An effective behaviour system: Part 1: Front of house

There’s a discussion at the moment about whether teachers or a school are responsible for behaviour. My view is this: the school is responsible for having a good behaviour system and teachers are responsible for following the system. By “good system” I mean one which does not create work for the teachers; does not require them to teach for behaviour rather than learning; and in which follow-up and escalation are dealt with by admin staff and SLT respectively. We have such a system in my school.

In this and three subsequent posts I will write about our system and how we make it work. We are not the only school to use it but neither are we part of a majority. I think that many could benefit from using this policy or something similar.

It’s no exaggeration to say that adopting this system has been transformational. Our school is like a different place: we now plan for learning, in the pupil culture hard work is the norm rather than the exception and our results have improved dramatically. In my department A*-C were up 45% in one year.

In this post I describe what teachers do in lessons to manage behaviour using the system. I will write about the administration and culture in parts 2 and 3 respectively. I think many schools have something similar to what I describe in this post, but fewer have the strong administration system and culture that make it work so well. However it won’t make much sense to talk about those without first describing what we do “front-of-house”. So:

There are three distinct groups of behaviour the system addresses: low-level disruption, “non-heinous misdemeanours” and high-profile behaviour.

“Low-level disruption: C1, C2, C3 and C4”
Low-level disruption in lessons is dealt with as follows: a pupil will receive three warnings, called C1, C2, and C3, before receiving a C4 which results in two things. The student leaves the lesson and works in the department room for the rest of the lesson. This is a designated room for that period (usually with a class in it- we don’t keep a room and teacher free for this purpose). The pupil will also incur a one-hour detention the next day. Thus the pupil cannot disturb the lesson further and receives a disincentive from repeating the behaviour in the future.

Examples of low-level disruption include: talking when the teacher is talking, talking during silent work, off-task conversation at a time when work-related talk is permitted, too loud a voice during these times, pen tapping, turning round.

For a C4 to be given, the teacher must have gone through C1, 2 and 3. You can’t jump to C3 for example because the pupil is more disruptive or because you think they should have got a C1 earlier but you didn’t get round it.

Teachers are required to administer these warnings and sanctions with a dispassionate tone and narration of the reason. So it’s “James that’s a C1 because you’re talking during silent work” without a gleeful “gotcha” or an angry or harsh tone of voice. Indeed, we have no shouting.

When giving a C1, 2, 3 or 4 the teacher records it on a specially made small whiteboard at the front of the class. It has column headings “Name”, “C1”, “C2”, “C3” and “C4”. The teacher writes the pupil’s name on the board and a tick under “C1” and then more ticks if needed for 2, 3 and 4. In this way there is no room for a pupil to argue that they didn’t know which stage they had got to. It also helps the teacher to keep track.

An absolutely crucial aspect of the system is that we distinguish between thoughtless low-level disruption and deliberate attempts to undermine the lesson. We are very clear that children can be extremely clever in playing the system and that if, in our professional judgement, they are doing this, then it is not a C1, 2, 3 or 4, it is high-profile behaviour which incurs a C5. More on this below.

We also have Vivos for positive behaviour; teachers are required to award Vivos to at least two students per lesson and write those names on the main whiteboard (not the consequence board). This requirement reminds us to give them out.

The tone in lessons is positive with high expectations.

“Non-heinous misdemeanours: C4 others”
There is a set of behaviours that incur a “C4 other”, by which the pupil does not go to a department room but does incur the next-day one hour detention. These are: graffiti-ing one’s own book, graffiti on hands, chewing gum, using mobile phone at any time other than before and after school and break and lunch-time, food or drink outside of break and lunch-time, repeated minor uniform offences eg blazer sleeves rolled up, lateness, corridor behaviour eg friendly pushing. There is no warning in the form of C1, 2 and 3: it is just straight C4. I have invented the term “non-heinous misdemeanours” to try and make it clearer- we don’t call them that in school! When giving a C4 other the teacher must tell the pupil that they are doing so and why.

C5: high profile behaviour
If a pupil receives a C5 they go to the consequence room to work in isolation. They do one full school day in the consequence room: so if they receive a C5 during lesson 3 on a Tuesday, for example, they go to the consequence room for the remainder of lesson 3, plus lesson 4 and 5, plus lesson 1 and 2 on Wednesday, returning to normal lessons lesson 3 on Wednesday.
C5 behaviours are: high-profile uniform eg trainers, no blazer, no tie; swearing, regardless of whether it is aimed at a teacher or even anyone at all; rudeness, including body language and noises eg tutting; fighting; racist/homophobic/sexist language; vandalism including graffiti-ing someone else’s book; refusal; misbehaviour in the department room having been given a C4; a deliberate attempt to undermine a lesson.

A deliberate attempt to undermine the lesson can be many things. It can be trying to make somebody laugh while the teacher is talking, deliberately asking a silly question to divert the teacher, or trying to distract someone eg by throwing something at them or making a silly face. It also includes attempts to “play the system”: if a pupil repeatedly gets to a C3 and is then good to avoid getting a C4, and the teacher judges that this is a calculated strategy to cause disruption but avoid a consequence, then that is a C5. A pupil tapping a pen while the teacher is talking so as to undermine the teacher would count as a C5. I cannot overstate the importance of this aspect because it is the one place where pupils sense a weakness in the system and try to exploit it. There is an inescapable ambiguity around these behaviours, we know when a pupil is doing something deliberately but it is of course impossible to prove it. So we say: “I think that you tapping your pen as soon as I begin to speak is a deliberate attempt to undermine our lesson. However I will give you the benefit of the doubt because these things are difficult to be certain about. Now that I’ve explained this to you, if you do it again I will know that it is deliberate, and it will be a C5.” This is very effective.

Teachers are expected to follow the system at all times without exception. We don’t have to do much to apply a consequence (see part 2), but we do have to do it every time and never ever pretend we didn’t see something, or let a pupil off for any reason. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Next posts: administrating the system and supporting the culture


9 thoughts on “An effective behaviour system: Part 1: Front of house

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  1. Does this not give students multiple chances to do the same thing wrong over and over again?
    How is it corrective above and beyond just being punitive?
    How does the school ensure that the system works for all teachers? How does the school ensure that all teachers are applying the system in the same way?

    1. Hi, thanks for your questions. I’m not sure I understand the first- if you mean does having C1, C2 and C3 before a C4 then yes you’re right it does, and it might be better with fewer stages. However it is still very effective as a C1 is a visual reminder of the expectations. It is much more common for a pupil to get a C1 and then remember the expectations and not get a C2, than to go all the way to C4.
      When you say corrective as opposed to punitive, I feel that in most cases there isn’t a distinction- pupils correct their own behaviour because they want to avoid the sanction. Where a pupil’s behaviour is related to a special circumstance then pastoral and SEN teams work to support the pupil in addition to the consequence system. To ensure the system works for everyone and is being applied consistently, SLT and middle managers conduct learning walks and encourage questions and discussions about the system. Hope that answers your questions? If not please let me know!

  2. Hi Rosalind,
    I meant that in theory, there could be hoards of children going from lesson to lesson, repeatedly getting C1s for the same thing, as well as the point you brought up. Each one of those C1s would be disruption of some form – do they not get a lot of chances to do something wrong in this system?
    Would there be some merit in adding to the system and encouraging something beyond just avoiding the sanction? As in teaching them to behave better because it’s the right thing to do? The Michaela line of thought I am thinking of.
    Thanks for your reply. This is an interesting topic!

    1. Yes- I love the Michaela line! I would like us to go in that direction.
      Re: a lot of C1s throughout the day – yes, I hadn’t thought of that. Although in most lessons I would probably have to give out between 0 and 2 C1s now, but even so… We’re not as strict as Michaela, I’d like us to be because the pupil outcomes there are so phenomenal, but I think we might struggle because a) some of the teachers would not commit to that level of discipline, they would think it was ruining childhood or something, and b) we are not oversubscribed and some of our parents might not sign the home-school agreement they have at Michaela. I had hoped to go with staff to visit to try and encourage a move in that direction, but visits are off at the moment- fingers crossed that will change!

    1. There was a spike at first, which went down but is still higher than before, every once in a while it goes up for a bit as some pupils test to see if the boundaries are still there. Vast majority are in years 9 10 and 11 and I think will filter out as these year groups leave the school. The demographic hasn’t changed though in new intake- we are just building good habits in the same groups of kids.

      1. Oh sorry do you mean permanent exclusions? We have had very few of those. I don’t know the figures but I think it stayed the same or even went down. We’ve had a few managed moves and as we are in a MAT with two other schools nearby we are able to move pupils without permanently excluding them – happens maybe with a handful a year altogether. My reply above was about fixed term exclusions

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