Publication - Research publication

Behaviour in Scottish schools: 2016 research

Published: 12 Dec 2017
Directorate:
Children and Families Directorate
Part of:
Children and families, Education, Research
ISBN:
9781788513319

This report is from the fourth (2016) wave of behaviour in Scottish schools research, first undertaken in 2006.

Contents
Behaviour in Scottish schools: 2016 research
10 Approaches used in schools

10 Approaches used in schools

10.1 This chapter explores the range of approaches [24] used in schools to encourage positive relationships and behaviour and respond to disruptive behaviour. It highlights the most commonly used approaches (including the most frequently used methods of dealing with low-level and serious disruptive behaviours) and the amount of time that headteachers and teachers spent on different ways of supporting relationships and behaviour.

Key findings

10.2 As in 2012, whole-school strategies and supportive approaches, rather than the exclusion of pupils or other punishments, were identified by headteachers and teachers as the most frequently used approaches to encourage positive relationships and behaviour and manage disruptive behaviour.

10.3 The use of restorative approaches and solution oriented approaches increased between 2012 and 2016. Although changes to the wording of the question mean that the results for 'nurture approaches' cannot accurately be compared over time, the qualitative research suggested that the use of nurture approaches may also have increased.The use of detention and punishment exercises decreased.

10.4 Regardless of the specific approaches or interventions used, staff and pupils agreed it was important to be clear about expectations; regularly reinforce these expectations; be clear about the consequences if expectations are not met; and follow through on the consequences.

10.5 Approaches need to be adapted on the basis of what works for individual pupils.

10.6 Pupils, in particular, valued consistency. There was a tension, however, in being consistent while at the same time being responsive to an individual pupil's circumstances

10.7 Praising positive behaviour was widely viewed as a positive way of managing low-level disruptive behaviour.

10.8 Among all groups of staff, there was a widely held view that a lack of both internal and external resources was having a negative effect on the management of behaviour (in particular, a lack of support staff, teacher shortages and difficulties finding supply teachers, and reductions in external support for pupils with more severe behavioural problems).

Approaches used in schools

10.9 The survey asked headteachers and teachers to indicate how frequently, if at all, each of 32 different approaches was used in their school.

10.10 Primary headteachers and teachers shared the same perceptions of the most commonly-used approaches within their schools. Approaches used most often were; promotion of positive behaviour through whole-school ethos and values (99% headteachers, 97% teachers); reward systems for pupils (99% headteachers, 98% teachers); and sharing appropriate strategies and approaches within school/staff (99% headteachers, 97% teachers).

10.11 Secondary headteachers and teachers also agreed on the most commonly-used approaches, but there was difference in that headteachers reported higher frequencies of use. The three approaches used most often in secondary schools were: promotion of positive behaviour through whole-school ethos and values (100% of headteachers and 85% of teachers said this was was used 'frequently' or 'sometimes'); broad curriculum options, vocational opportunities and personal and social development programmes (headteachers 97%, teachers 91%) and break-time supervision (headteachers 96%, teachers 85%).

10.12 Differences in the reports of frequency of reporting from secondary headteachers and teachers may be attributable to their roles: headteachers are more likely to have a whole-school overview of all the approaches used, including work with external agencies, while teachers may be more likely to base their response on approaches they have used personally or know that colleagues have used. For example, almost all (97%) secondary headteachers stated that staged intervention and assessment models ( e.g. school and multi-agency joint assessment and planning teams) were used 'frequently' or 'sometimes', while only 69% of secondary teachers did so (22% of secondary teachers said they did not know about the use of this approach or thought it was not applicable).

10.13 Related to this point, almost all (97%) secondary headteachers reported sharing appropriate strategies and approaches within school/staff as occurring 'frequently' or'sometimes'. However, only 81% of secondary teachers did so, with 15% stating that this approach happened 'rarely'.

10.14 Figures 10.1-10.4 below show the percentage of headteachers and teachers saying that approaches were 'frequently' or 'sometimes' used in their schools (2016 and 2012). [25]

Figure 10.1: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: primary headteachers
Figure 10.1: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: primary headteachers
Bases: primary headteacher 287 (2016) 295 (2012)

Figure 10.2: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: primary teachers
Figure 10.2: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: primary teachers
Bases: primary teacher 694 (2016) 884 (20

Figure 10.3: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: secondary headteachers
Figure 10.3: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: secondary headteachers
Bases: secondary headteacher 183 (2016) 265 (2012

Figure 10.4: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: secondary teachers
Figure 10.4: Approaches used in schools 2016/2012: secondary teachers
Bases: secondary teacher 1744 (2016) 2019 (2012)

Changes over time

10.15 Overall, both headteacher and teacher responses reflect the same changes between 2012 and 2016. In both sectors

  • the use of punishment exercises has decreased
  • the use of detention has decreased (although secondary headteachers disagree somewhat, with their 2016 responses being almost the same as in 2012)
  • the use of restorative approaches has increased
  • the use of solution oriented approaches has increased.

10.16 In secondary schools there has also been an increase in the use of campus police/community police partnerships.

10.17 Although changes to the wording of the question mean that the results for 'nurture approaches' (referred to as 'nurture groups/nurture principles' in 2012) cannot accurately be compared over time, the qualitative research suggested that the use of nurture approaches may have increased.

Dealing with serious and low-level disruptive behaviours

10.18 Staff were also asked to select up to three of the approaches which were most commonly used in their school to deal with specifically with serious disruptive behaviour and with low-level disruptive behaviour [26] . The most commonly mentioned are shown in Tables 10.1 to 10.4. While the responses of primary headteachers and primary teachers were broadly similar, secondary teachers were more likely to mention exclusionary/punitive approaches (detention, class exclusion and punishment exercises) than secondary headteachers. Again this may be because headteachers have a greater focus on whole-school policy and preventative approaches, while teachers may be more likely to focus on dealing with individual pupils and on reactive, as well as preventative, approaches.

10.1: Approaches most commonly used in primary schools to deal with serious disputive behaviour
10.1: Approaches most commonly used in primary schools to deal with serious disputive behaviour

10.2: Approaches most commonly used in secondary schools to deal with serious disputive behaviour
10.2: Approaches most commonly used in secondary schools to deal with serious disputive behaviour

10.3: Approaches most commonly used in primary schools to deal with low-level disputive behaviour
10.3: Approaches most commonly used in primary schools to deal with low-level disputive behaviour

10.4: Approaches most commonly used in secondary schools to deal with low-level disputive behaviour
10.4: Approaches most commonly used in secondary schools to deal with low-level disputive behaviour

Time spent on supporting relationships and behaviour

10.19 In the survey, headteachers and teachers were asked to provide an estimate of the time they spent in the last full teaching week on eight different types of activity related to supporting relationships and behaviour [27] . Figure 10.5 below shows the average amount of time spent on these activities (including those who reported that they spent no time on that activity).

Figure 10.5: Time spent on different ways of supporting relationships and behaviour
Figure 10.5: Time spent on different ways of supporting relationships and behaviour
Bases: secondary headteacher 175, secondary teacher 1652, primary headteacher 278, primary teacher 654

  • Dealing with the same pupils who present challenging behaviour was the activity that primary headteachers (an average of 77 minutes in the previous week), primary teachers (75 minutes) and secondary teachers (70 minutes) spent most time on.
  • Secondary headteachers spent most time (an average of almost two hours), on referring/liaising with Guidance, SMT or other staff about particular pupils. For secondary teachers this was the activity they spent the second most amount of time on (70 minutes).
  • In total, the average amount of time spent on all of these activities combined was:
    • 8 hours 22 minutes (primary headteachers)
    • 9 hours 42 minutes (secondary headteachers)
    • 4 hours 46 minutes (primary teachers) and
    • 5 hours 15 minutes (secondary teachers).

Managing disruptive behaviour – findings from the qualitative research [28]

10.20 There is considerable overlap in the measures used to manage low-level and more serious disruptive behaviour. This section, therefore, considers what is working well in terms of managing both low-level and more serious disruptive behaviour –and what the barriers are to doing so. It covers the perspectives of headteachers, teachers and support staff as well as pupils. There are clear links between behaviour and factors such as engagement in learning and the wider school ethos. However, as there are separate sections on these topics (see Chapter 7 on engagement and Chapter 11 on ethos), this section focuses on measures specifically aimed at minimising and addressing disruptive behaviour.

Setting and reinforcing expectations

10.21 Regardless of the specific approaches or interventions being used to manage behaviour, both staff and pupils agreed it was important to

  • be clear about expectations
  • regularly reinforce these expectations
  • be clear about the consequences if expectations are not met
  • follow through on the consequences.

10.22 Explaining why certain behaviours were disrespectful was also mentioned by secondary support staff as being useful.

10.23 In terms of what these expectations are, pupils talked positively about teachers who were ' strict but not too strict'. They liked it when teachers did not pick up on 'every little thing' and when they moved on quickly from a negative incident rather than letting it mar an entire lesson.

Adapting approaches

10.24 It was considered important to be clear on behaviour that is expected from pupils. However teachers and headteachers recognised that the strategies that worked to encourage positive behaviour for one pupil may not necessarily work for others. This was particularly true for pupils who had an additional support need that was most effectively handled in a certain way. What works is forming a positive relationship with each pupil and adapting the strategies used accordingly.

10.25 One group of primary teachers, who were working in a school with large class sizes and several pupils with considerable support needs, said that they were confident of the different strategies which worked with the individual pupils in their classes. However, given the numbers of pupils involved, they found it difficult to apply all these strategies at the same time.

Consistency and fairness

10.26 While acknowledging different teaching styles, consistency across staff in relation to which behaviours were or were not acceptable, and the consequences of unacceptable behaviour, was considered important. Pupils, in particular, valued consistency and when new 'fads' (such a 'bottle flipping') emerged this served to highlight these inconsistencies among teachers. Consistency was more of an issue in secondary schools because pupils are taught by more teachers. Support staff who were in classes with different teachers commented that there were differences in what was acceptable from one class to the next. They felt this made it harder for pupils to know what was acceptable, and for teachers to deal with behaviours that they are unhappy with.

10.27 Inconsistencies and 'grey areas' were more common in response to low-level disruptive behaviour than in relation to serious disruptive and/or violent behaviour. For the latter, there tended to be clear procedures in place which were implemented following an incident.

10.28 There was a tension, however, in being consistent while at the same time being responsive to an individual pupil's circumstances. There are two elements to this. Firstly, if a class teacher was aware, for example, that a pupil was experiencing problems in their personal life, they may feel it appropriate to be more lenient with them in the classroom for a period of time. At the same time, they were conscious that the rest of the class might not understand why the pupil was being treated differently and might see this as the teacher being unfair and not following through on consequences. Indeed, pupils also raised this issue: they understood that there might be reasons for different treatment, but sometimes felt that it was, nonetheless, unfair. Secondly, staff talked about feeling unsupported in instances where a referral to SMT had been treated in a different way to normal. They had later found out that this was due to a something that was happening in the pupil's personal life, but this had not been explained to them at the time.

Rewarding positive behaviour

10.29 Rewarding achievement and celebrating success – in relation to behaviour as well as other in other areas – was widely viewed as a positive way of managing low-level disruptive behaviour. This included paying attention to positive rather than negative behaviour and making a point of praising pupils for it – this was highlighted by primary staff in particular.

10.30 Specific rewards-based systems were also widely used and valued by both staff and pupils. An example was using a positive referral system for pupils which aimed to see a shift from referrals being related solely to negative behaviour.

Whole-school approaches

10.31 Approaches which were embedded in the school ethos were discussed in terms of their positive impact on disruptive behaviours by both primary and secondary staff. Two main approaches were used: nurturing and restorative. Although the nurture approach was implemented differently across schools, a common theme was for pupils who were experiencing difficulties to spend some time out of the classroom, in a calming place, where staff could work with them to address the root cause of their problems. For pupils with chaotic home lives, headteachers also emphasised the importance of ensuring that their basic needs were met before they could be expected to learn and behave in a positive way. This included hygiene, clothing and food as well as provision of equipment such as pencils and the use of ICT if it is not available at home.

10.32 Staff in both sectors felt that restorative approaches were successful in resolving specific incidents and, although pupils did not necessarily discuss it in these terms, they did talk about the importance of feeling that they were being listened to. Staff noted, however, that restorative approaches are also time consuming, meaning that they are either not used as often as they could be or are not always used correctly.

Building resilience and emotional intelligence

10.33 As discussed in paragraphs 5.35 to 5.38, there was a view that many pupils lack the resilience to be able to solve their own problems in an appropriate manner and are overly reliant on adults to resolve things for them. Acknowledging the link between this and behaviour, staff talked about using programmes which aimed to equip pupils with greater emotional intelligence and resilience.

Sanctions

10.34 When teachers had to address disruptive behaviour it was considered important to do this in stages. Staff and pupils felt that giving pupils some leeway was preferable to being very strict from the outset.

10.35 Sanctions were implemented when low-level disruptive behaviour had been persistent or had escalated or the initial incident was more serious in nature. These sanctions included behaviour sheets, being kept in at break or lunch time (primary schools), punishment exercises, detentions and internal or external exclusions (for more serious behaviour). While the above sanctions were felt to be effective to varying degrees, depending on the pupil, staff in secondary schools, in particular, commented that, for a small number of pupils, none of the sanctions were significant deterrents. It was not uncommon for these pupils to refuse to do punishment exercises or detentions.

10.36 Pupils also talked about measure teachers used to control low-level disruptive behaviour. They frequently mentioned disruptive pupils being moved next to quieter ones. However, they felt that this often did not work as it meant that the quieter pupils were then disrupted. On a related point, one group of pupils, who were struggling a little with a subject, felt that that some of the 'good' pupils in the class were allowed to talk more as they doing well anyway, but that this was unfair as it was distracting for them.

10.37 When behaviours were more serious or violent, they tended to result in a temporary external exclusion [29] . Schools tended to use this sanction as a last resort for less serious behaviours which had escalated or continued despite a series of other interventions such as those mentioned above. In some cases, exclusion was considered to be the most appropriate response in terms of both supporting the pupils and the wider school. However, teachers also raised concerns in relation to exclusion. Firstly, teachers did not always feel that an external exclusion was necessarily in the best interests of the pupil who was being disciplined. This could be if their home life is so chaotic that they are either felt to be less cared for at home and/or the parents were not on board with helping the school to implement the exclusion as they would hope and were instead letting them do enjoyable activities while excluded, such as watching TV or going out. Secondly, there was a view among staff that, for some pupils, exclusion is not an effective deterrent. Beyond exclusion, teachers and headteachers described a lack of available options. They linked this to a reduction of external local authority support for pupils with behavioural needs (see paragraph 10.40 below).

10.38 Some schools adopted a system of excluding pupils from classes instead. This involves the pupil being taken out of classes for a period of time and doing their work in another part of the school. While, in some ways, this was considered a positive option, it carried its own problems – most notably that it was increasingly difficult to resource class exclusions as they required a member of staff (often from the SMT) having to be with the pupil at all times during their class exclusion. Teachers did not feel this was a sustainable option given resourcing constraints. Furthermore, as noted in paragraphs 5.42 to 5.44, there was suggestion that one of the reasons for the increase in low-level disruption was that pupils are experiencing a lack of attention at home and the behaviours they display in class are often a result of a need for attention. For such pupils, an internal inclusion may not be considered a disincentive as they welcome the individual attention they receive.

Specific prevention of violence initiatives

10.39 Schools also talked about measures used to prevent violent behaviour. Some schools had specific anti-violence initiatives in place within the school. These included sessions delivered in PSE and in assemblies as well as the provision of peer mediation training for senior pupils to enable them to better resolve issues among themselves without teachers always having to get involved. Other schools, however, did not feel it was necessary to implement specific approaches to prevent violence because they didn't have a serious problem with it and/or because the message was incoroporated in the broader values and ethos of the school and in other initiatives designed to encourage positive behaviour and relationships.

Resourcing

10.40 Among all groups of staff, there was a widely held view that a lack of both internal and external resources was having a negative effect on the management of behaviour. A number of specific issues were raised:

  • As discussed in paragraphs 5.45 to 5.47 above, across both sectors, Headteachers and teachers commented on the link between positive behaviour and having appropriate numbers of support staff in class. Indeed, both secondary and primary pupils also commented that behaviour was better when there was a pupil support assistant in the class. Staff felt that a reduction in numbers of support staff, alongside an increased number of pupils with ASN (as a result of inclusion policies), had resulted in a lack of one-to-one support for pupils who need it and has had a wider negative impact on behaviour.
  • Teacher shortages and the use of supply teachers were also negatively linked to behaviour. There was a view among secondary support staff that behaviour can be notably worse with supply teachers as the pupils have less respect for them. Given the importance of teachers building relationships with individual pupils in terms of supporting positive behaviour, this lack of a consistent teacher can, therefore, lead to issues with behaviour. Some pupils with ASN, in particular, can take longer to adjust to changes in staffing and their behaviour – which may already be challenging – is particularly affected.
  • A related point was that, as there is a lack of supply teachers, SMT are having to cover greater numbers of classes – meaning that they are less available to deal with behaviour issues and also generally less visible within the school.
  • Teachers and headteachers talked about the problems of reductions in external support for pupils with more serious behavioural problems or additional support needs. This included special schools or units and also shorter term support. Some teachers reported experience of support only being accessible when a situation had reached 'crisis point'. They felt strongly that issues had often escalated too far by that stage for there to be a positive outcome, whereas an earlier intervention might have helped. They thought that, for some of these pupils, mainstream school was not an appropriate setting.
  • Staff in some secondary schools who had community based or campus police officers talked about the positive impact that they can have on behaviour. Staff at another, which had problems with serious disruptive behaviour, no longer had their campus police officer and were feeling the effects of this loss.

Parental support

10.41 Teachers frequently commented on their parents being generally very supportive and clear on the expectations of behaviour within the school.

10.42 However, as discussed in paragraph 5.31 above, there was a widely held view that some parents not being supportive of the actions of the school was more widespread in recent years. Specific issues raised included parents telling their children that they did not need to do punishments ( e.g. detentions); parents phoning the school in defence of their child immediately after an incident (as pupils now tend to have mobile phones in schools, they can phone their parents straight away and give their side of the story); and parents questioning the decisions made by teachers.


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