Government behaviour tsar Tom Bennett will lead a £10 million project to support 500 schools across England to develop policies like detention systems and new sanctions for pupils.

At the Conservative Party conference in October, education secretary Damian Hinds pledged the £10 million in funding to help schools which manage behaviour well share their experience with others.

Details of the scheme were sparse at the time, but the DfE announced today that the money will be used to identify lead schools for the network and fund their activities in supporting others, through staff training, the creation of centralised detention systems, and new sanctions and rewards schemes for pupils, with a focus on pupil attendance and punctuality.

Bennett, a proponent of zero-tolerance behaviour policies who led the DfE’s independent review of behaviour in schools, will be the lead adviser of the programme.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the DfE wants schools to “instil cultures of good behaviour top to bottom” and described improving pupil behaviour as a “key priority” of the government.

“With £10 million of funding, the support provided to schools will allow teachers to get on with what they do best – teaching – and empower school leaders to implement their behaviour policies correctly and robustly.”

Bennett said the scheme “may very well be one of the most significant strategies for public good we have seen in decades” adding that he is “thrilled” to lead the programme which will help schools become “safer and calmer, allowing more children and staff to flourish.”

A team of education professionals will be appointed as advisers to help Bennett develop and deliver the support programmes, including helping to select the lead behaviour schools, working with the supported schools to understand the behavioural issues they face, developing “comprehensive, bespoke action plans” and participating in behaviour conferences.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, warned that “for many children and young people behaviour is a way of communicating that something isn’t right. It is vital that we don’t look at ‘bad’ behaviour in isolation and take too simplistic an approach in tackling it.”

He added that schools need the “capacity and resource” to understand the causes behind a child’s poor behaviour, and said “sufficient” staffing and the help of specialist services are “key”.

The programme aims to support 500 schools and is set to launch in September 2020 for an initial period of three years. It is not yet known how many lead schools will make up the network.

The DfE said that, by the end of it, teachers are “expected to report fewer incidents of disruptive behaviour and pupils should report they feel safer at school, while able to learn more effectively.”