Before embracing relational practice, students at Brookfields Primary School started their day on a green light in the hope of a fresh start, before moving their way down to red via amber if they were not making appropriate choices. This was leading to retaliation from several children with emotional and social needs and an escalation of behaviour. Sanctions and ‘tougher’ conversations then followed, yet often didn’t resolve the issues. Students weren’t happy and parents weren’t happy. The school was faced with a number of children at risk of exclusion if things did not change. Ofsted visited the school in 2017, finding it to be ‘Inadequate’, with behaviour referenced as a key area in need of improvement. Something needed to change.
Under new management, the school decided to completely shift its approach. Rapid change was needed to support both the staff and pupils and a restorative approach was felt to be the best way. The ‘When The Adults Change’ book provided the backbone for the change and the SLT really picked up the mantle and led things, supporting their staff and modelling the new approach. Brookfields wanted to re-engage parents and let them know that they were first and foremost there to provide the best possible support for their children. The new leadership team recognised that behaviour was a form of communication and that where children were ‘acting up’ or ‘seeking attention’ it was often those in the most challenging of circumstances, who had experienced some level of trauma. Rather than imposing further negativity and sanctions, they wanted to support and nurture them through the difficulties they faced. Things needed to be better for the children at Brookfields.
Staff were quickly trained in the approach, with ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ embedded into everything the school did and visible consistencies established. These were greeting pupils daily at classroom doors and in the playground, ensuring safe movement of pupils around the school, and positive communication with parents. The school set up recognition boards, quickly starting to recognise children for the right reasons as opposed to the wrong ones. The children responded well to this and enjoyed the process of all the post-its from the recognition board being placed in a pot on Thursday, with one pupil picked out for the Friday Celebration Assembly. Parents are invited in to celebrate their child at the assembly. Initially, not many parents would attend; however, there is now a huge turnout of parents each Friday, demonstrating the investment and involvement of parents in school life at the school once again.
The school focused on ‘deliberate botheredness’ and ensuring that praise was used, with low-level disruption ignored. Initially, this was challenging for some staff, but over time it was clear that it was having a positive impact on pupil behaviour and engagement. All classrooms put ‘keystone routines’ in place. Where this was lacking, leadership supported and coached staff through the process of establishing this. A lot of work was put into CPD for staff to ensure that they didn’t slip back into public shaming. Staff were trained on how to discreetly deliver 30-second scripts as well as the very important restorative conversations. SLT worked hard with staff on removing emotion from situations and reminding them that they are in control and that no amount of negativity or shouting was going to improve the situation. Key themes are revisited each inset day, with ‘deep dives’ into areas to focus on. Weekly staff newsletters include quotes from When The Adults Change, plus video clips, tips and reminders. Consistency in relationships has been key too. Relationships are a huge part of the success of the approach. Staff have really worked on the importance of building positive and supportive relationships with the children to support them.
The school has seen a real improvement in the behaviour of pupils. Low-level disruption is minimal, with pupils engaged in the process. As the journey has progressed consistencies have been ‘tightened up’ and added to and the school continues to evolve its approach and learn. There are currently no behaviour plans in school and no pupils on roll who are at risk of exclusion. Brookfields is working hard to ensure that the curriculum reflects and links with restorative practice and that mental health and well-being are key parts of the personal development offered to pupils. CPOMS has been recategorized so that any issues are clearly recorded, with expectations of what happens next. This has also allowed them to build an evidence base.
In the most recent Ofsted inspection, behaviour at the school was identified as a key strength. Ofsted said that it was one of the calmest schools that they had seen! Brookfields recommends that other schools look hard at their behaviour policies. If they aren’t working, they should be binned and replaced with praise pads! Re-drawing its behaviour policy and heaping on the positive noticing has been truly transformative for Brookfields!