13. Significant Challenging Behaviour in a Medium-Sized Primary School

Background One school (school roll 199) located in an area of deprivation had struggled with low attendance (70%), high levels of exclusions and low attainment. Key staff who included Support staff, monitored how well the needs of all children were met through regular class observation, discussion with Teachers, Support staff and the Educational Psychologist. Solution Focused Approach The Headteacher and staff agreed that the learning and behaviour needs of one particular pupil and 5 others could be better met in a small group environment at least for parts of the day. These pupils had displayed regular verbal and physical aggression. An essential part of the plan for this new arrangement was the need to fully involve parents as well as a discussion between the Headteacher and each child to explain the purpose of the small group, and planned outcomes. This pilot scheme was almost wholly met from the existing school support budget through each Class teacher agreeing a reduction in in-class support time. Strategies Key success factors were as follows: • the (new small) class was led by an accomplished, innovative teacher supported by a skilled Support assistant, whose aim was re-integration to mainstream class for each child as soon as practicable; • strong relationship building within and beyond the group; • a positive ethos in which pupils were supported to make positive choices and take responsibility for their actions so that they started to have hope for the future; • a flexible and active curriculum in line with Curriculum for Excellence which motivated disengaged pupils; • flexible access to the small group which allowed a wider group of pupils a range of additional support such as for anger management; • nurturing approaches including having structures such as ‘breakfast and snack time’; • a parent contract which ensured parent’s weekly involvement in activities; • collaborative partnership working within and beyond the school; • protected consultation time between the group teacher and Class teachers. Range of Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviour and Improve Learning (across the whole school) • Positive role modelling by all adults to promote a calm environment. • ‘Simple’ but essential logistic arrangements for ‘lining up’, corridor rules, cloakroom rules, length of breaks , location of classrooms in order to minimise disruption. • Ensuring ‘quiet voices’ – adults and children – in corridors and classrooms. • Positive rewards and evidence of achievement (stickers, certificates, tree of achievement , ‘high five club, ‘gold achiever’ cup, golden time; for Pl, the school Prom). • Term ‘treats’ such as (nil expense) visits to the park. • Playground ‘slips’, some of which were colour coded; individual behaviour book with targets; weekly home-school behaviour sheets for all children , to be returned and signed by parents. • Circle time; additional approaches to promote self esteem and confidence such as links with Outreach, the Army Cadet Force Association Youth and Community Project and Peacemakers an initiative in which P5 pupils are trained in conflict resolution helped to resolve minor playground differences. Individualised Planning The emotional and learning needs of each child were carefully identified. Each pupil along with their parent/s was involved in agreeing learning and behaviour targets within the Individualised Educational Programme. Targets were referred to regularly both in the small group and in mainstream settings. Successes in achieving targets were celebrated. A Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence A prime aim of the group was improvement in learning and attainment. A main focus in learning therefore was on literacy and numeracy. However, the ‘magic’ for the pupils was that the approach to learning these core skills was undertaken using active learning such as in cooking sessions in class and outdoors as cadets with the Black Watch army cadets. Pupils worked as part of a team in trying out recipes, making and selling recipe books and using recipes at home. Curricular areas and learning opportunities came to life with names such as ‘Calm Controllers’, ‘Tree Trackers’, ‘Peacemakers’, ‘Breakfast Browsers’ and ‘Space Invaders’. College lecturers and students and secondary school pupils supported learning through hairdressing and beautician sessions. PowerPoint presentations by the children – on one occasion at a local hotel – raised confidence and self-esteem. Partnership Working The school recognised the need to access the different skills of a range of partners, including parents. Partners included: • the Educational Psychologist who provided whole-school input on the need to promote resilience; • the school’s Community Link worker who played a vital role in working with parents, including presenting a parent workshop ‘Handling challenging behaviour’ to ensure consistent approaches across home and school. His advice and support helped parents who abused drugs or alcohol and support for ‘dads and boys’ promoted the important role of good male modelling; • Social Workers and the School Health Nurse and the Youth Justice team added considerable support to parents and their children; • the school shared all successes and concerns with all members of their Support team during their Integrated team meetings; • this included rigorous transition planning for Pl pupils which also involved parents. Successful Outcomes included:
  • improved, calm learning environment for all pupils and practitioners;
  • increased range of in-class strategies by teachers to engage challenging pupils;
  • increased confidence of staff to manage challenges of both learning and behaviour;
  • clear understanding of inclusion;
  • excellent partnership between the school and parents, particularly those with their own challenges;
  • active, meaningful partnership within and beyond the school;
  • an increase of 7% in overall attainment;
  • an increase in attendance from 70% to 90%;
  • significant individual success stories of the group of 6, including successful transition to Secondary schools for 2 boys;
  • and, the realisation that planning for each child with significant needs can lead to improved responses for a group of children and potentially all pupils.