: Empowering positive learning behaviours in a special school setting Empowering positive learning behaviours in a special school setting

Empowering positive learning behaviours in a special school setting

Empowering positive learning behaviours in a special school setting

by Pinnacle Learning Research School
on the

Claire Bones, Maths Curriculum Lead and Research Lead Practitioner at Hollinwood Academy in Oldham, demonstrates the need to consider a range of guidance reports and recommendations when developing learning behaviours, exemplifying this in a special school context.

Hollinwood Academy provides an educational offer for children and young people with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and we are privileged to work closely with them. As evidenced in this blog, their whole approach to learning behaviours aligns with the recommendations in Improving Social and Emotional Learning alongside Improving Behaviour in Schools.

Viewing behaviour through multiple perspectives

As part of the New Bridge Group Multi Academy Trust, we share our school’s mission statement, Learning together, learning for all, learning for life” with the MAT and this is at the heart of everything we do. It is our belief that all children and young people, whatever their background or ability, will achieve their full potential and become valued and participating members of our community.

Recommendation 1: Know and understand your pupils and their influences

Our approach to behaviour for learning begins with making sure we know our children and young people (CYP) well; we have a high ratio of TAs to CYP in all our classes. The TAs stay with the same class throughout the day which provides a consistency and routine vital to our CYP. We have a deep understanding that CYP behaviour can have multiple influences, some of which teachers can manage directly.

We believe that understanding a CYP’s context will inform effective responses to misbehaviour and every CYP has a supportive relationship with an emotionally available adult. Good relationships with our CYP help with behaviour immensely, relationships are built on trust. CYP need to trust us – trust that we are consistent, that we are who we say we are, that we mean what we say, that we will be there for them, and that we are reliable adults. We achieve this through mentoring sessions, specialist interventions, well-being hubs, nurture classes, meet and greet, one-page profiles and behaviour plans. We also put great emphasis on our relationships with parents and make sure there is a robust transition into our school.

Good relationships are built on norms, routines, and predictable consequences. Routines make relationships possible.

Tom Bennett, Running the Room (2020)

Recommendation 2: Teach learning behaviours alongside managing misbehaviour

We also take the approach that behaviour is a curriculum to be taught. We explicitly model good behaviour for our CYP and act as role models, by teaching learning behaviours we hope will reduce the need to manage misbehaviour. We believe it is essential that teachers build safe, calm and dignified classrooms by teaching CYP how to behave and that it is normal to do so. We aim to ensure that our classrooms are predictable and consistent. We normalise humility, gratitude and kindness. Our teachers live and breathe the school values. We notice when CYP are getting it right and we acknowledge this.

The importance of metacognition and Recommendation 5 of improving behaviour in a special school setting

One of the most vital things we teach our CYP is self-regulation and self-reflection. Autistic people can experience both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity to a wide range of stimuli; most people have a combination of both. Many autistic people experience hypersensitivity to bright lights or certain light wavelengths (e.g. LED or fluorescent lights). Certain sounds, smells, textures and tastes can also be overwhelming. This can result in sensory avoidance – trying to get away from stimuli that most people can easily tune out. Sensory avoidance can look like pulling away from physical touch, covering the ears to avoid loud or unpredictable sounds or avoiding certain kinds of clothing.

Hyposensitivity is also common. This can look like a constant need for movement; difficulty recognising sensations like hunger, illness, or pain; or attraction to loud noises, bright lights and vibrant colours. People who are hyposensitive may engage in sensory seeking to get more sensory input from the environment. For example, people with autism may stimulate their senses by making loud noises, touching people or objects or rocking back and forth.

We employ several strategies to support this, such as sensory boot camp, sensory circuits, trampolines, weighted blankets, ear defenders, movement breaks, dark dens, yoga balls, boxing, fidgets and music. This ties in with the necessity to use targeted approaches to meet the needs of individuals in our school following recommendation 5.

We aim to de-escalate situations rather than escalating. Four important strategies we use to achieve this are: redirecting to a safe space, facilitating talk, mirroring and giving choices. De-escalation strategies work best if you know the CYP you’re supporting. What works for one individual might cause increased anxiety for another. We need to read the signs and understand the most appropriate means to divert, support and reassure. School leaders ensure there is a clear school behaviour policy that is consistently followed by all staff. We use consequences and rewards to support and manage classroom behaviour in a way that is appropriate to our particular setting.

These strategies are reflected in individual behaviour plans to make sure everyone involved in their care knows what works for them. It ensures a shared approach and reduces the likelihood of situations repeating in the future. Where possible, we get our CYP to support with writing and updating the behaviour plans to support their ability to plan, monitor and evaluate (Recommendation 2 Metacognition). This is done where appropriate, and these are also shared with families, if requested.

We are truly dedicated to ensuring that every single need of the CYP in our care is not just met but exceeded. This unwavering commitment forms the cornerstone of our every action and decision.

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