Tackling bad behaviour

Most schools have a ‘behaviour support’ policy, which sets out what they do to both reward good behaviour and change disruptive behaviour. Schools generally try to promote good behaviour across the whole school by, for example, organising games and sports in the playground to try to defuse conflicts, or by having senior staff visible at the school gate at the beginning and end of each day.

Some schools are part of a scheme where a local police officer is based in the school. It might seem heavy-handed, but it has worked well in some schools: the children get to know the police officer and go to him or her if there is trouble, and the number of incidents in and around the school has dropped.

Circle of friends

A ‘circle of friends’ works to help manage a student’s behaviour by getting the support of some of his or her peer group or class.

A group of students meet regularly with the young person to help them set and check on behaviour targets. It’s similar to peer mediation or peer support, and helps everyone involved, by helping them make closer relationships with other students in their class or year, by having clear targets to keep to, and by helping them gain greater understanding of themselves and others.

Encouraging good behaviour

Schools help develop good behaviour in students by, for example:

  • sending letters home when they have done a good piece of work;
  • holding commendation assemblies, when students are presented with a certificate or praised for their good work or behaviour;
  • involving them in setting their own behaviour targets, for example, on talking in class or losing their temper;
  • pairing them up with an older student to act as a mentor; or
  • organising a ‘circle of friends’ for them.

Dealing with bad behaviour

To deal with bad behaviour, schools can use a range of punishments and sanctions, as well as detentions, including:

  • removing the child from the class;
  • placing a student on report, which means teachers of the Head of Year provide parents with daily or weekly reports on the student’s behaviour and work;
  • withdrawing break or lunchtime privileges;
  • internal exclusion, which means the student must come into school later than other students, and leave after other students have left;
  • lunchtime exclusion, which means the student is not allowed to play at lunchtime, and the parents may have to pick him or her up during lunchtime;
  • not being allowed to go on school trips;
  • making the student carry out a useful task in school, for example, picking up litter or cleaning up;
  • making the student carry out some community work (for example, if they had vandalised a piece of equipment, they might have to repair or repaint it).
  • Some schools also run ‘restorative justice programs’. This means that, if a child has hit or bullied another child, the two children meet with a teacher to talk about it and for the bully to apologise to the other child.

Learning support units

Learning support units are special places within the school where students who are disruptive or have other problems are taught separately from the rest of their class for a time. They are not a ‘sin-bin’ – they give the student an opportunity to get help, either with particular work, on with particular aspects of their behaviour. Students usually attend for no more than two months, sometimes just part-time, with the remainder of time in their usual class. While there, they continue to learn from the National Curriculum, and they might also learn anger management and social skills. Students are also given their own targets for learning in different subjects, and the emphasis is on getting them to a point where they can rejoin their class.

Learning Support Units mean that students with problems can remain in their school, with a good chance of being able to rejoin their class after a time. They allow teachers to work more intensively with students who might otherwise end up excluded.

Sanctions and support for parents
Penalty notices

Local authorities, headteachers, and the police can issue parents with fines for truancy or if an excluded child is in a public place during the first five days of the exclusion (without a strong reason, such as a medical emergency).
Fines for non-attendance are an alternative to prosecution. They are £50 if paid within 28 days, and £100 if paid later than 28 days but within 42 days. Parents who pay up on time will not be prosecuted. However, if they do not pay, the LA will usually prosecute.

Parenting contracts

The school may suggest drawing up a parenting contract. This is an agreement between you and the school about your child. It is not a punishment, but rather a way of working together to help your child. The school may suggest a parenting contract if it feels your child’s behaviour is getting worse; perhaps if your child has been excluded for several short periods, or if they are not attending school regularly.

The school will invite you to a meeting to discuss the parenting contract – your child may also be asked to come to the meeting. Under the contract, you agree to do certain things, for example, signing a weekly behaviour report and making sure that your child arrives at school on time each day. In return, the school will offer you and your child support.

Parenting contracts are voluntary – the school can’t force you to sign one.

There is a guide for parents about parenting contracts on the Department for Education website, See ‘Links to Other websites’ to the right.

Parenting orders

These are court orders which compel a parent to attend parenting classes as well as other requirements required by the court for improving their child's behaviour. It is not a criminal conviction. It can be issued following a parent’s conviction for their child’s non-attendance, if their child has been excluded for serious misbehaviour either permanently or twice in 12 months for a fixed period, or if the child’s behaviour is serious enough to have warranted a permanent exclusion.

September 2009

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