Posted by: mrlock | July 2, 2013

Just do what you said you would (Behaviour)

I feel like I should at least try to publish the rest of my notes on the Festival of Education, so I’ll try and get them out as quickly as I can.

At the Festival of Education at Wellington, after the debate involving Daisy Christodoulou and Guy Claxton, @oldandrewuk introduced himself. I’m pleased that he trusts me enough with his identity, because I know how much he values his anonymity. I did text a colleague to report that I was correct in a discussion we’d previously had. The text read: “@oldandrewuk is not Gove. Told you. He’s a normal teacher”.

Anyway, he told me that Tom Bennett had told him that Charlie Taylor was ill, so I followed him to Tom Bennett. Maybe it was a ploy to increase the attendance at Tom’s session.

Tom’s a personable speaker with a number of jokes that you can see coming a mile off (sorry). Nonetheless I laughed along. In addition, it’s refreshing that Tom along with a number of other colleagues in schools around the country are not afraid to actually say that without good behaviour, we can’t have good learning, or even good teaching.

I have to be honest – there are other blog posts on here where I’ve said “well the students didn’t behave, so I must have got it wrong”. I realise that not only was I wrong, but I was blaming teachers for students’ poor behaviour when I applied this logic to my classroom. As a member of the Leadership Group, there’s something obviously wrong there.

As Tom said “good behaviour is the elephant in the classroom”


“If you have one or two students in a classroom, who have made it their mission not to learn, it’s a disaster”

Tom then held back from being the second snake oil salesperson in two sessions (this is a cheap shot at Claxton) by refusing to sell his system of behaviour sanctions. I haven’t checked with him, but I don’t think he will mind me repeating that system here:

“Attach some kind of sanction to behaviour you want to discourage – and attach some kind of reward to behaviour you want to encourage.”

I’d go even further than Tom. I am not even sure the reward is necessary. The reward of being educated should be enough, and I am coming to the view that by attaching extrinsic rewards to behaviour we should be expecting, we devalue the education – ie the product – that we are delivering. I don’t believe there is a reward we can realistically offer that is better than the learning they get from participating in well taught lessons with at least compliant behaviour.

I also think that if we conflate rewards and sanctions we give the impression that it’s ok to behave badly as long as you attract rewards by behaving well at other times. This manifests itself in the classroom as the name being rubbed off the board (for detention, for example) because the teacher is pleased the student hasn’t ruined another part of the lesson. Of course, life isn’t like this. I’m not saying Tom promotes this at all.

I just think we should have a tariff for poor behaviour that is not scared to show students that there is an ultimate sanction (I mean relevant to school) – that of permanent exclusion for persistent disruptive behaviour.

This is not to say I don’t think there should be differentiated interventions for students of need. It is not to say that I don’t agree with what I saw @vicgoddard say on Educating Essex when he said that “permanent exclusion is a failure” and it’s not to say we shouldn’t avoid them – but not at the expense of moving the goalposts and teaching students that in life threatened sanctions may not materialise.

I believe my brother learnt that threatened sanctions weren’t real at school, to disastrous consequences when he became an adult.

Anyway, Tom continued and  said that each school was really two schools. There is the school of the NQT/ PGCE students/ New teacher/ Supply Teacher.

Then there is the school of those with High Status or staff who have been at the school for a while.

The two schools often don’t speak to each other.

Tom said solution is planned support, daily mentoring (even if this is just “see them for 2 minutes a day”), protected time and humility (recognise when someone is new). He continued with some sound advice about training oneself if one is not trained by the school.

Tom “This stuff is really important, more important than Dewey, Vygotsky and so on.”

My favourite part was when Tom nailed restorative justice. He said it is one tool and is fine, but schools are mistaken in believing it is the only way – and it fails when this is the case.

Other solutions to issues such as workload were: shared responsibilities and detentions – double registrations in secondaries (we’re doing this this year), as few meetings as possible, admin staff tracking students who have been kept behind.

I felt like I needed this session about three years ago. Not because I really needed behaviour management training for my lessons, but because as a senior leader I forgot how much I needed when I was new to the profession.

Behaviour management usually just requires senior leaders to actually do what they’ve told staff and students they will do (often in a policy) when students misbehave. – especially when the teacher has.



  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  2. I like the point about the rewards in class simply being a good education. I teach at an independent school and although behaviour isn’t really an issue at all we still have a house point system to reward good behaviour. My common response when pupils say ‘can I have a house point for doing that’ is to say ‘No, you can have my thanks and appreciation for good behaviour / service etc. The few times I have relented and given out points it’s like blood in the water and some start circling round looking for a point. I am pleased to say that this academic year I haven’t given out a single house point (and I don’t think the head of houses at school is going to be checking my wordpress comments!). Independent schools don’t necessarily have the answer and both independent and state can succeed as you say by high expectations and the promise of a good education.


  3. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have rewards. I just don’t think they’re appropriate for behaviour really. I think we should recognise exceptional achievement or citizenship in whatever way we can, but not devalue education by rewarding students for accessing education.

    Having said that, some colleagues have experience of extrinsic rewards working – I know Vic Goddard talks about this – so I’m sure it can work.


  4. Once past early difficulties, I came to believe, over thirty years in the job, that you can’t separate behaviour from teaching. That’s to say I always felt it wasn’t enough to use an approach that said, in effect, ‘OK, settle down. Pay attention. Now you’re with me I’ll start teaching.’ I would do it, but I always tried not to and believed I should be doing better. Apart from anything else, it could set up a disciplinary incident that needed attention even before the lesson had actually started. So I used, and promoted, techniques such as writing a quick task on the board and saying, as they came through the door — ‘That’s your starter. Get on with it’. Then moving round commenting and praising. ‘Good, you’re quick off the mark with that, Kevin’, etc etc. Then during the lesson I tried always to communicate through the work — ask a question about the work rather than do a knee-jerk telling-off. Some tweeters, though, have shaken their virtual heads at that. It may be that I was fortunate with the students I taught. There were some difficult ones, in difficult areas, and many gave me a hard time, but I never taught in a school where children were deliberately obstructive, violent, threatening, foul-mouthed etc.
    That’s all folks. Quite an open-ended comment, and I’m genuinely interested in what people have to say about it.


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