: Navigating the ​‘perfect storm’: Harnessing consistency in behaviour management Top Tips for improving behaviour in schools

Navigating the ​‘perfect storm’: Harnessing consistency in behaviour management

Top Tips for improving behaviour in schools


Mark Giles

Principal, Hathershaw College

Mark is the Principal at Hathershaw College, a position he has held since 2019. Click here for more.

Read more aboutMark Giles

Whilst there are young people, there will always be aspects of their behaviour that are challenging. We are reminded of this in the EEF’s 2019 guidance report on improving behaviour in schools, which begins by citing perceptions of Hellenic youth in 600300 BC.


Mark Giles, Principal at The Hathershaw College, a secondary school in The Pinnacle Learning Trust, has used the report’s findings to redefine his school’s approach to managing behaviour, particularly in this post-pandemic era. He believes that Covid disruption fostered innovative teaching methodologies among the staff, it simultaneously highlighted the necessity for a refined approach to behaviour management. There are also some teachers in their early years of the profession or who trained during the pandemic, who had fewer opportunities to observe experienced professionals in action and when they did, teaching from the front’ was very different. The pandemic and the legacy of this on communities has also seen an increase in some of the complexities of student behaviour. A perfect storm perhaps, but one that is less powerful when approached with solutions underpinned by evidence.

What are the key recommendations underpinning learning behaviours at Hathershaw College?

BEHAVIOUR 5 Learning Behaviours

The two recommendations that have resonated most with me have been recommendation 2 – the need to teach learning behaviours alongside managing misbehaviour, and recommendation 6 – consistency is key.

Young people in the school now have a much clearer idea of what is expected of them in different aspects of school life and, more importantly, the reason for these expectations. We have combined this with our work on self-regulation so that students are more aware of when they are getting things wrong and how to remedy their response to stop things escalating.

As rational and professional adults, we all know what it is like to feel out of our comfort zone and how unpleasant it can be. As a young person with a brain that hasn’t yet fully developed and that is less well equipped to control its fight or flight’ response, if students can’t access the curriculum, there really shouldn’t be a surprise that they will often push back’ on what is expected of them. As part of our universal professional development, we have focused on adaptive practice as well as a lot of work around reading to ensure students are better equipped for school life.

We have also asked teaching and support staff to reflect on the language that they use, how they model what is expected in terms of behaviour and the power of restorative conversations.

Rec 6

A key thread running through the report, and indeed through our school development, is the importance of consistency. We haven’t taken this to the level of all saying exactly the same thing in the same way, but we do expect all staff, support and teaching colleagues, to challenge all behaviour which falls below expectations in a calm, professional and level-headed way. We have phrases that staff might wish to use, including thanking students for compliance, but we recognise that there has to be some level of staff feeling comfortable about what they say. This is a classic example of where you can be both tight’ in your implementation of school behaviour policies, and loose’ in the intelligent adaptations staff can make following their professional development. There is now more recognition that every adult in the school is responsible for student behaviour and it isn’t simply the domain of senior and pastoral leaders.

Top Tips

Drawing from the insights and experiences at The Hathershaw College, as well as the foundational guidance from the EEF’s 2019 report, here are some tips for improving learning behaviours:

Teach Learning Behaviours Explicitly: Understanding that learning behaviours are not innate and must be taught is crucial. At Hathershaw College, clear communication of expectations and the rationale behind them has helped students grasp what is required of them, making them more likely to meet these expectations.

Consistency Across the Board:
Consistency in how behaviour is managed and expectations are communicated is key to reinforcing positive learning behaviours. Employing consistent language and strategies helps create a stable and predictable environment conducive to learning.

Focus on Self-regulation and Adaptive Practice:
Helping students develop self-regulation skills is essential for managing their responses to challenging situations. This involves teaching students to recognize when they are struggling and providing them with strategies to address these challenges positively. Coupling this with adaptive teaching practices ensures that instruction meets the diverse needs of students, thereby reducing frustration and negative behaviours.

Use of Restorative Language and Practices:
Encouraging staff to reflect on the language they use and engage in restorative conversations can significantly impact student behaviour. This approach focuses on repairing harm and rebuilding relationships rather than just punishing bad behaviour. By modelling positive communication and showing an understanding of students’ perspectives, staff can foster a more respectful and supportive school environment.

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