Is a reduced timetable a highly effective support strategy - or is it just another form of exclusion?
This week on School Behaviour Secrets, we reveal the right approach when using reduced timetables in schools. We'll be sharing our tips and tricks for managing and reviewing these schedules so that you can set your pupils up for success.
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Show notes / transcription
Simon Currigan 0:00
For me, a reduced timetable when used in the right way, is a support strategy. And that's so important. I'm going to say it twice. It's a support strategy. It's not a punishment. It's not a consequence for difficult or unsafe behaviour in school. Done Right. It's a way of helping a child who is overwhelmed or doesn't have the underlying emotional or social skills to cope in school.
Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan. And welcome to school behaviour secrets.
It's the half term holiday where we live in England. So this week, I'm releasing a quick fire strategy episode. My aim is to give you one idea or strategy to think about and using your school, all condensed into an easy to listen to 10 minute episode. And if you like this format, or you hated it. And think this is a serious misstep for the for the podcast. Why not let me know on social media look for us on Facebook at Beacon School Support or on Twitter, where we're @Beaconsupport and let me know what you think.
And the focus of today's Quick Fire strategy episode is this, how to use reduced timetables in the right way. So the first question really is, what do I mean by a reduced timetable or reduced provision. And I should definitely preface this by saying I'm based in England now. And if you're listening somewhere else in the world, your state or country may have their own specific rules and regulations about using reduced timetables for students. So bear that in mind. And also, I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not giving you legal advice. For me, a reduced timetable when used in the right way, is a support strategy. And that's so important, I'm going to say it twice. It's a support strategy. It's not a punishment, it's not a consequence for difficult or unsafe behaviour in school. Done Right. It's a way of helping a child who is overwhelmed or doesn't have the underlying emotional or social skills to cope in school. Now, the thing to bear in mind is reduced provision has an evil twin called off rolling. Off rolling usually follows a series of suspensions or fixed term exclusions and the school finds itself in the position of then they're not really sure what to do next. Off rolling is where a student's timetable is quietly reduced in school month, after month, after month. Until they're barely attending at all. They almost become like an unperson. And then the child is quietly removed from the school's role after a discussion with the parents without the school using a formal permanent exclusion, leaving the child without a school place. The key difference here is this, off rolling is being done in the interests of the school, rather than the interests of the pupil. Reduced provision approached as a support strategy is used to improve the child's ability to cope and thrive and achieve in school. It's a short term measure whose ultimate intention is to get the child back into school, full time settled and achieving. Whereas off rolling, well that's about exclusion. Reduce provision. Well, that's about inclusion. But here's the thing about using reduced timetables in school, by themselves, they do absolutely nothing to bring about change. All they do is a limit the time the child is in school, effectively reducing the chance that you're going to see challenging behaviour on any given day. And that's it they they don't do anything else. The child still has all of the underlying difficulties that results in them finding school a stressful, overwhelming, difficult environment in which to achieve. So a reduced a timetable buys time for a separate intervention strategy to start working. Reduce timetables always need a partner strategy or a partner intervention to make any difference. By themselves, they're worthless.
Let's imagine we've got a student called Loretta. And she's having trouble with regulating her emotions. And this leads her to have lots of outbursts in class with the adults and her classmates. And as a result, she often stormed out of class. Yeah, assuming there isn't any other cause for this behaviour, we can see that she's struggling to do well in school because of a skills gap. She lacks the skill of emotional regulation. And potentially, there's also an issue here around her empathy and social skills, which leads her to misinterpret the actions of other people, whether they be adults or children as aggression. There are some essential emotional, social and behavioural skills that she needs to develop, to thrive in school. And once she has been coached to develop these, she should feel more settled and calmer in the classroom and start to achieve her potential again. Here's the problem. developing those skills through a behaviour intervention or support programme in school, through counselling or mentoring or whatever it is, that takes time. It's not like we can sit Loretta in front of a PowerPoint for half an hour about emotional regulation. And then she's gonna nod her head and she's got it, problem solved. Skills like emotional regulation or social interaction. Well, they take time and repetition to develop through a planned structured intervention based on the Loretta's individual needs. But the thing is, Loretta doesn't have time, because she's walking out of class every day, and racking up suspensions quickly. And everyone can see that a permanent exclusion is coming down the line any day, now, the clock is ticking. And Loretta, know she's not doing well, because most of her days end up negatively, meaning that she isn't happy in school. So a reduced timetable does two important things here. The first is that it buys time for the structured behaviour intervention to have an impact. Because she's only in school for a short time, at least initially, she is less likely to engage in negative behaviour. And while she's in school, we focus a part of every single day helping her learn those important social and emotional skills in a planned, structured way. Filling in the missing behavioural building blocks that she needs to succeed as her time in school increases.
The long winding road of off rolling doesn't do any of this. There's no partner intervention, no digging down into the underlying causes for the behaviour, the only strategies being used as sanctions. And this let's reduce Loretta has time in school. And hopefully, magically, the underlying causes for that difficult behaviour will fix themselves. So you wouldn't think that was a winning formula in any other sphere of life. It's a bit like going to a doctor because you're having a breathing difficulty. The doctor inspects your chest finds accounts and then says, well, maybe this issue will resolve itself over time. Of course it won't, or taking your car to the mechanic because you've got an oil leak, and the mechanic looks and finds a hole in the engine, rubs his chin and then says something like, look, let's drive this car less for six weeks and see if the problem goes away. Would you feel thrilled to hear that kind of advice? No, Neither would I.
The second thing a reduced timetable does is this because Loretta is in for a shorter amount of time in school, it means she's less likely to get herself into trouble simply because of the fact that she's not there for very long. Plus, if you find school overwhelming say it's easier to manage your emotions for a smaller period of time. Those fewer negative behaviour incidents means that school becomes a more positive experience for Loretta, resetting her perception of what the day will be and helping her feel more confident, happy and successful in school. And now we're actively teaching Loretta the skill she needs to survive in school, we can increase her time in a planned way. So she can practice using the skills she's developing in the coaching sessions in the classroom where they matter. So the reduced timetable works alongside these other strategies gives them time to have an impact and takes Loretta from a negative unhappy experience of school, to a much more successful one. It's very much about inclusion, identifying needs and creating success. A clear intention is to get Loretta back in school full time and succeeding again, the off rolling approach will be to say, well, this is hopeless, let's cut down a time in school to limit the exclusion statistics before quietly getting rid of her. And my worry is because some schools use reduced provision in a bad way, that legislators will look at the practice of using reduced timetables and decide just to get rid of them. But when they're used in a joined up way, in the way that I'm describing in an inclusive way, for some kids, this can be an absolute lifesaver. Done right, this is very much about inclusion and support, not about punishment and exclusion.
Now, there are all sorts of other aspects of reduced timetables that I don't have time to go into here. In terms of things like you need parental permission, you can't railroad parents, or pupils into accepting them. Equal access to the curriculum, how you set out and judge the success of a reduced timetable. Which authorities you have to notify if you are using these in school. So if you're already using reduced provision as a support strategy in school, you do definitely want to make sure you've got everything in place to demonstrate that what you are doing is supported is focused on inclusion, and is completely aboveboard and legal.
And that's it for today's quickfire strategy episode. If you liked today's episode, don't forget to share it with three friends who would find it useful. Simply open up your podcast app, hit the share button, and your app will help you send a direct link to this episode through Facebook, email, WhatsApp, or whatever messaging platform you use. It's as easy as sharing an article from the web to a friend. And don't forget, if you work with kids with challenging behaviour, and you're not sure why they're acting that way, we've got a download that can help. It's called the SEND handbook, and it will help you link behaviours that you're seeing in the classroom with possible causes like autism, trauma and ADHD. The idea here isn't for teachers to try and make a diagnosis because we're not qualified to do that. But if we can start linking classroom behaviours to possible causes more quickly, it means we can get the right help from external professionals and get early intervention strategies in place. It's a completely free download, go to our website beaconschoolsupport.co.uk. click on the free resources tab near the top and I'll also put a link to that resource in the episode description. If you found this episode interesting or valuable. Also, don't forget to tap the subscribe button on your podcast app so you never miss another episode.
I hope you found today's episode useful whether you're on holiday or not at the moment. I hope you have a brilliant week and I look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets.
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)