For a couple of weeks now war has waged on twitter. Since The right honourable Gav, dropped his silence bomb, people have planted their flag in the ground and nailed their colours to the post.
This has been exacerbated by an Ofsted report that dismissed a strict behaviour regime due to objections by pupils and parents. We have high profile tweeters sniping others about it if they don’t agree with them and even a robust response from the Tsar himself criticising Ofsted and the way behaviour was reported. I have to say in this case I agreed with Mr Bennett with his point about schools doing what they need to do. It is sadly, a hopeless, futile war where neither side will give ground and stop to consider the others view.
It is a landscape full of hyperbole, both sides portraying the other as wrong and spinning webs of propaganda to support their argument.
Silence on the corridors = compliance, control and robot children
Talking on the corridors = Chaos and supporting bullying
Exclusions = The greatest evil or the greatest weapon (depending on your side)
All children are Naughty/angelic delete depending on your viewpoint.
…and on and on it goes
Isolation booths, restorative practices, warm-strict etc…. Grenades hurled by both sides, good or evil depending on your stance.
This battle has waged and will continue to wage. There is no winning. So now the mortal enemies stand either side of no man’s land staring across into the ravaged landscape, sniping from their bunkers and ever more it will be.
Except that some of us are caught up on the barbed wire singing quietly into the night or cowering in shell like craters whispering our thoughts.
We are the middle. Generally, they are people doing the job on a day to day basis rather than the ones telling people how to do the job from the safety of their war-rooms miles from the front.
I am one such person, I have views on all these things, and they have changed and adapted as school has changed. I’m six years down the line here
When I walked into my current school behaviour was some of the worst I had seen in a primary school, the chief issue was behaviour. It was challenging and this was impacting on the wellbeing of staff and pupils alike. A new behaviour policy was devised and quickly embedded. Patterns of behaviour were analysed, and minor but high-impact changes were made, we restructured lunchtimes, for example, so all year groups were not on break together. Meanwhile, I made sure I was visible in school, and visibly supporting behaviour. I also spoke to parents and we put the onus on them helping us to get it right.
There were sanctions, there were rewards, we removed children from their classes (Most often to time spent with me. If children are disrupting learning of others, they should be removed IMO) We had clear systems and we stuck to them, as head I backed the staff to the hilt. We excluded; we even called the police.
We set rules and we held the line, corridors were silent, it was reset. It was not the end of the line though. We taught children about behaviour, we were rigorous to the expectations and we stuck to it. All the time we were building relationships and trust. In primary relationships are key, but if there aren’t clear expectation and boundaries you don’t ever give them the chance to flourish. My teachers are fierce and demanding in the best way. We coined the term #FierceKindness way before warm/strict became a rebrand. We never saw it as end though. It was a moment, as behaviour improved the policy adapted, corridors were silent for about a term, now they are calm and orderly, class behaviour is focussed, children most of the time want to learn. We have some children that need extra. Sometimes behaviour is uncommunicated need, sometimes its children testing boundaries and making poor choices. The behaviour policy is still there, it’s very rarely used now in the way we had to use it. We equally work hard with those children who struggle.
‘The behaviour of pupils is outstanding. What marks it out as being beyond good is how considerate pupils are towards each other and how they remind each other of how to behave without having to be prompted by adults. This does not just happen by chance. Teachers have worked hard to create an ethos in the classroom where mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation are very much the order of the day.’ Ofsted 2016
Ask anybody who’s visited (that includes Mary Myatt) and they’ll tell you it’s a calm, orderly school, with enthusiastic children who want to learn.
The fact is each school should be able to choose what happens in their school and what those rules and routines are. For me too many rules mean that you are creating a battleground, for others I appreciate it’s a communication about values and expectations. (that’s why I’ve never challenged my son’s school on a behaviour policy that frankly I thought was a bit silly, equally I was careful not to say that to my son)
Ultimately it comes down to what our expectations of young people are. I think they can be brilliant, creative, caring, generous, hard-working and will with the right support make the right choices. I trust and believe in children in my school and they repay that in spades.
So, the question is what is it that we want from behaviour in our schools. Personally, I want children who have responsibility for their actions and choices and make them in a secure moral framework. Therefore, if we look at our behaviour systems, we should question what they achieve. Discipline without responsibility will need constant vigilance. Discipline driven by pupils’ own morals is almost self-regulating. Behaviour policies aren’t static, and the aim should be more than compliance.
When children get stuff wrong and they will because lets be honest we all do, do we just punish and expect them to not do it again (it will work for some, my son hates being in trouble he’s spent the last four years terrified he’d get into trouble for the tiniest infraction) or do we do the thing we are good at and teach the children.
We need a behaviour “Christmas Truce” where we all step into no-mans land shake hands (or just fist-bump now) and listen to each other. I think we’d find that most of us are not as far away from each other as twitter makes us believe.