Ready to Learn – Implementing radical changes to behaviour management in school

Ross Martland is the Vice Principal (Deputy Head of School) at The Fallibroome Academy in Cheshire, a Whole Education Partner School. He shares how they radically revisited their approach to behaviour management and successfully implemented the change.

Ready to Learn – The Fallibroome Academy approach to behaviour management

Last year we met with small groups of school staff to identify areas we were doing well as a school and where we could improve.  The meetings were overwhelmingly positive, however we quickly identified three common improvement themes: staff workload, opportunities for staff to socialise and the management of low-level behaviour.  

In order to tackle this point, the Leadership Team began to research and visit several schools across the country who had taken significant steps to address behaviour.  We aimed to radically change our approach to behaviour management so that within 12 months there would be a climate in school where there were very few low-level behaviour issues, students were always focused and working hard, and there were exceptionally high levels of respect for all staff. Our ‘Ready to Learn’ strategy was developed from these principles.

The principles

Clarity for all stakeholders is a key part of our approach.  We chose to be very specific about what is and isn’t acceptable, and as a consequence have set the expected standard very high.  

  • We expect our students to listen attentively to their teacher and to each other at all times.  
  • We expect them to be organised and hardworking.  
  • Being respectful to their teacher is an absolute requirement.  

All this has been explained to our students, parents and staff and described in specific detail.  For example, students, parents and staff know that we issue ‘Cautions’ for being late (and what being late means), or missing equipment (and what equipment is expected). This level of detail has been essential to the success of our approach.

The process

All behaviour transgressions (‘Cautions’) are immediately picked up and formally recorded in the lesson. A summary document is also automatically emailed to parents every month.  This is a powerful motivation for most students to take our behaviour expectations seriously.

The immediacy of this approach is key to its success.  In some schools, students are given behaviour scores at the end of a lesson which may lead to sanctions thereafter.  In our view, this approach is much too slow and too open to subjective judgement. Under such a system, the link between misbehaviour and consequences can be too tenuous – and therefore much more open to being challenged by students and/or their parents.   

A student who receives three Cautions in a lesson is instantly removed to work in silence in our Behaviour Centre for two lessons. A student who has to be removed from a lesson repeatedly will quickly find themselves working in silence in our Behaviour Centre until 5pm.

To some, this might seem punitive.  In our experience, this acts as a powerful deterrent for our more challenging students.  Indeed as a result, the vast majority have learnt to self-regulate their behaviour to avoid this outcome.  

Successfully implementing the change

We have dramatically increased our expectations of staff consistency. As we have been so specific about our expectations, staff know exactly how they are expected to manage incidents.  This means that students rarely argue or contest their decisions in lessons – precisely because all of our teaching staff operate in the same manner.

The training programme that we developed for our staff before launch played a crucial role.   We produced training videos to demonstrate good and bad practice, including specifics on language, manner and tone.  We train new colleagues and our supply staff in the same way. Training for staff is followed up with repeated assemblies and communication events with all students and parents to ensure clarity for our whole community. As a result, managing behaviour well is no longer the preserve of the experienced, senior colleagues within the school and even our most inexperienced colleagues have been empowered to manage their classrooms effectively.  

To resource the changes, we recruited two new members of staff and separated our existing pastoral staffing provision into three distinct teams:

  1. Inclusion (to support vulnerable students, those on modified timetables etc.)
  2. Behaviour (managing the Behaviour Centre)
  3. Admin (attendance, medical, etc.).  

We wrote in-house software so that staff in lessons could record Cautions at the press of a button.  Our software automatically schedules students into the Behaviour Room and sends an email to the relevant staff and parents.  Data from the software is used to email a monthly report to each parent, awarding a ‘Ready to Learn’ grade and details of their Caution record, all of which builds into our internal school reward system.

Results so far:

Following a short trial period, Ready to Learn went live in September.  The evidence of impact has been compelling. Lessons are exceptionally calm, with purposeful learning and high levels of activity and engagement.  Frequent student, staff and parental surveys have reported that behaviour has improved significantly, with disruption minimal and swiftly dealt with.  Governors and an external consultant have commented on the ‘transformative’ impact of our approach to behaviour management. Staff have told us that they can teach more than ever before and do not have to waste time chasing students for detentions.  Our boast is that we challenge visitors to go into any lesson, with any group at any time of the day to see for themselves!

Ready to Learn has been a real success for us.  Our current developments are now focused on sustaining the approach with new students and staff, embedding ways of recognising success and rewarding and how we address student behaviour outside of lessons.

Ross is a participant on Whole Education’s Leading and Managing Curriculum Change course, which supports senior leaders to innovate, pilot and successfully implement change. He shared his story with us at one of the days of the course.

The key theme of the LMCC is supporting leaders to make values-based, evidence-informed, decisions about how to deliver the best possible educational experience for their learners, in their school’s unique context. Learn more and get in touch here.

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