Blog Archives

The Power of Collaboration

For the last six and a half years, I have been in the privileged position of being able to visit many schools and see lots of different and wonderful practice. I worked for a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) from 2010-2014 where I supported children who were at risk of being excluded from their mainstream schools and I also helped to reintegrate permanently excluded children back into mainstream education. This has allowed me to see many effective and ineffective strategies, in terms of dealing with behaviour. The last few years have seen me move from full class teaching to Assistant Headteacher with only a 50% timetable. As well as this, I have become a Specialist Leader in Education (SLE) within the last year or so and have been given lots of opportunities to help schools in my ever-growing multi-academy chain.

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Positive Debrief – Breaking the Negative Cycle

I’ve written a previous blog post called Conflict Spiral – letting children know we can listen which is an idea from Team Teach. The conflict spiral is excellent at thinking about behaviour as an escalating crisis with many different points or stages. These stages help us to try and think of behaviour in a different way but in particular, they make me think about conducting a positive debrief with a child after an incident.

There are two ways of thinking about a child after an incident in terms of what we can do for them. We can either:

  1. Continue to manage future incidents for the child
  2. Teach the child to manage future incidents themselves

If a child repeatedly goes into crisis, staff can manage them every time. They can help them to manage the crisis at that point and also, they may choose to physically intervene. This is a control and at times, it is useful. If we only do things to help children during the time of a crisis, we will only seek to react to their poor behaviour. If we want to help them to manage themselves in the future, rather than depend on the member of staff, we have to debrief every incident, every time. Read the rest of this entry

Anti-bullying: Not just for a week!

During this week, schools up and down the country would have had a large focus on anti-bullying as, unless you live under a stone, everyone knows it has been anti-bullying week this week. Children will have had lessons, assemblies, competitions etc to help to raise the profile of bullying and the kids dutifully come up with all of the answers but it got me thinking. How can a school keep this up all year long? If this could be addressed (and in lots of schools I am sure it is), then surely schools would become more proactive about tackling bullying rather than being reactive.

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NQT Support 2

Last year I delivered some behaviour training and I did the same this year. This post summarises some of their questions.

On Thursday 22nd September, I delivered some training to a group of NQTs as part of our Academy Trust training programme. The session was great, very informal in terms of delivery style but well structured. At the beginning of the session, some of them put up post-its with particular questions that they would like answering. Rather than paying them 10 minutes lip service at the end, I said that I would respond to them as a whole by email so that they could be used as a starting point for further discussion if necessary.

This blog post is simply the questions that were on the post-its and the answers that I gave in the email. It seemed a shame to waste them!

A child who interrupts to correct/tell you how to do things

Some children just have to tell you everything that you do wrong. This can be frustrating but as soon as you let the frustration show, it will manifest itself. Being frustrated will not change the child’s behaviour. Speak to them about whether things are useful to know or vitally important. When they correct you, start threading in and asking whether what they just said was vitally important at that point or not. You may have to categorise with them. Keep doing this consistently and when they’ve got it, as soon as they start to interrupt you or shoot their hand up when you know that it is something that isn’t imperative, ask them whether it is vitally important or whether they can tell you at the end of the lesson because you’ll have time to listen to them. It will work in one of two ways – they will either get fed up of coming back and telling you at lunch that actually called John by the name of James (or something else pointless) or it will give them a more appropriate time to tell you. Some may just need to say it. If it is at an appropriate time, just thank them. This is then dealt with courteously and you can get on with your lesson.

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Exclusions – The facts!

Exclusions are the most serious consequence that a school can issue to a child in this country. This blog post aims to highlight some of the key points when considering exclusions as well as looking at the balance of when and when not to exclude as well as the implications for excluding children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). As well as this, I will offer my own thoughts and experience on exclusions. If you want to read further on exclusions, I would suggest reading DfE: Exclusion from maintained schools, Academies and pupil referral units in England.

The power to exclude

Schools can choose to exclude children on the grounds of disciplinary only. They cannot exclude for any reason and infact, they must protect children and make sure that all children are treated fairly and not excluded on the grounds of things such as disability or race. Only the Head of a school or academy can exclude a child (that includes Executive Heads) and no-one else. Many people can contribute towards the child and the evidence but it is only the Head who can authorise this and therefore they must be the one who signs the letter. The decision to exclude must be legal, reasonable and fair.

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Restraint, Risk and Reduction

As part of my current role, I am responsible for behaviour in the cluster I work in and I am an accredited Team Teach instructor. I have been trained in Team Teach for the last 7 years (four of that while working in a PRU and three years in my current mainstream) and I have been an instructor for the last year. I, alongside my colleague, have trained around 150 staff in our Multi Academy Trust and I will be training another 20 or so in September. One of the biggest problems that I come across as the behaviour lead for the cluster I work in, is when some people are trained in schools and some are not. Usually, the majority of staff, who have not had any formal training in positive handling, see themselves as not being allowed to physically touch or restrain children. This is simply not the case and this has caused schools so many problems. Knowledge is power… or so they say. This blog post intends to be my outlook on the restraint, risk and reduction as well as a link to some formal documentation.

Power to use reasonable force and duty of care

All members of staff who work in a school have a legal power to use reasonable force. There are set reasons when staff could use reasonable force because whenever anyone physically handles another person, it must be a legal use of force. You can’t normally physically touch another person without their consent. If I was to walk down the street and take hold of someones arm against their will, they would have a right, and possibly should, press charges for assault. In schools, we act under exceptional circumstances and if the situation presents itself, we can step outside of this norm. The DfE, in their non-statutory guidance, states that reasonable force ‘means using no more force than is needed.’ The term force, in the contexts of reasonable force is deemed when the force is applied to control of restrain.

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Teaching Behaviour

As educators working in schools, our primary job is to impart knowledge to others. Maths, literacy, scientific skills et cetera. There are many other elements to the job but the only thing that we should be doing when directly working with children is to educate them, to teach them something. This may be something academic but it can also be a whole plethora of other things, such as how to ask politely for something, how to share, how to resolve their issues, communicate… In fact, every time we interact with children, we should always teach them something.

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Lead by example

“One of the most important things we adults can do for young children is to model the kind of person we would like them to be.”

Carol B Hillman

The new academic year is nearly upon us and I work in a large primary school with about 550 children in it. Seeing as though we have 20+ classes, we always have a few teachers move on and start somewhere else for September. We have three new teachers this year, all NQT’s and as part of my additional responsibility for my new role, I am their mentor. This got me thinking… There are all of the formal ways to support them as laid out by the appropriate body for the Local Authority that I work within but I think they will learn far more from the informal discussions, support and most importantly, observations of other staff around the school. This post isn’t about NQT’s per se, but about how adults act in and around the school and the monumental impact that this can have, positive and negative on the children.

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Feelings and Behaviour

After working with children with challenging behaviour for a number of years, and more recently taking up a role in a mainstream academy as well as supporting other local schools with behaviour, I know more than ever how difficult it can be to persuade/encourage other members of staff to change how they manage behaviour. Where effective behaviour modification in children takes place, it is usually down to how the adult changes their behaviour. The driving force behind this… is the adult being aware of the feelings of both parties.

Our feelings

When we feel in a calm and serene mood, we may behave in a particular way. The behaviour may be in the actions we undertake, but it is also in our body language, tone of voice, the things we say and the look on our faces. On a Saturday morning, after a full week at work, I am usually in an extremely calm frame of mind. I have put the week behind me (until at least the Sunday night work!) and I get to spend the morning having a cup of tea with my wife, spending time with my kids, reading or whatever else suits my agenda. I am relaxed in my posture, my mannerisms, with the things that I say and I am even handle frustrations more easily. None of the kids electronic devices are not connecting to the wifi… no problem. I’ll sort it.

Fast forward this to a time when I am not feeling so calm, maybe to a state of anxiety or frustration and as you can guess, it is not the same idyllic picture. I am more edgy; my movements are quicker and sharper; I am more easily wound up and simply short with everyone. My kids come to me saying the wifi has gone off while I’m in the middle of writing reports that are due the next day and it is already 8.30pm? Big problem… it seems as though the end of the world is nigh!
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Non-verbal communication – The silent power!

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”

Charlie Kaufman

There are many forms of communication and they all have merit. Some forms of communication are more effective depending on the circumstance. The most effective type depends on the relationship between the two parties, what is going on at that point, how receptive they are to certain modes of communication, the purpose of the communication and their current emotional state. For example, being spoken to in a diplomatic manner by a bank manager when opening an account is perfectly acceptable and delivers their message effectively but the same cannot be said to a police officer chasing a criminal on foot. As they are puffing and wheezing, they might scream stop. Their message is short and their voice level is on the opposite end of the spectrum to the bank manager… it wouldn’t quite work if officer asked the criminal in a quiet and patient voice.

This is similar in mainstreams with children. Read the rest of this entry

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