Teachers should adopt personalised approaches like issuing daily report cards to improve disruptive behaviour, new guidance states.
Research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found that universal systems are unlikely to work for all students and for those who need more intensive support with their behaviour.
It also advised that teachers greet each pupil personally at the door of the classroom, because evidence suggests this can have a positive impact on behaviour.
The guidance, published today (Friday), also points to a lack of evidence on the impact of zero tolerance behaviour policies – sometimes described as “no excuses” – which aim to create a strict and clear whole-school approach to discipline.
Under such policies, pupils will typically automatically receive detentions for a range of misbehaviours such as being late, forgetting homework or swearing. Other more serious conduct, such as bringing a weapon to school, may result in exclusion, without exception.
However, Tom Bennett, the government’s behaviour tsar, warned that too many commentators “fixate on so-called zero tolerance systems – which are in fact almost vanishingly rare in reality, as almost every school permits exceptions to their rules”.
“It’s unsurprising then that there is little data to suggest the effectiveness of these systems either way. What counts more is the consistency of school systems, and how reliably they are executed.
“Exceptions are a necessary part of any institutional bureaucracy, but they must be exceptional, logical and consistent.”
The guidance encourages teachers to develop good relationships with pupils, so they understand them and their motivations for misbehaving.
Offering free, universal breakfast clubs before school is also recommended, as such events have been found to prepare pupils for learning.
The report also recommended issuing daily report cards to improve disruptive behaviour.
Nick Hodge, a professor of inclusive practice warned that, while this approach might work in some cases, a daily report card is unlikely to help a child if their behaviour results from distress or a situation that makes them feel unsafe.
In this instance, the situation, rather than the child, needs to be address, Hodge said, adding that he supported the recommendation of building stronger relationships between staff and pupils and was encouraged by the whole school approach being advocated.
Meanwhile, Bennett said that although “knowing your pupils” can be very useful, he warned: “At other times, teachers need to think of the needs of the class over the individual student.”
Six recommendations were suggested for improving pupil behaviour and advocating a personalised approach.
Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: “Despite most pupils in most lessons behaving well, misbehaviour is an issue that has challenged schools for generations. It can have a lasting impact on pupils’ learning and teacher wellbeing.
“Today’s report shows how consistent approaches to behaviour can lead to strong relationships between teachers and students and form the foundations for learning.”
Know and understand pupils and their influences
Teach learning behaviours alongside managing misbehaviour
Use classroom management strategies to support good behaviour
Use simple approaches as part of your regular routine
Use targeted approaches to meet the needs of individuals in your school
Consistency is key