“Out-of-lesson behaviour”

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!

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4 thoughts on ““Out-of-lesson behaviour”

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  1. I work in a big school (1800) and suffer from the problem of not knowing who a pupil is when they misbehave. Sometimes the pupil will refuse to give their name and other pupils around can be unhelpful. Any thoughts?

    1. Yes! First of all, we’d have a C5 for a pupil refusing to give their name. We’d have to say clearly, “are you refusing to give your name, because that would have to be a C5”. Then, to identify the culprit, I’d recommend different colour ties for different year groups, and pupil photos on your Bromcom or whatever. This needs to be set up so that you can do a search of eg “year 9 girls” to save time. Good luck!

  2. Good question! First, we would have a C5 for refusing to give their name. We’d have to say something like “if you refuse to tell me your name then that will be a C5 for refusal”. A C5 is a day in isolation plus an hour’s detention. To find out who they were, I recommend different colour ties for different year groups, and photos on your bromcom or whatever, and have this set up so you can go through a list like “year 8, boys”. Good luck!

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