Research School Network: Improving Behaviour in Schools. A word on consistency… ‘Consistency is key’. Common sense! But how can implementation help make it common practice?

Improving Behaviour in Schools. A word on consistency…

‘Consistency is key’. Common sense! But how can implementation help make it common practice?

by Kingsbridge Research School
on the

In its latest guidance report, the EEF has produced six evidence-based recommendations for Improving Behaviour in School.

Behaviour Recommendations

On the surface, they may seem obvious” but what’s often dismissed as common sense isn’t always common practice. This is particularly true in organisations as complex and dynamic as schools. For this reason, it’s worth taking time to delve into the evidence, context and detail in each recommendation and consider where our own schools align with the evidence and where there may be things to be learned or improved on.
Of course, there might be schools where behaviour is not considered an issue in need of addressing. Perhaps so. But in such cases, Dylan Wiliam’s wise words on the professional development of teachers may be worth considering in relation to the development of whole organisations… once we accept that we could all be even better, it just becomes a matter of deciding what to get better at’.

So where to begin?

When planning a strategy in school, even on something as longstanding as behaviour, it can be useful to start with an audit of current practice. Unless you have an off-the-shelf universal behaviour system (see R5 for more on this), then it may be that your school’s current policy fits into one of two categories:

  1. Evolution:
    Your policy has evolved over time. Small adaptations to the environment and a flexible approach have kept it fit for survival.
  2. Creation:
    Your policy was created, brought to life in a single lightning strike (likely a Leadership Team planning day) and it remains largely as it was conceived. Its creators brought it life, hold the secret to its existence and occasionally use a bolt or two to keep it together.

In short, many policies survive their environment and others stay alive with a few stitches here and there. Whether the narrative is Darwin’s or Shelley’s, the publication of the EEF’s guidance presents us with a timely opportunity for teams to break out those red, amber and green pens, confront reality and carry out an honest audit of current practice using the summary of recommendations poster to assist us in this starter task. From there we can dive into the detail of the first five recommendations according to the needs of our own school. Whilst every school will be different, one thing that will likely influence the decision to mark items amber’ or even red’ will be R6consistency. Is it happening in every classroom, in every corridor in every discussion with a pupil?Do all staff know what it’ is?

Behaviour 6 recommendations

It is this sixth recommendation, citing consistency and coherence as paramount, that many of us could be even better’ at. Clearly it’s of no surprise to those of us working in schools that consistency is key’, but the way in which consistency is achieved is harder to pin down. One way that the guidance suggests is through a carefully considered implementation process.
The guidance talks of the need for strong implementation at whole-school level. No matter what components make up a school’s behaviour strategy – zero-tolerance, report cards, restorative justice etc. – for it to have an impact on outcomes the evidence suggests that a clearly defined policy, understood and applied by all staff at every level of the school is vital. Whilst very few people would argue with this, most would agree that it’s hard to achieve in practice given all of the moving parts and independent variables that make up a school. For this reason, we may want to turn to the EEF’s excellent 2018 Guidance Report on successful implementation in schools to use when looking to embed a new approach to behaviour. But tucked away at the back of this latest report on behaviour lies an excellent tool in the form of an appendix, providing an example logic model for the reader. For school leaders seeking to implement a whole school system for behaviour, this could prove a priceless resource…

Appendix II Behaviour Implementation Model

Credit Leading Learner for hosting

The report itself rightly points out that behaviour is one of the most difficult tasks that both experienced and new teachers have to contend with and cites a meta-analysis conducted by Aloe, A et al (2014) on student misbehavior and teacher burn out in schools’, asserting that managing behaviour is one of the perennial issues that affects teacher retention. If we all agree that consistency is the key to implementing a behaviour system effectively, then the example provided gives us a useful template to discuss, adapt and customise as we look to improve behaviour for the children we educate and the teachers we’re working so hard to retain.

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