Quick-Fire Strategies: Behaviour Plans Or SEN Plans - Which Is Best?

Quick-Fire Strategies: Behaviour Plans Or SEN Plans - Which Is Best?

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Are you questioning whether to implement behaviour plans or SEN plans to support your pupils effectively?

Join us as we unravel the differences between the two approaches and discover the key to a more effective and holistic support system for your students' social, emotional and mental health needs.

Important links:

Get our FREE SEND Behaviour Handbook

Download other FREE SEMH resources to use in your school: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/resources

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to this week's episode of school behaviour secrets. As we're moving towards the Christmas holidays, you've got a quick fire episode this week, where I talk about one tactic or strategy or insight that you can use around SEMH, or behaviour in your school.

 Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton. And we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders and parents and of course, students when classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural special needs, whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast. 

This week, I want to think about a question that keeps cropping up in my work with schools and in my email inbox and on social media. It's the question of should this child have a behaviour plan, or an SEN plan or special educational needs plan? And I think my answer on this may surprise  a few , or at least make you rethink the way you look at this. So let's start by taking the example of a child who's having long term behaviour issues in class. We'll call her Nadia. She keeps refusing to do the work and keeps storming out a class which is stressful for her teacher. And she's also soaking up huge amounts of time from the pastoral staff and senior leaders because obviously, it's not safe to leave her roaming the corridors on her own, especially if she's in a heightened emotional state. And by long term, let's imagine that Nadia has been engaging in these behaviours for at least four months. So there's a pattern of behaviour here that's persisted over time. 

So the next thing we need to think about is what is the difference between a behaviour plan and an SEN plan or SEND plan? Well, let me give you a traditional answer. And then we'll think about how these things have been seen as different in the past. So traditionally, a behaviour plan, as the name suggests, narrowly focuses on the child's behaviour in school. In some schools, these might be called behaviour plans, or individual behaviour plans or IBPS, or behaviour support plans or pastoral support plans, they tend to describe the behaviours that are problematic the strategies that the adults should use to successfully manage those behaviours from the child, the strategies we're going to encourage the student to use for themselves, and then some sort of measure of success. Behaviour plans also traditionally tend to be more focused on rewards and consequences than looking at deeper causes. So what might this look like for Nadia, so it might describe her refusal to work, her defiant behaviour to adults and the way she keeps on walking out of class, it might then highlight some strategies for her teacher, perhaps using some form of reward charting class some specific de escalation techniques, like take up time, or timeout and so on. And for Nadia, it might recommend that she uses nonverbal communication strategies to indicate she's upset, so maybe she has a card on the table that she turns over from green to red, to indicate she is frustrated, there may be some emotional regulation strategies that a learning mentor will explain and go over with her. And then the plan will measure how many times she completes her work or stays in the classroom as a measure of success. Of course, a good thing's yo put a time limit on this, you might say from staying in class, from 50% of lessons to 80% of lessons each week, by June the fifth. And the plan also recommends to discourage negative behaviour. Every time she goes out of class. There's an automatic after school detention. So quick side note here, when I talk about consequences, remember, that doesn't just mean detentions and lost break times. Your school might also implement natural consequences through restorative conversations. So if Nadia gets a restorative conversation as a way of managing her behaviour, that's still consequence focused. Now you can see this plan looks at the student's behaviour in isolation, it's very much focused on the negative behaviours that are happening, and the desired replacement behaviours we'd like to see instead. It doesn't do much in the way of exploration of who Nadia is, as a wider person. It doesn't look at her wider needs, and how these needs may impact on each other and result in the behaviours we're seeing in school. It's a plan with a very narrow focus. So that's behaviour plans. 

Let's have a look at SEND plans now or you might hear them refer to as individual education plans or IEPs, or send support plans or send provision plans. There are lots of names for these things. And I think one of the worst changes in UK education over the last 10 years has been to move away from a common language for these plans between schools and max and authorities, who are essentially referring to the same kinds of programmes, which means we may be using the same terms for slightly different approaches, leading to confusion and misunderstanding between schools and authorities. But that's an entirely different story. So what an SEND plan will do a special educational needs and disabilities plan we'll try and do is map out all of the children's needs. So Nadia has got a clear SEMH need here that's already been identified in terms of her being dysregulated and walking out of class. But let's pull the camera back. Yeah, let's zoom out. Because when we look at Nadia's wider needs, we also discover that she's got some identified communication and language needs, like many pupils, with behaviour challenges in school, she finds it difficult to articulate what she wants to say and process what other people are saying. She also has significant academic needs, particularly around reading, which makes accessing working class difficult for her, we also discover at home, she's acting as a carer to her younger brother because of her mom's mental health needs, and Dad's not around. So now, taking this kind of bird's eye view of needs, gives us an entirely different picture, we can start to see how each of Nadia's needs is interconnected, and how the behaviours we're seeing in class might be the result of multiple causes. If she has specific difficulties around reading, then she is going to find it hard to understand and set up the work and complete it successfully. That's going to lead to frustration on her part. But Nadia, also has difficulties around communication, which means he finds it hard to express this to the teacher may mean she's reluctant to attempt to communicate any difficulties she's having, because she lacks confidence in this area. She's also physically exhausted from caring for her brother, which is time consuming, which is a factor in her dysregulation and explains why she often doesn't get her homework in on time. 

For kids like Nadia, we're doing her a disservice by not connecting these dots and putting together a coherent plan that addresses all of her needs, and puts in place a package of support that can move her forward in a successful way, in a way that a plan that focuses purely on behaviour can never do. And sometimes because of the way we split work and responsibilities in school, you can find that the same child can have a behaviour plan, written by say a member of the pastoral staff are a learning mentor, and a separate Sen plan written by the school SENCO. But the problem with this is, unless those staff work really closely together, make a massive effort to coordinate and have excellent communication. Those separate plans don't come together, they don't have the necessary links, they don't integrate effectively. And they can as a result end up pulling in different directions or important informations to both plans gets missed, which means Nadia gets mislabelled and stuck in a pattern of negative behaviour because she didn't get the right support, damaging for her and stressful for her teachers too. 

So when it comes to the question of behaviour plans, or SEND plans, here's my answer. 

If the child is clearly presenting a set of needs in school, a wider set of needs in schools start with the assumption that you're going to need an Sen D plan to do a good job of supporting the child you're going to need to end up with one anyway. So let's start joining those dots as early on as possible. If the child's behaviour appears to be more chosen, or there aren't any obvious, overlapping needs, feel free to start with a more focused behaviour plan. But here's the thing, right? If it doesn't have an impact in pretty short order, if the child's behaviours aren't changing, you aren't making any progress, then quickly make the jump to implementing an SEND plan and start zooming out and looking at that bigger picture. Do not wait too long. Because presumably, if the child's behaviour were driven purely by choice, then rewards and consequences should deal with that pretty quickly.You only need a fairly simple behaviour plan or behaviour support plan to deal with that. And if we're making no progress, it indicates that there's something else going on some deeper Need or obstacle to progress that we need to consider. Basically after one cycle of plan, do and review, if a narrow behaviour plan we're going to have impact, it would already have had an impact. And it's time to think deeper and dig deeper. 

And that's all I've got for you today. If you found today's episode helpful or useful, remember to like and subscribe and share this episode with any colleagues or friends who'd find it useful. There's no school behaviour secrets next week because it's Christmas, but I'll be back for the new year with another quickfire episode before we return to our normal episodes when schools return the week after in January. Thanks for listening. Have a great week and a great Christmas break. Whatever your religion I hope you get time to rest and recharge.You deserve it. And I look forward to seeing you in the next episode of school behaviour secrets.

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)