praise and recognition in an effective way
  • Being intentional with your use of body language
  • Building strong adult:pupil relationships
  • Working as a team / managing support staff effectively
  • Working with parents
  • Using intrinsic and extrinsic motivation techniques in the classroom

This isn’t an exhaustive list. Feel free to add themes that are specific or relevant to your school.

It’s best to plan to cover a classroom management theme at the start of each term. That’s because the right environment and positive reminders settle children into their new classrooms quickly after each break.

Many of the same classroom management principles apply whether you’re working in a primary school or a secondary school. The difference is in how you implement those principles with your age range.

At the end of this process, you should have filled in three of the six blank spaces on your training calendar with classroom management themes. One for the start of each term.

Behaviour and SEMH training topics

Every school has a number of high needs pupils who will need a specific approach to behaviour management.

So now’s the time to look at your audit data (and possibly other data in school, like exclusions data) - and review the needs of any new children that are joining your school.

Are looked-after students joining you who may have needs related to attachment? Do you have a number of pupils with a diagnosis of ASD?

And return to your questionnaires to identify gaps in staff knowledge or confidence about behavioural special needs.

Remember: confidence and knowledge are not the same thing. Just because your staff had training on supporting pupils with ADHD six months ago, it doesn’t mean they feel confident using those strategies - and wouldn't benefit from revisiting them.

You should now have identified a number of themes that are specific to your school and its needs.

For instance:

  • Working with pupils with emotional dysregulation
  • Supporting pupils with a specific condition like ADHD, autism, attachment, FASD etc.
  • Writing effective behaviour plans and risk assessments
  • Understanding the graduated approach to SEMH and how to gather evidence about needs
  • The process for accessing additional support from the SENCO or BECO in your school
  • Putting together a group intervention (or 1:1 intervention) for pupils with particularly challenging behaviour

In the remaining gaps on your timetable, decide which topics you are going to focus on and when.

You may choose to have one topic across the remaining three slots for the year (i.e. have a yearly focus on supporting children with anger difficulties) or pick a different theme for each slot (eg. ADHD strategies, writing positive behaviour plans, de-escalation).

Implementing your whole school behaviour training plan

At this point, you’ve mapped out your core content and you now have two timetables.

The first is a one-month timetable for members of staff joining the school, explaining how you will induct them into your school’s specific approach to behaviour.

And the other is a whole school timetable of 6 themes that runs across the academic year: three related to whole class management, three related to behavioural special needs.

Best of all, these timetables are built around your school’s needs right now and your teachers experience.

Now we just need to deliver your plan!

The first step is to write down specific dates in your diary for when the training sessions will take place.

For your whole school timetable, you might run one or two specific, whole-school training sessions per half-term, perhaps in a staff meeting or during a training day. It’s usually best only to plan an hour course after school, or a half-day focus on one topic for an INSET day.

Alternatively, you might want to direct staff to online training that they complete flexibly in their own time.

In either case, it’s important to decide dates and deadlines now and block them in.

And CPD doesn’t always have to look like a formal one hour course, presented by a training professional.

It could be school leaders prompting staff with reminders of what they’ve already learnt through the year. In fact, giving regular reminders and prompts is a key part of embedding knowledge.

As headteachers or senior leaders, a great way we can do this is through staff briefings or internal newsletters / calendar sheets / emails. If this forms part of your plan, write down the dates for when you’re going to issue those reminders now!

And remember: if you’re going to be including lunchtime supervisors, ancillary staff or parents as part of your programme, plan dates for their involvement too. Parents, especially, may need additional notice and reminders before support sessions take place.

Who can deliver behaviour training to my school staff?

Now you've developed the core content of your plan, you have 3 choices about which training providers to use for your plan - and all come with their own advantages and disadvantages.

That's why most schools opting for a mixture of the following:

In-school staff

Headteachers, senior leaders and other staff often have the knowledge and ideas needed to cover many aspects of behaviour training.

The advantage of using your own staff is you make cost savings, the trainer will be knowledgeable about your school and children and is likely to be more flexible in terms of dates than booking an outside provider.

If some staff members miss the training due to illness, you also have the potential to re-run that training in the future (assuming there’s space in the trainer’s diary).

The disadvantage of using your own staff is that they may not have the depth of knowledge to tackle content about specific behaviour needs.

They may have also learned from experience, rather than benefited from dedicated training on SEMH and behaviour - so their knowledge of classroom management strategies (and when to apply each one) may be more limited

And some members of staff, although confident talking in front of classes of children, may be less confident presenting in front of their peers.

External behaviour training providers

External providers will most often deliver a one hour, half-day or full-day training session on a single topic.

The advantage of using external providers is they will be very knowledgeable and will usually have run the course a number of times in the past. This gives your staff a confident, polished performance with tried-and-tested materials.

The disadvantage of using external, face-to-face training is that it’s expensive - and there can be a delay in arranging training as you have to find a mutually convenient date with your trainer.

Plus there’s no opportunity to repeat the training in the future.

This means you can't repeat the training for staff who were absent - or who join you in the future. This can lead to skills gaps in your team over time.

This is why this form of on-site training can have a short-term impact - one that deteriorates (often quite quickly) over time.

(Additionally, coronavirus and social distancing have made face-to-face training with external providers more challenging in recent months.)

Online behaviour training

Online behaviour training comes in a variety of formats, usually as a mixture of videos and quizzes.

The advantages of online behaviour training for schools is:

  • It’s affordable - for instance, our Behaviour 360 online training package only costs £49.99p/m for unlimited access to all our courses (and covers your teaching staff, lunchtime supervisors and parents)
  • It’s instant (you can start using it immediately, so you don’t have to negotiate a date with your trainer)
  • It’s flexible (teachers can train individually or in groups; people can train at different times)
  • It’s repeatable (so new members of staff can benefit from the training in their induction, reducing skills gaps; if you get interrupted, you can come back to it later)
  • It’s joined-up (our behaviour resources describe similar techniques for staff, supervisors and parents - to get everyone pulling in the same direction)

The disadvantage of online behaviour training is:

  • You can’t ask your trainer questions
  • It can be daunting for staff that don’t have basic computer skills
  • Some people find online training a bit unengaging (which is why we keep our training sessions short)

No method is perfect - and most headteachers use a mixture of the above to deliver their behaviour training programme.

In school behaviour training

Conclusion

Headteachers, senior leaders, teachers and parents all know that good classroom behaviour is the bedrock of learning.

Establishing that behaviour is the result of having teaching staff who’ve received the right training, who have high expectations and are confident using the full range of classroom strategies.

Those kinds of teachers don’t happen by accident. They’re developed and nurtured over time in a planned, systematic way.

So here's your 5-step plan for success:

  1. Make sure your behaviour policy is clear and concise
  2. Complete an audit of your staff’s current strengths and weaknesses
  3. Write out a timetable, with dates, for a whole-school behaviour training plan
  4. Write out an induction timetable for new recruits and NQTs
  5. Decide on what mix of training is right for you (in-house, external provider, online provider)

...and get started today!

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