Ofsted’s focus on behaviour

Managing behaviour for learning

Ofsted’s new framework includes behaviour as a separate judgement. How should schools respond to this?

I spoke to the DfE’s behaviour advisor Tom Bennett, who provides guidance to participants on our online course Managing behaviour for learning, about how he feels a school leadership team should approach behaviour in light of the change in the Education Inspection Framework.

I wanted to probe his thoughts on how we can support teachers and schools. We discussed a whole-school approach to behaviour management and the “behaviour curriculum”. Tom makes the point that school leadership and the staff team should have a very clear vision.

“They have to be really clear: what behaviour am I looking for? What kind of values and culture am I trying to create? What kind of school do I want to see?”

Tom believes the school should organise its definitions of behaviours into a system to aid consistency of approach by teachers and students. To reinforce this, the school should train staff and familiarise students with the definitions, while sharing personalisation within different classroom contexts.

I feel this final point is very important as within a science laboratory or other practical space there are slightly different approaches due to health and safety concerns. As Tom puts it:

“What you frequently see in science classes is science teachers teaching children how to behave around Bunsen burners… So these people really take it seriously and put it to the forefront of their instruction. And what I would like to see is all teachers and leaders [say] all behaviour is important, so it's important that we teach the children, but of course you would want some very subject-specific instructions too.”

Later, we discussed the new separate Ofsted judgement highlighting behaviour and separating it from the differently focused “wellbeing”. Tom believes this distinction is useful, saying:

“Behaviour sometimes needs to be looked at in isolation. I think that for too long, it was seen as largely a by-product of good pedagogy. Which is well meant, but frequently wrong… [the idea that] pupils’ behaviour would naturally emerge in response to a beautifully-planned lesson. I think it's based on a very outdated concept of human nature as being intrinsically good. This idea that children are naturally curious and naturally want to learn. They are sometimes.”

This may be controversial to some, but if we take this positively we can make sure that within the science lab and the school as a whole we have a well-thought-out approach to our expectations. This, in my experience, helps new staff become established in their classrooms quickly. Tom continues:

“So I like the fact that’s been separated out, that it's been seen as something specific, something important. I think that by doing so, it magnifies the status of it, something the schools need to look at and be aware of, rather than just something that they try to suppress on the day of an Ofsted inspection.”

I would also say that this very much links back to Tom’s idea of a behaviour curriculum. I agree, that it is not only young people who need to be supported to have the right attitudes and behaviours within the classroom. Teachers also have to be supported and trained to help students to have those right attitudes and behaviours. Raising the profile of this separate Ofsted behaviour judgement will raise the profile of the support and training that is available for teachers to do that. That can’t be a bad thing.

You can find out more about our online Managing behaviour for learning course here. The next course is scheduled for 23 September 2019 and is supported by our experienced mentors until 1 November. It is available to join until 22 November.

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