Review by Sa Strickland

Principal, The Duston School

26 May 2024, 5:00


The Classroom Management Handbook: A practical blueprint for engagement and behaviour in your classroom and beyond

By Oliver Lovell and Dr Mark Dowley


John Catt Edcuational




22 Mar 2024

Behaviour has been a hot topic of debate for as long as I have been in the profession. It is a major push factor for people leaving the profession. According to the latest Edurio behaviour surveys, it is also a fundamental school improvement driver and a critical issue that many school leaders can easily fall upon their own sword over.

Central concerns revolve around pupil and staff safety and ensuring teachers can teach and pupils can learn. Recent research shows as much as nine minutes of learning is lost in any given 30-minute block of teaching, and the situation has only intensified and worsened since Covid.

That’s tough enough for any leader to deal with, but behaviour also appears to polarise opinion more than any other aspect of education. I liken this debate to the Bolshevik revolution’s conflict between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ – but in reverse.

In my analogy, the ‘haves’ are those who work in schools day in and day out and have the battle scars to prove it. The ‘have nots’ simply have not done the job. And yet it is they who offer advice with terrifying conviction and confidence from their remote perspectives – and the ‘haves’ who are beleaguered by their privilege.

I wouldn’t presume to criticise military operations based on my viewing of SAS: Who Dares Wins. Luckily for us all, neither would the authors of this book. They have done the job, still do it, and they know the reality.

As a result, The Classroom Management Handbook is a really well-crafted educational book. The overarching feeling it leaves you with is that Dowley and Lovell talk absolute sense (some may argue common sense). Yes, their advice and guidance is backed by research, but it is also and crucially grounded in having actually lived and breathed their core messages with children.

A real lure with this book is a full acknowledgement that teachers are time poor. Lovell and Dowley  not only acknowledge this but have crafted their book in such a manner that even the most time-pressured of colleagues can make use of it. You could read this handbook from cover to cover or dip in and dip out of it. It’s an approach I’ve taken with my own books, so I really appreciate it.

Even the most time-pressured of colleagues can make use of it

What I also really liked about this book is that it is not overloaded. There is a clear sense at the beginning of how to use it, and then it is laid out broadly in two big sections.

The first outlines Dowley and Lovell’s ten core principles for effective classroom management. The one that chimed most closely for me was the ninth of these: Students need to know they belong and that you believe in them.

I really appreciated this whole section and could not agree more about this fundamental principle in particular. If your pupils know you care, believe in them and will work hard for them, they are more likely to come with you and believe in you.

The second section explores the use of scripts and routines. This is really key as using scripts should be about building your professional confidence so that any given routine you want to establish becomes habitual and automatic. This seriously reduces your own cognitive load and frees up your capacity to focus on other things.

And in keeping with that aim, the number of routines is kept to a manageable minimum so that you won’t be left feeling overwhelmed. The section contains 18 of them, all neatly explained and unpacked to ensure you can do more than just have a go at them but that actually master them.

Whether you are new to the profession, a seasoned teacher or a leader looking to cement your ideas and thinking, there’s something in The Behaviour Management Handbook for you. Dowley and Lovell have done the heavy lifting. You simply get to apply their advice in a way that’s relevant to you and your context.

Bill Rogers endorses this book as ‘essential’. I’m happy to agree.

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