Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Steer behaviour report

The government's independent report on behaviour by Sir Alan Steer had a somewhat flippant reception in some parts of the media, which carried headlines about playing games to improve behaviour.

However, this was a serious piece of work by practitioners with real experience and is on ASCL's short, recommended reading list for leadership teams and branch secretaries. Many recommendations involve other services and the local authority, and branches will need to push hard for protocols and agreements that actually make partnership work.

There is much in the report that will be obvious to ASCL members but not necessarily so outside education. For example, the first core belief is that poor behaviour cannot be tolerated. Some advocacy groups, for instance, may argue that some bad behaviour should be tolerated so as to promote inclusion. Other excellent recommendations include using expertise in special schools and referral units to train teachers about dealing with poor behaviour, the importance of early intervention, the need for CAMHS to be more responsive, and the use of the hard aspects of parent involvement such as parenting contracts and parenting orders.

Perhaps more controversial (although not to ASCL members) is the idea that if a teacher cannot or will not follow the school's agreed behaviour policy, either capability or conduct procedures should be invoked.

One small criticism is regarding the belief that powers given to schools will actually be usable. It does not help to put powers of restraint on the statue book if a local authority suspends a teacher who has followed DCSF guidance and pulled a misbehaving student out of class.

Likewise, it is no use the law saying that teachers can search if the process is so convoluted and restricted as to be unusable.

The idea that repeated short-term exclusions for the same student suggests that something is wrong is fair enough, but the reason may be that the school is unable to use a long-term exclusion because the school cannot provide acceptable full-time education after the fifth day as required.

The use of partnerships to improve behaviour is welcome but the idea that partnerships should report to children's trusts and that children's trusts should take action over the reports is very worrying. It may give bureaucrats the idea that partnerships have a policing role and that trusts should intervene in the internal management of schools. This would not be welcome.

Schools may find it ironic that no sooner has the report advocated a reduction in the statutory policies required of schools, it recommends a new duty: to have a learning and teaching policy.

This is one recommendation that ASCL specifically objected to, on the grounds that simply having a policy will not lead to a greater focus on teaching and learning or better behaviour. It simply becomes another box for schools to tick.

None of this should prevent schools from putting into action as much as they can of the recommendations. If followed, they will make schools more pleasant and more productive places.

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