An Analysis of Behaviour for Learning Policies

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About this sample


Words: 4306 |

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22 min read

Published: Dec 5, 2018

Words: 4306|Page: 1|22 min read

Published: Dec 5, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Literature Review
  4. Policy and Guidance
  5. Learning Theories
  6. School Placement Experience
  7. Conclusion


Considering all the elements that has brought me into teaching, the main concern, I, amongst many others, have or had was managing pupil behaviour. When informing a relative of my desire to become a high school teacher and how I had successfully enrolled onto a teacher training course to teach teenagers, their first words were: “They’re going to eat you alive!”. These negative views have been shared across a variety of media platforms over many years and is a belief held by many of the general public.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

This report aims to provide a research-informed overview of the adolescents who are entering our classrooms and what strategies are required to best to manage their behaviour in order to achieve the national goal of helping our young people develop into knowledgeable citizens.


The opportunity to conduct a report analysing the behaviour of high-school students over the past decade is the option I have chosen to explore. The overall aim of this report is to gain a deeper and more critical understanding of the reasons why the acquirement of good behaviour management skills is paramount to become an effective practitioner. In addition, my personal aim is to develop my own confidence and further fuel my professional values by raising my minimum expectations of what is considered acceptable in my classroom. This report will begin with a review of key governmental policies, educational theory of professional practice and a range of recent research in relation to behaviour management. The following section will discuss the effectiveness of the educational practice I have witnessed and experienced at my three placement schools. Finally, this report will summarise the key points I have learnt along with my recommendations of what strategies, ideals and possible research directions that require attention.

Literature Review

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), behaviour is defined as “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others.” (OED, 2019). There have been decades of research investigating human behaviour with respect of its origin, intent and function. Human behaviour is highly complex and depending on your viewpoint it could be resultant from genetics to the opposite end of the spectrum where one’s behaviour is entirely based on how you were raised. For this report, we will be focussing on adolescent behaviour within high-school settings. We will explore the possible reasons for any undesirable behaviour and what educational institutions have been advised by the government, educational theorists and behaviour specialists.

There are numerous sources that state the Department of Education (DfE) had set ‘managing behaviour and discipline’ as a national priority in 2014/2015 (NELTA, 2014; Newman University, 2019). However, upon inspection of the DfE annual report and accounts from the years 2010 to 2018, behaviour has more often than not always been part of the DfE’s strategic plan, for example, 2010 to 2013 ‘changing behaviour to create an inclusive culture’ and ‘increase rigour and expectations of curricula, assessment and behaviour’ for the year 2014/2015. Despite the statistic, “92% of schools were judged as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ for behaviour” (Ofsted, 2015a), I am still not convinced there has been any real emphasis on behaviour in schools as the reports do not go into any depth in relation to behaviour (Ofsted, 2014b; Ofsted, 2015b; Ofsted, 2016; Ofsted, 2017; Ofsted, 2018). Perhaps this is a result of an apparent complacency as a result of the 92% statistic?

More recently in the DfE’s strategic plan for 2015 to 2020, ‘managing behaviour’ has not been explicitly named as one of the key priorities. The closest strategy pledge, “embed rigorous standards, curriculum and assessment” is essentially a re-worded version of a priority from previous years; again, there is not any explicit mention of behaviour as a sub-component of a pledge (DfE, 2016a).

There is something missing here; if behaviour has been so ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in schools why is there a shortage of teachers? The national shortage of teachers we are facing, together with, the expensive campaign of incentivising people to train to be teachers, plus, the additional costs of retaining them, highlights that perhaps behaviour management should be an explicit national priority.

Policy and Guidance

Over the past ten years, more governmental policies have become available to assist teachers when it comes to managing pupil behaviour. In 2011, ‘Getting the simple things right’ was published by Charlie Taylor the Government’s Expert Adviser on behaviour in schools to act as additional guidance for teachers when dealing with behaviour and discipline. This same year, the Teachers Standards were introduced for use in schools from September 2012 to act as the minimum requirements for teachers’ practice and conduct. There are two separate standards where managing behaviour is a core skill to meet when training to become a teacher: Teaching Standard 1: Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils; and, Teaching Standard 7: Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment. This highlights how managing behaviour is a key role of a teaching professional.

Following on from this document, the Education Standards Analysis and Research Division in 2012 conducted an evaluation of pupil behaviour in schools in England to gain evidence about: the standard of behaviour; the impact of poor behaviour on pupils and teachers; and, what schools and teachers can do to promote good pupil behaviour (DfE, 2012a). Overall, they found that there is mixed evidence on the extent of poor behaviour reported by teachers. The National Foundation of Educational Research conducted some surveys which suggested that pupils are predominantly regarded as behaving well, with around 70% reporting good behaviour (NFER, 2013). However, another survey showed 69% of members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) reported experiencing disruptive behaviour weekly or more frequently.

‘Behaviour and discipline in schools: Advice for headteachers and school staff’ was introduced in 2016 to provide an overview of the powers and duties for school staff. It is also for individual schools to develop their own best practice for managing behaviour in their school. More recently, Tom Bennett carried out an independent review of behaviour in schools and it was acknowledged with a government response (Bennett, 2017). Further policies have been published and implemented in 2018. For example, the ‘Mental health and behaviour in schools’ guidance that aims to help schools support pupils whose mental health problems manifest themselves in problematic behaviour. On reflection, as a result of the many of pieces of additional research and policy that has been put together with several responses from the government; it does appear that the government does view managing pupil behaviour as a national priority.

It is apparent that the focus on improving behaviour in schools has had some success. For instance, the incidence of pupils engaging in violent, criminal or dangerous behaviour in school are relatively rare (DfE, 2018a) and the rate of persistent absences has dropped significantly since 2011. However, Policy Exchange has demonstrated within their most recent report, that there is clearly so much scope for positive progression with behaviour management; especially in tackling the persistent classroom disruption that damages the students’ learning opportunities and interferes with the primary purpose of teachers: teaching (Williams, 2019). Persistent classroom disruption is the most common reason for permanent exclusions across different educational institutes.

This realisation is not profound. In 2014, Ofsted put together a report called ‘Below the radar: Low level disruption in the country’s classroom’ and identified that on average students are at risk of missing out on an hour’s worth of learning a day, which equates to approximately 38 school days of an academic year (Ofsted, 2014a). Prior to Ofsted’s investigation, the DfE released figures in 2012 from the academic year 2009/2010 that across all types of school that persistent disruptive behaviour was the most common reason recorded for all exclusions at 29% for permanent exclusions and 23.8% for fixed term exclusions. Similarly, the DfE released more figures concerning the academic year of 2015/2016 showing that low-level disruptive behaviour accounted for 34.6% of permanent exclusions and 27% of fixed term exclusions. It is evident here how persistent low-level disruptive behaviours are becoming more prevalent. This is completely unacceptable and unfair how these behaviours are putting a stop to some students not being able to reach their full potential.

Most recently, Edward Timpson was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, in March 2018, to explore how head teachers use exclusion in practice and why some groups of pupils are more likely to be excluded (Timpson, 2019). The Timpson Review of School Exclusion was published in May 2019 and found a variety of differences in the way schools use exclusion, in addition to a small minority of schools ‘off-rolling’ (Timpson, 2019). This is where children are removed from the school register without a formal exclusion, with possible intentions of skewing school league table performance.

The Timpson Review also found evidence that positive and safe learning environments explicitly acknowledging good behaviours as vital in maintaining orderly environments that support all children, however, teachers require consistent guidance and tools to deal effectively with poor and disruptive behaviour. The DfE agreed to all the 30 recommendations in principle from the Timpson Review, committing to act to make sure no child misses out on a quality education. As such, the Government announced that it will launch a consultation later this year to strengthen accountability around the use of exclusions as well as investing £10 million to support schools to share best practice in behaviour management (GOV.UK, 2019).

Whilst this news is good to know that it is on the Government’s radar, it is imperative to also consider the consequential impact this has had on the wellbeing and retainment of teachers, in addition to, the ripple effect that poor behaviour has on other pupils’ experiences’ and progress. In 2006, 40% of teachers had decided to leave the profession within five years of qualification with the most common reason for their decision being down to poor student behaviour (Barmby, 2006). This percentage figure increased to 60% a few years on, following a survey carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in 2009. Dr Joanna Williams’ report titled ‘“It Just Grinds You Down” Persistent disruptive behaviour in schools and what can be done about it’ is indicative how this remains a big problem for teachers. Williams’ (2018) reported that: 62% of their teacher respondents, have currently or previously considered leaving the profession due to poor pupil behaviour; 72% of those teachers know other teachers who have left the teaching profession due to poor pupil behaviour; as well as, 71% of the teachers polled agreed that people are put off from becoming teachers because of poor pupil behaviour. This is consistent with my initial concerns of becoming a trainee teacher. The scale of this persistent disruptive behaviour has manifested over many years and it could be argued that it explains the ‘shortage of teachers’ crisis, the nation is facing.

Learning Theories

How individuals learn and behave has been at the heart of research spanning over a century. Being able to explain and predict human behaviour will be an infinite process as time progresses, technology advances and how we individually evolve and adapt. This is synonymous with the contrasting viewpoints that some educationalists adopt.

Traditionally, behaviourism, discovered by its founding father, John Watson in 1913, is the belief that behaviour is reactionary; resulting from external interactions and one’s environment. In Pavlov’s ‘classical conditioning’ experiment, behaviourism is exemplified as an interaction between a stimulus that leads to an automatic response. An example of this behaviour within today’s classroom could be the school bell ringing (stimulus) leading to an automatic response of students packing away (response) their belongings ready for lesson transition without having had any explicit instruction. Another behaviourist, B.F. Skinner coined the term ‘operant conditioning’ where the strength of a behaviour, i.e. the more chance of the same behaviour occurring, is resultant from some form of reinforcement and/or punishment. For example, in the classroom, rewarding desirable behaviour with reward points or stamps would positively reinforce what is expected of students, whereas, sanctioning students for undesirable behaviour would reinforce students to not repeat the behaviour that is deemed inappropriate.

Historically, corporal punishment would be an example of operant conditioning as a behaviour management strategy until it was abolished in 1987. Fortunately, in our education system, policies have developed and subsequently considered more ethical methods of disciplining poor behaviour. Bandura (1977) was a social learning theorist who believed behaviour was a result of mimicking role models’ behaviours through vicarious reinforcement or receiving direct praise or scolding from a caregiver. These role models can be very influential and shape children’s behaviour which can give you an insight of where particular behaviours could have stemmed from.

In direct contrast to behaviourism and the social learning theory, there are learning theories that suggest behaviour is a result of your biological make-up and how you can have a predisposition to act in a certain way. In relation to secondary school, the lack of brain maturation and brain development could explain misbehaviour. Johnsen et al (2009) notes that the brain of a teenager is not fully developed, especially in the frontal lobes. This underdevelopment corresponds to typical behaviours of teenagers such as poor decision-making, engaging in more risk-taking behaviours and being weak in understanding the connection between their behaviour and possible negative outcomes (Casey et al., 2011). Consequently, some would argue that, this underdevelopment of an adolescent’s brain could explain students’ poor behaviour choices together with the influx of hormones that is a fundamental part of transitioning from a child to an adult.

On the other hand, Steinberg et al. (2018) states that more recent neuroscientific research suggests that adolescence is a time of exceptional plasticity, where the brain can remodel itself and quickly recalibrate in response to the environment. This together with heightened reward sensitivity could prime teens to take more risks, but at the same time, it can also be a huge motivator giving them direction on how to become successful adults. This could explain how adolescence is an ideal time for incredible amounts of learning – with increased motivation and greater significance placed on socialisation, teenagers developmentally have an opportunity to discover and develop the skills they require to function in an adult world. Steinberg (2018) said: “The truth is, adolescence isn’t inherently a bad or good time, but it’s a time when the brain is extremely sensitive from the contexts of their environment...That should force us, as parents, educators, scientists, and policy makers, to make sure that the context in which kids are growing up are positive ones.” This is echoed by research carried out in schools by Sylva et al. (2012) that pupils’ attainment was found to be higher where they perceived a more positive behaviour climate in their secondary school, and this was particularly noticeable for maths.

In summary after looking at numerous policies, government advisory documents and some prominent learning theories, the multitude of research, statistics and literature illustrates how persistent disruptive behaviour is a major cause for concern (Bennett, 2017). The impact poor behaviour has on teaching, learning, overall pupil progression, the retention of good teachers and the recruitment of future teachers cannot be ignored. Stakes need to be raised on the government’s agenda if we want our students to reach their full potential which is what the national curriculum aspires for every child:

“The National Curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the core knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. It aims to:

  • “embody rigour and high standards and create coherence in what is taught in schools
  • ensure that all children are taught the essential knowledge in the key subject disciplines
  • go beyond that core, to allow teachers greater freedom to use their professionalism and expertise to help all children realise their potential.”

School Placement Experience

My first phase placement school had recently implemented a big change to their behaviour policy upon my arrival. This mixed 11-16 comprehensive academy had previously been renowned among staff as having notoriously poorly behaved students. One teacher colleague had been working at the school for over twenty years and had seriously considered leaving the profession due to the rudeness and persistent misbehaviour.

To tackle undesirable behaviours such as forgetting school equipment, planners and poor school uniform, students were required to meet with the senior leadership team (SLT) alongside pastoral year leaders (PYL) upon entry into school at the beginning of the school day displaying that they had all the bare necessities for learning. At first, I felt that the school were being unreasonable and unnecessarily strict, however, on reflection when considering my other two contrasting placements, this routine and start to the school day saved a lot of lesson time that would otherwise be wasted. In addition to the equipment and correct uniform checks, at the beginning of every lesson, students were required to stand behind their desks in silence, displaying their ‘5-a-day’ – pen, planner, ruler, pencil and purple pen, whilst the class teacher circulates around the classroom checking that everyone has the correct equipment and is ready to start learning. Once each student had been checked they were able to sit down, set up their exercise books and get on with the starter activity whilst registration takes place. It could be argued that this system may seem rather militant and behaviourist in nature, however, the commitment to ensuring standards for success was a high priority at the school.

The behaviour policy involved a consequences system for undesirable behaviour where a teacher can physically log an offence by ‘ticks’ on the whiteboard. Within lessons, students are given up to four opportunities where consequences can be logged; if a student received a fourth tick it leads to classroom removal. In retrospect, I did not truly appreciate the heavy SLT presence; it was very impressive. SLT would call into classrooms and reinforce the behaviour policy; if any student was on two ‘ticks’ or more, they would be pulled from their lesson and be spoken to by SLT. This was highly effective, and teachers felt supported in their role with a greater sense of teamwork and enthusiasm for raising standards.

My second phase placement was a contrasting experience and required teachers to read out the four behaviour for learning (BfL) rules at the beginning of every lesson: “Behaviour for learning is in place now. You must remain silent when anyone is talking; You must act and speak in a respectful way; You must not touch another person and/or their belongings; and you must remain on task”. If a teacher forgets to read out the BfL policy, then a student would be well within their rights to appeal any consequences that they had been assigned; completing undermining a qualified teaching professional. This second school had a very similar consequences system to the first school. At first, I was very frustrated at the prospect of having to inform the students of the BfL rules. In my opinion, I felt that prior to the commencement of my lesson, BfL rules were not in place. I disliked how this insinuated that students did not have to act in a responsible respectable manner.

From the moment I had arrived, I felt that teachers did not have high expectations of behaviour from their students at the second phase placement. The fact students were consistently defying one of the key BfL rules and not being reprimanded for poor behaviour was a big concern. At this stage of my training experience, I felt that I had to have an internal battle of choosing whether to adjust my expectations of what I personally consider to be acceptable behaviour. Prior to my arrival at the school, I had read and analysed all of the school’s policies making note of what the school’s expectations were of students, such as, a no mobile phone policy and what staff members need to do if a student is found on their mobile phone. On my first day and throughout my whole experience there, students were on corridors with their mobile phones and had consistently untidy uniform. It became clear, very quickly that the whole school had stopped following their behaviour policy.

As part of the whole school’s continuous professional development, a consultation was held with a member of SLT looking at reviewing the behaviour policy as there had been many complaints about its effectiveness. It was positive to see that SLT recognised there are problems and were consulting staff to discuss what can be done to make the system more effective. However, disillusionment abruptly followed. According to the Teacher Voice Omnibus in 2016, this is not an uncommon finding within schools (NFER, 2016). In the survey, it was reported that the percentage of senior leaders who responded that behaviour was ‘very good’ (48%) was higher than was the case with classroom teachers (21%), thus indicating another inconsistency between senior staff and classroom staff.

During the second phase placement, I learnt a lot about my teaching values; specifically, how it is so important to maintain high expectations and being fair and consistent. I had found a greater appreciation of the teacher’s standards and began to value how crucial having high expectations for all students is pivotal for successful learning outcomes. Personally, I was commended on my behaviour management style and high expectations in the classroom from a very experienced host teacher who as a result reassessed and reinvigorated her minimum expectations when teaching.

My final placement school belongs to the same academy trust as the first school; as such, they have the same behaviour for learning policies. However, this school’s behaviour policy is not as rigid and as consistently implemented. There are many more rude students who have gotten away with swearing at teachers and are able to return to their lesson without always receiving the consequence of its right severity. For example, there have been some students who had been reprimanded and received a full day in isolation as punishment who have managed to negotiate being released from isolation being able to return to lessons where they will continue to disrupt their lesson and other students’ learning. In addition, this placement school I would argue the students have been more violent and abusive towards staff members. On placement, I have heard of five separate instances of teachers being physically assaulted. This could explain the large volume of teachers that are leaving the academy and have obtained new positions at other educational institutes.

The presence of SLT in both my second and third placement schools was minimal unless SLT had been carrying out learning walks. I am a strong believer that support from the senior leadership team when it comes to behaviour management is a very powerful strategy. The reinforcement of a whole school approach with a heavy focus on consistency and having high expectations is fundamental, not only for pupil progression but for staff morale and the feeling of working towards a greater purpose. As illustrated above from my personal experience in school and the discussions I have had with colleagues, Bennett (2017) noted some of the challenges that frequently hinder improvement within schools, such as: “poorly calibrated, or low expectations; staff over-burdened by workload, and therefore unable to direct behaviour effectively; unsuitably skilled staff in charge of pivotal behaviour roles; remote, unavailable, or over-occupied leadership; and, inconsistently between staff and departments”. These findings directly correlate with my personal experience which exemplifies the scale and ongoing continuity of the problem across the nation some years later.


In conclusion, Bennett (2017) proposes that there are a variety of things that schools can do to improve, and leadership is key to this; “...teachers alone, no matter how skilled, cannot intervene with the same impact as a school leader can. The key task for a school leader is to create a culture - usefully defined as ‘the way we do things around here’ - that is understood and subscribed to by the whole school community.”. A few years earlier, Garner et al (2014) stated how ‘It remains clear that successful outcomes for students in school, including the promotion of good behaviour and learning, can be firmly linked to effective leadership.’. Similarly, Day et al (2009) also found that school climate is also linked to the effectiveness of school leadership.

Generally, teachers are hard-working individuals who often go above and beyond for their school and students. However, when teachers are faced with unreasonable workload pressures, behaviour policies that are not managed consistently or a negative school climate stemming from a lack of senior leadership and poor student behaviour, it has been found these circumstances can account for the ‘failure to comply with behaviour policies’ (Bennett, 2017). There are strategies that have been discovered following analysis of behaviours in outstanding schools, such as, having strong senior management teams inclusive of a highly dedicated headteacher who have a clear and detailed vision that is communicated to all members of a school community. Additionally, consistency and close attention to detail are key priorities within these outstanding schools when aiming to raising standards of success. These are a few strategies Tom Bennett identified from his review, that successful schools make explicit to both staff and students. These schools’ policies were also simple to understand and drawn upon daily. There is also no room for any possible ambiguity for any member of the school community to misunderstand (Bennett, 2017).

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From the in-depth research this report has considered, what has resonated most, in my view, is the importance of the Teachers Standards. Previously, they were viewed as requirements to obtain a qualification, a means to an end, but now I see them as quintessential aspects of becoming the effective practitioner I aspire to be. Classroom management is now something I do not fear; I believe high expectations and consistency together with a fair but firm approach is what will lead to optimal learning in the classroom. This is not necessarily a finding that I have found to be profound. Though, from reading governmental policies, to looking at a diverse range of sources from the past decade to the most recent research as well as the opportunity to reflect on my experience to date, has given me the reassurance and knowledge that my values are where they need to be.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Behaviour Policies at School. (2023, January 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from
“Behaviour Policies at School.” GradesFixer, 07 Jan. 2023,
Behaviour Policies at School. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jun. 2024].
Behaviour Policies at School [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jan 07 [cited 2024 Jun 17]. Available from:
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