Pondering the Issue of OFSTED and Behaviour

In September 2014 OFSTED produced ‘Below the radar: low-level disruption in the country’s  classrooms’ and in Jan 2014 inspectors were told to raise expectations of behaviour and link it more closely to effective leadership and management. Since then, fewer schools have had behaviour judged to be better than other aspects of their work.

Some key findings from the document were:

  • 1/5th of teachers ignore low level disruption and try and press on.
  • An average secondary school has 5 or 6 teachers who lose 10mins learning every lesson.
  • 1/5th of teachers do not feel confident in dealing with misbehaviour
  • Many teachers in the UK reported that the effectiveness of behaviour policies was reduced and undermined by teachers failing to adopt a consistent approach.
  • Schools judged by OFSTED to be 3 or 4 for Behaviour and Safety often have the greatest variation in standards of Behaviour and Safety in lessons, with lessons often varying across the range of 1 to 4 for judgements around the school.
  • In the average school only 25% of teachers thought the behaviour policy was applied consistently.

So what did the best schools actually have?  The document listed some key aspects including:

  • Leaders who are visible in classrooms, school corridors and grounds
  • Leaders who know if and where low-level disruption occurs and ensure that all staff members deal with it.
  • Leaders who have high expectations of behaviour and are consistent in dealing with disruptive pupils regularly tackling pupils and parents to secure compliance.
  • Leaders who explain and enforce their expectations successfully to staff, pupils and parents.
  • Consistent staffing with lessons being planned that are engaging.

Where schools were getting it wrong and being criticised the main areas of improvement identified were, in order of decreasing priority:

  • Behaviour Management (Consistency)
  • Monitoring Behaviour (Systems)
  • Improving Engagement
  • Increasing pupils’ responsibilities
  • Raising Teachers’ expectations
  • Poor behaviour (outside lessons)
  • Reducing exclusions
  • General improvement
  • Behaviour Management Training
  • Work with parents

Having reviewed the key findings from the report I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the schools in my region who had scored 3 or 4 for the Behaviour and Safety Judgement to find out what sort of things were being written in OFSTED reports.  I also picked out some key phrases and I have included them here.  The extracts below are linked to the school reports as well if you would like to read the entire document.

Review of recent OFSTED reports in my region.

Although students’ behaviour is improving, staff do not apply the behaviour policy consistently. As a result, there is too much low-level disruption in lessons and too much horseplay around school, which some students find intimidating.

Leadership and management requires improvement because actions taken to improve achievement, teaching and learning, and behaviour and safety across the school are not having sufficient impact in eradicating weaknesses in each of these areas.

Students become disinterested in learning and a very few disrupt others in class when lessons fail to capture their interest or their attitudes are not challenged.

Inspectors saw some poorly-presented work in students’ books. Where this happens, too often students are not challenged effectively to do better.

The behaviour of students requires improvement because attitudes to learning in lessons from students in all year groups are not good enough.

Students’ attitudes to learning are not always positive. Students’ enthusiasm wanes because work sometimes lacks enough interest and challenge.  

The behaviour of students requires improvement. Students’ attitudes to learning are not always positive in lessons and this impacts on their progress. Sometimes, students lack the enthusiasm to get fully involved in lessons, opting not to respond to teachers’ questions, especially where the work lacks enough interest or challenge. Students are not always well prepared for lessons and do not take enough care in how they present their work.

The behaviour of students requires improvement. This is because in a small proportion of lessons, a minority do not show enough commitment and determination and give of their best. This is particularly so where teachers’ expectations are not high enough in some subjects and the planned activities are insufficiently challenging. A minority of students do not always respond in full to teachers’ written and verbal feedback.

Behaviour is inadequate. A small minority of students behave in an unacceptable manner outside lessons. They show a lack of respect for property, adults and one another. They fail to respond to instructions and requests from adults. Poor behaviour is not always tackled firmly enough by staff.

Senior leaders and governors have not taken urgent action to deal effectively with unacceptable behaviour around the school and to keep students safe.

Work sometimes lacks challenge and is not always interesting or varied enough to motivate students to learn. The low-level disruption caused by some students in lessons prevents them and others from achieving well.

For contrast I thought it would also be interesting to see what outstanding looks like and an extract from one report is here.

Behaviour in lessons and around the school is exemplary. Students are polite and respectful, and their well-above average attendance shows not only how much they enjoy school, but also how keen they are to do well.

Students have excellent attitudes to learning because they find teaching activities engaging and enjoyable and because they know their teachers help them to improve.

There is no low-level disruption in lessons. There are very few serious incidents of poor behaviour and, as a result, the proportion of students excluded is well below both the national and local averages. Equally, the numbers of incidents resulting in detentions has reduced dramatically over the past 12 months.

Students take on responsibilities willingly and are very proud of the role they play in making the academy such a successful and harmonious community. This includes the sixth-form students who are lunchtime supervisors. A group of supervisors, also from the sixth form, are tasked with checking everyone is at their post on time. They do this for students and teachers and this ensures the level of supervision is very strong. However, during the school day and between activities, students require very little direction to go where they need to. In an assembly observed by inspectors, students dismissed themselves and did so quietly, calmly and efficiently, meaning they moved to their lessons in good time.

Areas we might look at!

Three things jump out to me from reading the recent reports.  They are

  1. It doesn’t take many ‘rotten apples’ to spoil the barrel.
  2. Inspectors are increasingly using work scrutiny as evidence of poor behaviour where books are not good enough.
  3. There appears to be a clear link between lessons not being engaging and poor behaviour.

What might this mean for school leaders?

If you are reading this you are probably a school leader and wondering  So What.  So here’s a 12 point checklist to give your school a healthcheck.

  1. Know your behaviour data?  Aside from the usual headline data like exclusions you should drill down into the data.  A clear system of recording behaviour incidents will help effective analysis and I can recommend Sleuth if you are considering a new behaviour management system.  Breaking it down by year group is a good way to start your analysis but examining data by subject area can also be useful.  Can you identify specific groups, issues in a particular area of the school, what time misbehaviour occurs, which staff report it and so on.  Understanding the patterns of misbehaviour allows you to plan how you will intervene.
  2. Evaluate whether or not your system is impacting on improving behaviour. Consider what steps you can put into place to deal with the issues?  Examining behaviour data as part of a team can be a stimulating way of evaluating data and can help when trying to identify key issues.  Perhaps you could delegate the responsibility of generating data to a member of admin staff in order to provide data sets to specific middle leaders for evaluation.
  3. Check your policy. Is it clear?  Does everyone have a copy.  Is it on the school website?  Clear rules help everyone.  If there are inconsistencies staff and pupils won’t know how to behave and will both become resentful when rules are applied for some and not for others.  On your next learning walk keep an eye out for what pupils are challenged about.  Do all pupils get challenged for the same things by all staff?
  4. Identify the key offenders and focus your support on them. Make sure all staff know who they are, get them to share strategies to engage with them and invite parents in to generate a line of communication with home.  Celebrate your successes too.
  5. Don’t forget how important books are. If you announce when you are doing work scrutiny can you be sure that your findings reflect the reality of books in school.  Informal learning walks might reveal a different picture.  Make sure you have a clear set of standards and expectations for pupils to follow and publish them in every classroom.  If staff are inconsistent in their marking and expectations give them time to work in groups and compare the work of pupils across a range of subjects.  It can be fascinating to see what your pupils produce in other lessons.
  6. It is no surprise that lack of engagement leads to poor behaviour. Ensure you focus relentlessly on improving teaching as there are clear links between engaging lessons reducing misbehaviour.  A good starting point is helping staff to improve lesson starters.  If your teachers lose their pupils in the first few minutes it is not likely they will get them back in the space of a lesson.
  7. Whilst exclusion is good for setting clear messages to the rest of the school community that there are serious consequences for pupils who break the rules, pupils learn very little by being excluded and are often exposed to an environment that may arguably be the cause of their poor behaviour. You might therefore consider how you can utilise the staffing and premises at your disposal to provide a separate area where experienced staff can isolate pupils from the rest of the school and work closely to support the pupils’ with behaviour problems whilst allowing those pupils who are ready to learn to get on.
  8. I hate to be punitive. Experience has taught me that engaging pupils is a much better way to distract pupils from negative behaviour.  How much does the ethos of your school encourage pupils to be a part of the school?  An effective Student Council can give pupils a strong voice and if you haven’t got one perhaps this is an area you can look at.
  9. Raising Teachers’ expectations has to be down to leaders setting the tone. Highly visible leaders are able to model positive interventions, support staff and whether you believe it or not, both staff and pupils are fascinated by those individuals at the top, who can have so much impact on their lives. Interacting with pupils and showing them you are interested in them can influence them positively.
  10. Don’t forget that behaviour needs to be good outside the lessons too. If your pupils are running amok on the corridors you need to sort this.  Schools can be big places and expecting a small duty team and senior leaders to manage on their own is unrealistic.  Behaviour is everybody’s responsibility so share the job out with all your staff, even the non-teaching staff.  If your staff don’t like the idea remind them that bad behaviour stops everyone from working.  Everyone on the corridor at lesson change leaves pupils with no were to hide or slow time.
  11. Behaviour Management Training was widely reported as having little impact in the OFSTED report but I think teachers can be taught techniques to improve their classroom management. The impact of behaviour training is probably limited though by issues such as consistency, visibility of leaders and whether the school has clear expectations.  If you get the basics right and want to invest in behaviour management training consider utilising new technologies such as IRIS to allow experienced staff to coach others.   I can also recommend Jason Bangbala if you are looking for good quality training.
  12. Finally, don’t forget parents. Please don’t only ring them when it’s all gone wrong though.  Positive calls home can have a much bigger effect than a call about an hour’s detention.  The simplest approaches can work the best and challenging your teachers to phone one parent every day with a positive message can have a profound effect on the perceptions parents have and also the behaviour of pupils.




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