No this is not some ghastly new 21st Century learner beanbag initiative. It’s a blog about some things that I used to do before we had our behaviour system, and why I don’t do them any more.

Our behaviour system essentially has three categories of misdemeanour:

  • Low-level disruption like off-task chat, talking when there should be silence etc. – these behaviours get a series of warnings: C1, C2, C3 before a detention and removal from the room (C4).
  • High-profile stuff including rudeness, deliberate undermining of the lesson, swearing etc. Crucially, undermining the lesson does not need to be malicious to be included in this category. Exemplars are very important in our behaviour policy, and our head gave the following illustration of what counts as deliberate undermining of the lesson: A science teacher was giving a demonstration and goggles were being given out. One member of the class, a lovely lad with a gift for the comic put on his goggles, then another pair, then another pair, until he had five pairs of goggles on his head. This was undoubtedly mildly amusing and not intended with any nastiness, but the aim was to direct pupils’ attention towards him rather than the lesson, so it counts as high-profile. These behaviours get a day in internal exclusion and a detention (C5)
  • Other stuff that is not high-profile, not low level disruption, but not permitted e.g. getting your phone out, eating/drinking where you’re not allowed, etc. These behaviours get a detention (C4 other).

The system of consequences corresponds to these categories and works very well. You can read about it here. What I want to talk about in this post is the fact that I’ve caught myself doing things that go against the behaviour policy, and I’ve made myself stop.

I’m not saying the same rules need to apply to teachers as pupils. We have smart dress but not school uniform, for example. But the principles underlying the behaviour system need to apply to staff, not because of some misplaced sense of equality, but because a) they are good principles and b) the policy works better if it is reflected everywhere.

If you wanted to write a mission statement for our behaviour policy it might be something like “Professional conduct and every second counts”. There are a number of things that I used to do that go against this:

  • Compliment a pupil on their hair or bag in lesson
  • Ask a pupil how their baby sibling/dog/bmx is getting on
  • Tell hilarious jokes
  • Use the hook of my umbrella handle to hook the back of a pupil’s blazer while they were working
  • Make conversation about my own life e.g. “oh my baby’s started smiling now, it’s so cute”
  • Squirt a water bottle into a beaker but with the beaker on the floor so it looks like I’m a man doing a wee
  • Create jib about another member of staff I know can take it: “Have you seen the state of Mr Jones’ tie today? Looks like a cat’s been strategically sick on it”
  • Have a conversation or bantz with a member of staff popping into the classroom: “How’s your little girl?” “I didn’t know you were in court today sir! You’ve ironed your shirt!”

Some of these are low-level disruption and some are high-profile, deliberate attempts to sideline the learning in the lesson. Not malicious, but deliberate.

To be fair to myself, most of these I actually did to contribute to good behaviour in my lessons: pupils thought I was funny (or felt sorry for me because I was labouring under the crippling delusion that I was funny) and behaved for me because they liked me. Or they liked me because I’d shown interest in them as a person with their hair, dog, brother.

But now that we’ve got our policy, these things not only are not needed, they are a positive impediment to the successful execution of the policy. They go against the principles of our behaviour policy, that every second counts and that we should be professional at all times. So I’ve stopped myself from doing them.

Initially I felt a bit sad about doing this, because I genuinely am interested in the pupils and I like to have bantz. But I’ve realised that this is something that must happen outside of lesson: at lunch, during “meet and greet” at the start of lessons, and at break. I used to hate break duty because I thought it was a massive waste of my professional time – but now I look forward to it as I can do all the stuff I’ve stopped doing in my lessons. Break duty? Break opportunity more like! Sorry. But really, I like it a lot more now I know my lessons are for learning and nothing else.

I believe keeping such interactions confined to times outside lessons is so important because the principles are a shortcut, they’re a structural foundation, they categorise and direct every possible event to come under the behaviour policy. The main obstacle to effectively implementing our policy is teachers “letting stuff go” – we have to be really alert, vigilant, and quick-witted:

“Yes I did just see Ben  whisper something to Elly, yes I have said we are working in silence, yes he does need a C1. No I won’t ignore it because he’s improved so much recently.”

“Yes Laurie has just used a rude tone of voice with me, yes I have already made it very clear that that tone of voice is rude, yes she does need a C5. No I won’t ignore it because she might kick off.”

“Yes Tom is sticking crocodile clips on his nostrils while I’m talking to make the others laugh, that’s a new one, yes it is a deliberate attempt to undermine the lesson so yes he does need to have a C5. No I won’t let him off because he’s a nice lad.”

There is no way you could ever list all possible behaviours so as to categorise them – there are just so many and our pupils are very creative! So underlying principles plus exemplars are needed to help both teachers and pupils. Pupils benefit from knowing “don’t bother inventing a new way to rebel – if it undermines the lesson, it will have this consequence.” And pupils come to believe that every second really does count when they see that their teacher does not waste a single second herself. True commitment to the policy, and the expectation that it will be applied can only be achieved when it is lived and breathed by everyone in it.

For teachers, the role of cognitive load in relation to behaviour needs, I believe, more attention. We need to make an incredibly quick decision as to whether a behaviour needs a consequence, and if so which one, in the middle of a molar calculation on the board, oh and Kyra’s just come in late, I need to change the register, and all the while many of us have to do work to overcome very deeply entrenched aversions to giving consequences because we like the kids/feel sorry for them/ he’s been doing so well lately/ her dad’s just gone to prison/ it’s nearly the end of the lesson/ what if giving the consequence ruins our relationship and then he plays up for me for evermore/ won’t I look bad for giving a consequence because that’s what I was told for TEN PISSING YEARS –

None of these concerns apply any more, but they take energy to overcome. If we live by the same principles that inform the policy, then the decision making can become more automated and less inhibited by all the drains on working memory that exist at any point in a lesson. So the policy is applied more effectively and behaviour is better. And so, in case anyone needs reminding, pupils learn tons more. That’s why we like good behaviour.

In a way this is all just a case of “practise what you preach”, but I’ve always thought that idiom meant something like “don’t be a hypocrite, don’t give yourself a privilege you withhold from others”, and that’s not what is going on here. The system works better for teachers and pupils when teachers model the underlying values – and that’s a privilege for all of us. Yes those little “off-task” interactions are important but we can have them out of lessons. Yes we care about the whole pupil but our lessons are for learning and, as Jon Tomsett has so wisely said, the best pastoral care for our pupils  is a great set of GCSE grades.





Until now, all the restaurants in my town have been French. I love French restaurants. In fact, I make a living as a consultante to French restaurants, telling them how to be really French, but that’s by-the-by and not relevant at all to what I am about to tell you.

Last week it was announced that a new restaurant was coming to town: “Buana Pizza Pasta”. This is an outrage. While it is admittedly the case that a great many people have expressed a desire for Italian food, indeed that they are really fed up with French, the fact remains that the head chef of this new establishment is has fewer years in the restaurant industry than me. I’m not going to talk about my objections to Italian food here, but rather my grave concerns about the staffing of this restaurant. Never mind the head chef has published three widely-acclaimed books on Italian cooking. It’s well known by everyone that wisdom and expertise are in direct proportion to years in the kitchen/ going round other peoples’ kitchens telling them how to be better.

This is a terrible business because the taxpayer’s money should not be spent on such an obviously terrible restaurant. Hang on – oh it’s a private enterprise isn’t it – er, yeah, that simply proves the neo-liberalist conspiracy of which this is a part. Yeah.

Of even greater concern is the fact that all people wishing to dine out are going to be forced to eat in this restaurant. Oh – people can choose to go there can’t they – er – let me think – I’ll come back to that one…

Shit – what if everyone chooses to go there?

It’s tempting for teachers to use “extras” as well as the school’s behaviour system. They might want to do this because it works for them, or because they think it’s kinder to pupils, or because they like it or are simply used to doing it. Examples of these extras include: 
A “look”

A phone call home

“Keeping back”

A bollocking
Using extras must be avoided at all costs. Extras confuse pupils because they are not used by all teachers. They weaken the system by diluting it. They create resentment among pupils because they expect one thing but get another. They discourage other teachers from using the system. The system must be used by all teachers with no omissions and no extras. 

If a child has got a question wrong, we want them to improve their knowledge until they will get that sort of question right. Great. We can do reteaching and intervention questions in purple. But what if they get all the questions right? You can’t be any righter than right, if the answer’s 12V then you can’t make it more 12Voltish. Extension work, of course, is the answer we are given. But I’d like to question the value of extension work too.I’d like to make it clear here that I oppose differentiation as a forward-looking element of planning. I never ever want to plan an activity for Little Sammy to do because he’s bright but Little Katy won’t get on to that because she’s slow. But we do need something valuable for pupils to do when they’ve got everything right – when they’ve “mastered” the area, while others in the group are still practicing to master that area. We might hope that “extension work” can meet this need.

But let’s look at what extension work can mean in science. It might mean harder questions on the same topic. But this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Science does follow the difficulty model but that doesn’t mean there is an infinite hierarchy of difficulty in the questions we can set for each topic.

What determines the difficulty of questions is actually really interesting. Some questions are more difficult than others because they deal with more abstract concepts. For example, internal energy requires thinking about several things we can’t see, such as particles, work, kinetic energy, and potential. This is much more abstract than How geothermal energy works, and therefore harder.

Another reason a question can be difficult is if it is on a topic with high levels of element interactivity. This is when there are lots of factors that affect the solution and must be considered together. An example is momentum, where the mass and velocity of two objects must be considered along with an equation and a law. Contrast this with efficiency, where we just need to consider one short equation.

But if we are looking for extension work on a particular topic, questions from a different, harder topic just won’t do.


So we can try and make a harder question on the same topic. Some topics in science lend themselves very well to this – some examples are circuits and balancing equations.


We can make questions on these topics more difficult by increasing the element interactivity or the number of stages needed to reach the solution.


But other topics do not lend themselves to many levels of difficulty. We might be able get two or three levels of difficulty in questions on topics like the wave equation or uses of the electromagnetic spectrum, but after that there are no more levels of difficulty available without introducing new content. For these topics I’m not prepared to reserve the hardest questions for extension because they’re not that hard and all pupils need to be able to do them. We can’t just conjure up extension questions all the time because of the nature of scientific knowledge:


Not all knowledge in science has the same potential for increasing difficulty of questions. When we put knowledge at the centre of our curriculum we can see that extension work actually can not meaningfully exist in many cases.


We’ve seen that higher level difficulty tasks are not appropriate to all topics. What about extension work that introduces more knowledge, stuff you don’t need til A-level perhaps? This sounds lovely until we remember that forgetting curve! Little Sammy’s performance might be at 100% for this lesson, but he is unlikely to achieve 100% in his exam because he will have forgotten things.


Wouldn’t it be much better for a pupil who has got all the questions right to spend “purple pen time”, redoing questions from previous lessons for retrieval practice? This will often do more than anything else to improve the pupil’s final grade. Having all the topics, questions and answers together in one book like this makes this practical in the classroom.


I’m not saying we should not teach beyond the test, there are many instances where I think we should. But these instances should be driven by the knowledge, by the fact that a pupil’s schema will be more complete, more satisfying and more memorable because it is augmented by this extra knowledge. Here’s an example: Pupils are not required to explain the cause of the normal force or friction. But pupils often harbor a misconception that static and inert objects do not exert forces. If we teach that electrostatic repulsion between atoms is responsible for these forces, that misconception is easier to overcome. So I teach this extra material, because of the nature of the knowledge itself. We should not introduce extra knowledge because it fits our model of feedback, lesson structure or differentiation. There are better uses of our pupils’ time.



Inspired by Anders Ericsson’s “Peak”, I want feedback to pupils on every piece of knowledge and then opportunities for more practice in light of the feedback.


I’d like to pause a minute to look at feedback, how it has been going wrong for me in science and why I believe textbooks on this model offer such a powerful improvement.

My school at the moment has a feedback policy of written comments in pupil books using the headings What Went Well and Even Better If. We also have Act Now so we always give the pupils a task to do to improve their work. We have purple pen time in lesson in which every pupil has to use the feedback to improve their work. Now, to be fair to my school, it’s been turned around from being quite famously bad to quite amazingly good in terms of behaviour. I’m a big fan of the Keep It Simple Stupid principle so I understand the adoption of a one-size-fits-all feedback policy. We’re moving into the next stage now as we’ve got behaviour right so I’m hopeful they will consider the need for subject-specific feedback policies. Allow me to present the need for subject-specific feedback policies.

WWW/EBI might work for a quality model, i.e. where the work is a biggish task like an essay. If a pupil writes an essay, I can perhaps tell them that their argument is strong but they need to structure it better. I might use an exemplar to illustrate what I mean. I might make specific recommendations such as “present the arguments and counter-arguments alternately”.

(There are in fact arguments that subjects assessed using the quality model are best taught using smaller tasks that are more like those on the difficulty model, but we’ll leave that for now… )

The fact is, science is a difficulty-model subject. Not only is the final assessment of science, the exam, a series of short-to-medium questions of varying levels of difficulty, I argue that the best work in our lessons is to do many questions, often even shorter than exam questions. Questions on every piece of declarative knowledge we want pupils to have, and repeat questions to build fluency in every piece of procedural knowledge we want them to have. Questions that have single, right-or-wrong answers. Questions like the ones in my textbooks.

It’s possible to create WWW/EBI/ACT statements for pupil work on these questions, but it’s undesirable for the following reasons:

  1. It’s hard. I’ve spent too long looking at books wondering what I can say in this format that makes sense.
  2. It takes too long – both because it’s hard and because it’s written in each book
  3. Giving WWW/EBI-type feedback encourages us to change what we do in our lesson to fit the feedback model. In the past I did loads of write-ups of experiments because it was easy to give comments like: WWW: you gave evidence for your conclusion. EBI: Describe the quantitative relationship between variables. But this is the tail wagging the dog. Our feedback needs to work for our lessons, not the other way round.
  4. The fourth reason why WWW/EBI is undesirable in Science is this: We can do so much better. If we check each answer in lesson, against pre-prepared answers, pupils can get what, 20 pieces of highly specific feedback in one lesson alone. If we then re-teach where needed, and provide equivalent questions for pupils to do having received feedback, then we can create something like deliberate practice that matches the nature of our subject instead of distorting it.

I believe textbooks can be the foundation of better feedback in science.

Underneath all the questions in my textbooks, I’ve put all the answers. Pupils self-mark in red. Pupils comparing their work with the answers is feedback, and crucially they’re getting feedback on every single question, not just the blob of “their work for that lesson”. I’m getting pupils to write a note of metacognition next to any wrong answers.

Often they can see what they did wrong, so they describe it.

If they don’t know why they got the wrong answer, they put a big “RT” next to the question. I can scan pupils’ books as I go round, and this is made easier by them marking in red: This is feedback from pupil to teacher. I can re-teach areas that are needed. This is “adaptive teaching” as Dylan Wiliam says. For every question that pupils got wrong, they have to do the equivalent question in purple.

Then they can mark again using the answers.

This is, I hope, getting close to the deliberate practice described by Ericsson, that leads to expertise.

I’ve been using whole-class feedback on top of this, 20 minutes to read books for a class of 30, if you get them to hand in books open at that lesson’s page. I check they’ve been using the feedback system properly, and add any extra feedback that’s needed. We then spend 5-10 minutes as a class making any further improvements with the help of the visualiser.

This model for feedback feels nimble and responsive, precise, in fact it’s highly personalized – but in a good way! It’s really exciting to see pupils’ work, often there are just tiny little bits of purple pen in a sea of black but you know it’s exactly the bit they needed to go over, and you can see straight away if they got it right the second time round because they self-mark in red again. Using textbooks in this way means that feedback is powerful, deliberate practice can take place, and every single pupil can make the most of every second in the lesson.

 I used to think I was really ace for never using textbooks.

In my lessons, I said, you’ll be active learners.

You’ll learn by doing practicals, because that’s what real scientists do.

You won’t be reading about science – you’ll be doing it.

What a prat I was.



Like many people here today, I had something of a Twitter-induced epiphany – a Twittiphany? – and got switched on to what they call “traditional teaching”.


To knowledge, and the teacher as expert.


To direct instruction, for effective and efficient transfer of knowledge.

And strong discipline as a necessary precondition for great teaching.


In the past I had always believed my superiors when they told me things like “teacher talk is bad” and “pupils don’t learn out of textbooks”. I wanted to be a good employee. And yet. I wanted my pupils to get good grades, and I could get them, but only by (whisper) talking to them about what they needed to know and doing lots of (scowl) practice on paper.


I drive an automatic car. I needed to learn quickly when I moved out of London and that was the best way. I’m always slightly embarrassed about it. I can get from A to B as well as the next man, but I’ll always be doing it in a slightly crap way, because I’m not driving manual.


Traditional teaching used to feel like an automatic car. I could make it work and it could get me where I wanted to go, but I thought I was doing it in a crap way. I thought “if only I was somehow better, I could use progressive methods and get results.”


This is why my “Twittiphany” has been so uplifting. Now that I know that traditional teaching is a proper thing, with research and history and advocates and books about it… I feel like all the cells in my professional being are aligned, all pulling in the same direction, all internally consistent and coherent. I feel like I can do things that work for my pupils and know that there’s a whole body of leaders, teachers, and bloggers who have got my back. For the first time in a very long time, I want to lead a department because I no longer feel like an outsider, like there’s a piece missing from me that’s stopping me make it work how it’s supposed to. So I’m so so grateful to Tom Bennett for ResearchED and all the other bloggers and tweeters who’ve helped me to reach this point.


Anyway. After I’d recovered a bit from the ecstasy of my Twittiphany, I marched off to get the science textbooks to use in my brave new traditional classroom. Oh. It turns out that while I was very wrong in thinking I was ace, I was right not to use these textbooks. For a start, they’ve got what my esteemed colleague Deep Gatorra has called “doublepagespreaditis”.


On one double page “spread”, for example, we find the the motor effect, Fleming’s Left Hand Rule, magnetic flux density, and electric motors. This is cruising for a cognitive overload. Fleming’s Left Hand Rule is hard. Electric motors are hard. It doesn’t work having all this together on one page like this. And questions for pupils to practise on? Yeah, er, 7 for that double page spread. There was no way I was going to use these in my lessons. So, inspired by blogs by Olivia Paris Dyer and Joe Kirby, I set out to make my own.


I did a fair amount of reading for this project and I found some explanations for why several things in science education and science textbooks have not been working for me. Happily, I found pointers for what we can do better.


In “The Reading Mind”, Daniel Willingham says “In order to become a proficient reader, one must read a lot.” How many lessons have I taught with no reading whatsoever? Writing, and talking about science, and practicals, but no reading? And how many times have I been frustrated with poor reading for revision and exams? There is a link between these two things and I have only just realized it! I think school science has suffered because we have sacrificed reading on the altar of “engagement” and “activity”. More privileged pupils will do ok under this system but the gap will only widen for those less privileged. I want textbooks that pupils read every single lesson, so that all pupils, regardless of their background, can become fluent at reading scientific texts.


In “Why Knowledge Matters”, E.D. Hirsch says: “The almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge related to the subject.” I want textbooks as a source of first-class knowledge for my pupils. I want them to be explicit about every single piece of declarative knowledge, the facts, descriptions and explanations of science. And I want them to be explicit about all the procedural knowledge, all the calculations and diagrams and processing of science. By doing this we can put knowledge at the centre of our curriculum.


In “Why Don’t Students Like School?”, Daniel Willingham (again) says: “Memory is the residue of thought”. I think textbooks haven’t worked in science because they’ve treated questions almost as an afterthought, a garnish. I want textbooks that treat questions as the means to plant knowledge in pupils’ minds. Every – single – piece of knowledge in the curriculum.



In “Peak”. Anders Ericsson describes “deliberate practice”, the “gold standard” for learning reaching the highest level of performance. Deliberate practice is practice “involving feedback and modification of efforts in response to that feedback.” A classic example is in music where a student practices exercises repeatedly, is observed by their teacher, and then given directions and exercises to further refine their playing.


In “Making Good Progress?”, Daisy Christodoulou talks about the Quality Model vs the Difficulty Model for different subjects. Subjects assessed using the Quality Model are those such as English and Art where a biggish piece of work, like an essay or a painting, is judged against criteria or other pieces. Subjects assessed using the Difficulty Model are those such as Maths and Science where pupils are assessed on their answers to questions of a range of difficulty. These questions have only one or a small number of possible correct answers.


I think feedback in science has failed because it has been based on a quality model while Science follows the difficulty model. I think textbooks in science have failed because there has been too little emphasis on the questions and their answers. I want textbooks that contain the answers to all those questions, so as to allow a feedback model that serves the structure of scientific knowledge. In this way we can create the conditions for deliberate practice by our pupils, so that they can reach the highest level in the subject.



There is nothing more critical than the knowledge we give our pupils and the questions we set them to make them think about it. And yet these are often thought up off the cuff in lesson or when trying to fit planning into our overcrowded days. I want textbooks that contain carefully constructed expositions of knowledge and questions so that this most critical element of our teaching never suffers because we’re busy.


A quick blog to answer a query I’ve had about my experience of the changes in behaviour in my school since we’ve had our behaviour system. Just the first things that come to mind, there are lots more I’m sure. 

Some teachers cry regularly

Sunday night fear

Timetable a source of grief: ” we get year 9 period 5 every day!”

A problem with the printer or computer was absolutely awful, as you needed that resource for your lesson, the lesson must keep moving otherwise you’ll lose them and not get them back all lesson…

Lessons after break and lunch were shit

Often hear swear words

Often experience overt rudeness eg “WHAT?! GOD!” when you asked a pupil to do something

Often experienced refusal e.g to pick up dropped litter

Seating plans for behaviour

Lesson plans for behaviour

Very often experienced “low profile rudeness” eg smirks, slow movements carrying out instructions, tone of voice

Litter everywhere


Sore throat after some lessons

Some pupils with ASD unable to cope in lessons due to noise 
After: none of the above. 

A quick blog about some of the changes to my thinking in writing my own textbooks.

1. SLOP not mastery. I’m still really interested in mastery but it needs a LOT of work. I think we need really careful consideration of both the structure of scientific knowledge and the questions we can set. It seems to me we might need a significant restructuring of the curriculum in order to build knowledge meaningfully using the mastery model… I’ve got reading to do on this but in the meantime…. SLOP! Or “Shed Loads Of Practice”. Or how about SLOPWIFF? Shed Loads Of Practice With Immediate Formative Feedback? I’m mad keen on giving the answers that same lesson, for something approaching deliberate practice as described by Ericsson in “Peak”.

2. Fluency. I’ve only just realised that some things are better taught for fluency first and understanding second. I’ve been influenced by Kris Boulton, Dani Quin and Hin-Tai Ting here. And many other topics may suit maybe something like a spiral-type model, as in teaching for fluency and then dropping a bit of understanding in, then more fluency, then a bit more understanding… I think electricity has a lot to gain from this. Previously I was trying to write books for understanding before fluency and now I think this isn’t right for some areas. I’ve made some SLOP work for circuits to build fluency, sharing here:


3. Format – I’ve dropped the idea of using the same font as the exams. I think reading Daisy Christodoulou’s “Making Good Progress?” influenced me here. Wrong to think that exam practice is best preparation for exams. Best to teach the science in the best way possible, including the best format. Some of my groups will be intimidated by lots of dense text on a page. I’ve tried out the font “OpenDyslexic” – don’t @ me! You can download my new waves textbook in this font here


As always I hope the files I’ve shared will be useful to some people, if you spot any howlers etc. please give me a shout! Thanks R


I am of the opinion that centralised detentions are not just great for workload but actually fundamental to a great behaviour system.


A good centralised detention system not only groups detainees together but also centralises the administration so that one administrator phones home, tracks attendance, and administers escalation for non-attendance.

The benefits of this are many:


1. Time saved. We need time to plan for the new GCSEs, apart from anything else. We need a sensible workload so our teachers can be the best that they can be. We need it for recruitment and retention.


2. Morale. Teachers like working, and the most intellectual work is the most rewarding. Freeing staff up to work on actual teaching can be transformative for culture.


3. Centralised detentions ensure consistency: detention is always the same so the pupils always know exactly what they’re going to get for a certain behaviour.


4. Detentions can be longer and therefore more of a deterrent. Ours are all 1 hour long.  

5. No disincentive for staff to pick up on behaviour. I cannot stress the importance of this point enough.  There are a few points to make here.


5.1: Even utterly conscientious staff will find themselves, from time to time, in a position where they have to prioritise, and doing a detention will not come first. Consider the new HOD with two teachers off sick and Y11 coursework to complete by Friday. You’d be daft if you prioritised detention with a year 7 for low-level disruption. But behaviour will suffer because of this.


5.2: When picking up on behaviour, you often have to ask yourself, “did I really just see/hear that?” Or “does that count as rudeness/low-level disruption/ pushing?” You have to make that decision in a split-second, often with other stuff, such as a lesson, going on around you and placing a further load on your working memory. I suggest that teachers will err on the side of leniency if they know strictness leads to extra work. I suggest this will happen even at a subconscious level in highly conscientious teachers.


5.3. If enforcing the behaviour policy entails an increase in workload, some teachers may, consciously or unconsciously, resort to other methods to gain compliance. These include being scary or being liked. These are problematic as methods of behaviour management because the former isn’t nice and the latter wastes learning time, neither are available to all staff and both undermine the actual policy by interrupting its predictability.


5.4. How many schools have 100% utterly conscientious staff? You need a system that works even if some teachers aren’t prepared to give all their energy to the job. Two more points to make here: if something in the job means that teachers have to neglect friends, family, and personal time in order to do a good job, then something isn’t working. And, paradoxically, when teachers are freed from these burdens they become more engaged, more happy to spend time on cpd, extra-curricular, stepping up in times of need etc. A system like ours works to change the culture: people feel part of something when they’re freed to use their time at the highest level of their profession (planning) rather than the lowest (detentions).

5.5. And what about supply staff? A centralised detention system means that all supply teachers can rigorously apply the system. Most supply teachers are paid until the end of last lesson so why on earth would we expect them to do detentions after that for free?

The most common objection I hear to centralised detentions is this: “What about repair and rebuild?” Many people feel that if a teacher gives a detention, that teacher needs to conduct the detention with the pupil in order to tend to the relationship with that pupil.
They might feel that this is necessary on a practical level, that without this process a pupil will be angry with the teacher and then misbehave again in future lessons. Or they may feel there’s an ethical element to it: it’s only right that we should explain consequences to pupils after we’ve given them. The pupils might not get this kind of explanation at home. The pupil deserves an explanation.

Let’s look at these concerns in turn. First of all, do pupils who’ve had a centralised detention misbehave more in their next lesson ? Now I haven’t done an RCT but no, no they don’t. Or maybe they do but the effect is vastly overshadowed by the consistency and inevitability of the system. If I teach a new class, I don’t need to follow through for them to know “if Miss says you’ve got detention, you have to go otherwise she always rings home and gives you twice as long the next day” or whatever. They already know detention means detention, from every other teacher in the school. It’s actually much less common for a pupil to view a detention as unfair because the system is so consistent and inevitable. Also: we are nice! We don’t give out detentions with malice and we praise the good stuff!
If a pupil is angry with a teacher for a consequence, I’d argue that if a conversation is needed then it needs to involve a pastoral leader. This sends the message that the teacher is backed up and doesn’t need to apologise, but also the pupil knows their concerns have been heard, the pastoral leader knows their “background” and so can say things like “you’ve come a long way since year 7 Katy and we’re really proud of you for that. Miss is absolutely right to give you a C4 for repeated low level disruption, I think probably you’re angry with yourself as much as anything for letting it slip.” I had precisely this sort of conversation the other day. It is needed, but rarely, and should be done right. We’ve also got a small number of pupils who are resisting the system. These pupils are frequently in isolation and they do need something repairing and rebuilding but it’s a bigger job than a teacher can do in a detention. I’d say that nearly all of these pupils are where they are because of a lack of boundaries in the past. We’ve got lots of pupils now who were in this group, but have been through the detention and isolation system many times and with pastoral support have now learnt how to improve their behaviour. It’s a privilege to observe such a change.

Why do pupils misbehave? The vast majority of the time, it’s because they can. It’s because they know there will be no consequence, or because they don’t know what the consequence will be. Yes, many of our pupils have troubled backgrounds. This is neither necessary nor sufficient for poor behaviour, but where an emotional or whatever issue does exist it should be dealt with properly, and not devalued by treating every misbehaviour as a result of “background”.




So let’s look at the ethical concern. Are we morally obliged to repair and rebuild in detention? No we’re not. As stated above, pupils on the whole don’t
The thing that most often makes pupils angry is inconsistency and this is precisely what centralised detentions help to avoid, because the workload disincentive is removed. I’d argue that we owe it to our pupils not to put their feelings at the centre of every action maintaining order in lessons so that everyone can learn loads.
I also think we should be wary of the message we send. Teachers should not have to explain their actions. In an effective policy, the explanation should be known before the action: if you do X, you will get consequence Y. Pupils will test whether these statements hold true, but they shouldn’t feel hard-done-by when they find they do. I think we run dangerously close to sounding like we’re apologising when we have these repair and rebuild conversations – even if that’s not our intention.

Our pupils are happy because school is a nice place to be and they learn loads. I think providing this is our moral obligation to our pupils.

And what about the feelings of all the other pupils who aren’t misbehaving? I’ll tell you now, plenty of them have got difficult backgrounds. This is not “she behaves even though her dad’s in prison, why can’t he?” It’s just to show the poor logic of the argument that we owe certain pupils more time because of their behaviour.

Every single pupil in every single class deserves to learn the subject to the highest level possible. This needs great behaviour from all in the lesson and teachers free to use their time planning. Centralised detentions support both these things where individual repair and rebuild sessions inhibit them. In most cases pupils do not have a genuine emotional issue with a consequence. On the rare occasions they do, something more is required, such as the presence of a pastoral leader. Centralised detentions make teachers happy and can change a school’s culture, and they build in “slack” so the system works even in difficult times.

If you’re wondering how to fund a behaviour administrator for centralised detentions, consider this: I would happily teach classes of 40 under this system, provided feedback policies, reporting etc. were sensible. Once we get proper resources for the new curricula, I reckon I could do 50. If I’ve missed any arguments against centralised detentions, I’d like to hear them. If I haven’t, well, what are you waiting for?




I think behaviour out of lessons is a really important area that is often overlooked. In this post I describe what we do to get it right at my school and explain why I think it’s so important.

I’m defining between lessons, break and lunch, and before and after school as “out-of-lesson behaviour”. Why is it so often overlooked? There are a few possible reasons:
1. Leaders may view it as draconian to impose rules on pupils outside of lessons.
2. Leaders may want to address it but feel they need to prioritise behaviour in classrooms.
3. Leaders may just not have thought about it.

What we do at my school
First, we have a written list of areas and times and what the expectations are for those. For example: corridor between lessons: no running, pushing, shouting, food, drink, or phones. Canteen at lunch: no running, pushing or shouting, phones allowed for texting but not calls or photos. This sounds confusing but it’s not.
There’s also an additional set of expectations that applies everywhere, all the time: no swearing, no chewing, no rudeness, no refusal, full uniform…
A clear consequence for breaking a rule: a “C4 other” (an hour’s detention) or a “C5” (a day in isolation plus an hour’s detention). You can read more about this here.
Of fundamental importance is our brilliant system to administrate these consequences: a tiny slip of paper filled out by the member of staff giving the consequence, an administrator to inform the parents, centralised detentions with registers sent to the administrator, who then administers escalations for failure to attend. There is so little workload for the member of staff that you would never let something go because you were tired/stressed/ had loads of urgent and important work that you had to prioritise. This is important because a) even the most conscientious member of staff can find themselves in this position, b) it’s unrealistic to imagine 100% of your workforce has the maximum level of conscientiousness, c) if you want to recruit and retain the best staff then they need to be able to
spend their time on the good stuff. You know, teaching.
We have clear procedures for staff to follow, including telling the pupil you are going to issue them a C4/5 and why. You can read more about our behaviour administration here.
There is a clear consequence (C5) for any rudeness displayed by a pupil on being informed of a consequence. So you don’t feel afraid to “poke the hornets’ nest” i.e. get a load of grief for enforcing an expectation.
We have “policies of presence” around the school: teachers “meet and greet” pupils at the start of lessons and so monitor corridor behaviour then; break duty is carefully monitored by SLT. Crucially, because things like computers and printers work, and most teachers have their own classrooms, doing these things is easy and pleasant for teachers, instead of awful and a massive impediment to the success of your next lesson.
Pupil culture- pupils know what the consequences are so they don’t feel caught out when they incur them. Pupils have got good relationships with staff, largely because the behaviour system makes school a nice place to be and they feel successful because they’re learning lots.
Staff culture – teachers feel safe to ask questions: “I’ve just seen a pupil deliberately pouring crisps on the floor- should I do a C5?” ( the answer was yes). I constantly ask questions like this, and when I apologise the response is invariably, “we’d much rather people ask questions than not act because they’re not sure.” We also know that “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link” – we have a duty to our colleagues to uphold the expectations. Finally we know that this is part of our pupils’ education: we owe it to them to teach them civilised comportment. You can read more about our culture here.

Why it’s important
The number one reason I think out-of-lesson behaviour needs clear consequences and an effective administration is this: it makes the system work for teachers in lessons. Let’s look at what happens if you don’t have an out-of-lesson behaviour system. Let’s say you encounter some poor behaviour, let’s say a group of pupils are playfully scuffling on their way to lesson. You might not even notice this as being poor behaviour as you don’t have these rules. But let’s say you do. What do you do? You might pretend not to notice. The pupils then expect you not to notice things in your classroom. When you do, the consequence is seen as unfair. Or you fall into pretending not to notice things in your classroom.
Alternatively, you might tell the pupils to stop. In this case one of two things might happen. You might have the charisma, fear-factor or “relationship” with the pupils that means they do what you say. Or you don’t have it, and consequently they don’t do it. It’s then more difficult for you to apply a behaviour policy in lesson, because pupils have previously disobeyed you and nothing happened.

This situation is incredibly damaging to whole school behaviour. If pupils follow instructions because of who is giving them then whole-school behaviour will never be good enough. It’s unrealistic that all staff will fit the profile of “good behaviour inducer” described above. In fact, it is undesirable that staff should fit this profile because it often means they have to sacrifice learning in order to build these relationships. For example, I’ve interrupted my own lessons in the past to tell hilarious jokes to make pupils like me. Those pupils now know less science than they would have done without those interruptions. So by relying on “relationships” to cause good behaviour, you virtually guarantee that a) behaviour will be bad for some teachers and b) some teachers will waste learning time to get good relationships. A clear and well-managed system avoids these problems.

There are a number of other reasons that out-of-lesson behaviour needs careful management. To a large extent, the corridor is the face of the school. If you visit a school you will definitely walk along the corridor. I think these impressions are important- for inspectors, parents, and prospective staff.
There is a lot of damage that can be done to the school building by out-of-lesson behaviour- manage it and your school will look better.
Seepage- if pupils have just been behaving in a certain way outside the classroom it’s harder for them to behave in the classroom.
Relationships- I do actually think it’s important for staff to build good relationships- I just think it’s bad if these are the foundation of behaviour management. A calm corridor/canteen/whatever is a lovely place to rib a pupil about their football team or ask how their puppy’s getting on. And it means that time is not being stolen from lessons to do so.

At the start of this post I suggested three possible reasons that out-of-lesson behaviour often gets overlooked. I suggest that it’s kinder to pupils to have calm corridors and consistency as you move between lessons. I hope this post shows that out-of-lesson behaviour must be addressed in order to promote good behaviour in lessons and must not be deprioritised. And if your school just hasn’t thought about it yet, then nows the time for them to start!