Managing behaviour: Introducing Ready to Learn

Written by: Ross Martland | Published:
United: The Fallibroome Academy vice-principal Ross Martland. The school has seen a positive impact as a result of its Ready to Learn initiative

Ready to Learn, the approach to behaviour management at The Fallibroome Academy, has had a remarkable impact. Vice-principal Ross Martland explains how the initiative works

Throughout 2016/17, the headteacher and I met with small groups of all school staff in order to capture areas where they felt we were doing well as a school – as well as identifying where we could improve.

The tone of these meetings was overwhelmingly positive. However, we quickly identified three common improvement themes that needed to be addressed: staff workload, opportunities for staff to socialise, and the management of low-level behaviour.

In order to tackle low-level behaviour the senior leadership team undertook research and visited several schools across the country that had taken significant steps to address negative student behaviour.

In March 2017, we set the aim that we would radically change our approach to behaviour management at Fallibroome, so that within 12 months there would be a climate in school where:

• There were very few low-level behaviour issues of any sort in lessons.
• Students were always focused and working hard in all lessons.
• There were exceptionally high levels of respect to all staff at all times.

Our “Ready to Learn” strategy was developed from that point.

Clarity for all stakeholders is a key part of our approach. We chose to be very specific about what is and what is not acceptable and as a consequence have set the expected standard very high.

We expect our students to listen attentively to their teacher and to each other at all times. We expect them to be organised and hard-working.

Being respectful to their teacher is an absolute requirement and all of this has been explained to our students, parents and staff.

We haven’t described expected behaviours in general terms, rather we have spelt them out in some detail. As such, students, parents and staff know that we will issue “cautions” for being late (and what being late means); missing equipment (and what equipment is expected); entering the room incorrectly (and what this means); and so on.

This level of detail has been essential to the success of our approach.

Behaviour transgressions (cautions) are immediately picked up and recorded in the lesson. Every incident is formally recorded and a summary document is automatically emailed to parents every month. This in itself acts as a powerful motivation for most students to take our behaviour expectations very seriously.

The immediacy of this approach is also key to its success. In some schools, students are given behaviour scores by their teacher at the end of a lesson and this may lead to sanctions thereafter. In our view, this approach is much too slow and much too open to subjective judgement.

Under such a system, the link between the misbehaviour and the consequences can be too tenuous – and therefore much more open to being challenged by the students and/or their parents.

With our approach, cautions are recorded immediately and the consequences for repeat offenders are severe. A student who receives three cautions in a lesson is instantly removed to work in silence in our Behaviour Centre for two lessons.

A student who has to be removed from a lesson repeatedly will quickly find themselves working in silence in our Behaviour Centre until 5pm in the evening. To some, this might seem too punitive. In our experience, this consequence acts as a powerful deterrent for our more challenging students. As a result, the vast majority have learnt to self-regulate their own behaviour to avoid this outcome.

We have dramatically increased our expectations of staff consistency in order to deliver this approach. As we have been so specific about our expectations, staff know exactly how they are expected to manage behaviour incidents. This means that students rarely argue or contest their decisions in lessons – precisely because all of our teaching staff operate in the same manner.

The training programme that we developed for our staff before launch played a crucial role. We produced training videos to demonstrate good and bad practice, including specifics on language, manner and tone. We train new colleagues and our supply staff in the same way.

As a result, managing behaviour well is no longer the preserve of the grizzled, experienced colleagues with high status in the school. Even our most inexperienced colleagues have been empowered to manage their classrooms effectively. Training for staff is followed up with repeated assemblies and communication events with all students and parents to ensure absolute clarity for our whole community.

To resource the changes, we recruited two new members of staff and separated our existing pastoral staffing provision into three distinct teams.

  1. Inclusion: to support vulnerable students, those on modified timetables, etc
  2. Behaviour: managing the Behaviour Centre.
  3. Admin: attendance, medical, etc.

We wrote in-house software so that staff in lessons could record cautions at the press of a button. Our software automatically schedules students into the Behaviour Room and sends an email to the relevant staff and parents.

Data from the software is used to email a monthly report to each parent, awarding a “Ready to Learn” grade and details of their caution record, all of which builds into our internal school reward system.

Following a short trial period, we went live with Ready to Learn in September 2017. The evidence of impact has been compelling. Almost all lessons are exceptionally calm, with purposeful learning and high levels of activity and engagement.

Frequent student, staff and parental surveys have reported that behaviour has improved significantly, with disruption absolutely minimal and swiftly dealt with.

Governors and an external consultant have commented on the “transformative” impact of our approach to behaviour management, and staff have told us that they can teach more than ever before and do not have to waste time chasing students for detentions. Our boast is that we challenge visitors to go into any lesson, with any group, at any time of the day to see for themselves!

Ready to Learn has been a real success for us. Our current developments are now focused on sustaining the approach with new students and staff, embedding ways of recognising success and rewarding, and addressing student behaviour outside of lessons.

  • Ross Martland is the vice-principal of The Fallibroome Academy in Macclesfield, Cheshire.


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