OGAT to praise pupils more in behaviour system shake-up

A leading academy trust that pioneered the consequences behaviour system has shaken up its policy to introduce more praise for pupils.

Outwood Grange Academy Trust is set to publish a heavily revised behaviour policy this week, to be rolled out across all its schools this September.

It comes after a judicial review threat from lawyers who claimed a pupil had spent almost a third a school year in isolation rooms at one of the trust’s schools.

Outwood, which stressed it was already reviewing its behaviour policy before the legal threat, will now introduce a new safeguard to ensure pupils stuck in the “merry go round” of isolation are picked up and get support.

We want to make it much more overt we holistically have to be part of supporting every pupil

If pupils get 15 referrals to a “consequence room” in the same term, this will now trigger a review with school leaders and the child’s parents.

OGAT has also insisted it will also put a bigger focus, and more resources, into teaching pupil behaviour, including while youngsters are in “consequence rooms”, which will be renamed “reflection rooms”.

Another key stand of the new policy is to “exemplify praise”. Speaking to Schools Week, OGAT chief executive Martyn Oliver said: “We’ve always had praise, but we didn’t explicitly talk about it at the same time as sanctions.”

The trust’s schools will also now have the freedom to deliver their own praise systems that best suit their pupils. While the trust already has such systems – pupils can earn stars and are invited to attend prom for good behaviour – this will introduce further “recognition and honours awards”.

Lawyers Simpson Millar sought a judicial review last year against OGAT, claiming large numbers of pupils were having a “blighted education” after being put into isolation.

The challenge was over the legality of using the rooms over long periods, and that pupils receive no teaching while inside. The lawyers have also threatened the government with legal action over its “confusing” isolation guidance.

This is not a deliberate attempt to reduce sanctions, it’s a deliberate attempt to help support pupils better

Oliver said the change in OGAT’s policy, which will be sent to lawyers later today, was “on the back of a strong position, but moving to where I want it after taking over in 2016”.

“We want to make it much more overt we holistically have to be part of supporting every pupil, including the ones who can’t be a success in mainstream.”

He added the trust would not “lower expectations”, but added he hoped fewer students would “require sanctions and suspensions”.

“This is not a deliberate attempt to reduce sanctions, it’s a deliberate attempt to help support pupils better – reducing behaviour that leads to sanctions, not sanctions.”

Another new addition to the strategy is the “Outwood behaviour intervention provision”. This could include provision in a separate building to the school, or even another academy, to provide “respite” for pupils with more challenging behaviours which result in “serious violation” of the expectation that pupils are safe, respectful, or responsible.

An example given is of children at risk of sexual exploitation.

“We don’t want you [the pupil] at home, we want you where we can ensure you’re safe”, Oliver said.

Katy Bradford, chief operating officer, added the trust is making up for a lack of wider services outside of schools that are now no longer available for children.

She said it will also ensure pupils take respite when needed if something “kicks off” at home, but means they can transition back into mainstream, rather than being “in AP for the rest of their education”.

The behaviour policy’s overarching aim is to ensure pupils grow into “safe, respectful and responsible citizens”, and to “allow them to learn in a calm environment”.

It includes a new pyramid structure, with the aim to get pupils from the bottom “I want to avoid appearing on the consequence board” and “getting detentions”, up to “I want to have a great future” and “it’s who I am”.

The trust, known for sharing its work with others for free, said hundreds of schools are now using elements of its behaviour consequences system.

The change follows a policy shift last year, introduced across some schools in September. Half-day detentions and half-day consequences were brought in with the aim of bringing down fixed-term exclusions.