Behaviour in schools guidance – what should schools be doing now?

The Department for Education has recently issued updated “Behaviour in schools” guidance. Importantly, this updated guidance now explicitly states that it applies to independent schools, so all independent schools should be taking the time to familiarise themselves with the contents of this DfE document. This guidance is effective from 1 September 2022 and contains significantly more advice on maintaining good behaviour in schools than the previous guidance from 2016.

A change in focus

There has been a shift in focus in the new guidance, with a move away from the emphasis on disciplinary sanctions, and instead focusing on a whole-school approach that reinforces positive behaviour. The proactive and preventative style of behaviour management advocated in the guidance is intended to ensure a culture of positive behaviour pervades all aspects of school life, through a calm, safe and supportive environment.

What should independent schools be aware of?

One of the key messages of the new guidance is the idea that schools should be promoting a clear vision of what good behaviour looks like. The guidance introduced the concept of a “behaviour curriculum” which defines expected behaviours and makes clear what successful behaviour looks like, together with positive reinforcement when expectations are met and sanctions where rules are broken.

The guidance makes the link between behaviour and safeguarding, and schools’ behaviour policies should take this into account. As part of a whole-school approach to behaviour and safeguarding, the behaviour policy and the safeguarding policy must complement one another.

A further theme of the guidance is the importance of making adjustments for particular pupils with additional needs. For example, pupils who have recently experience a bereavement may need short term adjustments to behavioural routines. There is detailed guidance on how to support children with SEN in developing good behaviour. In particular, there is an acknowledgement that a pupil’s behavioural difficulties are often be linked to SEN, and that schools therefore need to be mindful not to discriminate against these pupils. Schools should be considering any possible reasonable adjustments when setting behaviour standards and sanctions for children with SEN, and anticipating any triggers for poor behaviour.

The importance of the role of school leaders and staff is emphasised in the guidance. School leaders should be highly visible and ensure that all staff have been trained on the school’s behaviour policy and behaviour culture. Staff should uphold the whole-school approach to behaviour, and ensure they are modelling expected behaviour and positive relationships.

There is useful advice for schools on how to manage specific behaviour issues, including online behaviour and the use of mobile phones. The guidance of child-on-child sexual violence and harassment is also very welcome, with this issue having been high on school agendas since the Everyone’s Invited movement.

Schools are also now encouraged to have strong and effective systems for data capture on behaviour culture. This data needs to be monitored and objectively analysed in order to identify patterns and shortfalls, and to help schools understand the effectiveness of their behaviour culture.

What should schools be doing now?

Schools should be reviewing their behaviour policies to consider how these should be updated in order to take into account the new guidance. It is also worth schools taking the time to consider how they collect and analyse data, and how they will use this information to improve their behaviour culture.

Staff need to be trained on the behaviour policy, on how to maintain a positive behaviour culture and, in particular, how this feeds into safeguarding and supporting positive behaviour for pupils with SEN.

How Moore Barlow can help

Moore Barlow is on hand to assist with reviewing policies and procedures, and advising on how to promote a positive whole-school approach to positive behaviour.

Moore Barlow is proud to offer specialist legal advice to independent schools and has strong relationships with associations and other professional advisers in the sector.

Please do not hesitate to contact any member of the team to discuss how we can help you.