St. Leonard’s Primary School followed a traditional system of behaviour management. This included a traffic light system, golden rules, dojo points, and team point systems. While these methods aimed to encourage positive behavior, students became accustomed to the rewards and expected even greater incentives; while the same children consistently stayed on green, and others did not progress past the red traffic light. These results made it clear that the approaches being used were ineffective in promoting lasting behavioural change.
Recognizing the need for a transformation, St. Leonard’s Primary School eagerly participated in a research project on relational practice within Lancashire. Guided by the book “When the Adults Change, Everything Changes” the school embarked on a journey to explore the advantages of relational practice and its potential to improve behaviour in schools.
The school’s expectations were centred on preparing their students for life beyond primary school. They helped to develop intrinsic motivation within their pupils and desired to cultivate reflective behaviour, where students understand the importance of acknowledging mistakes, repairing relationships, and discussing their actions.
To initiate change, the school eliminated all extrinsic rewards in two classrooms across all key stages. Recognition boards were introduced in these classrooms as a visual representation of positive behaviour. After a trial period and observing positive outcomes, the school decided to adopt this approach school-wide and they simplified their rules to “Ready, Respect, Safe. Messages are now sent home to recognize students who go above and beyond, and proud posts are shared within the school community. Public praise has become the norm, while corrective actions are handled privately.
Staff at St. Leonard’s Primary have come to see that “the best learning happens in calm classrooms with children who are able to self-regulate. They do this more readily with adults they trust and have strong relationships with”
In a personal reflection, one teacher expresses the profound influence of adopting relational practice. After over two decades of teaching, the teacher states that “When the Adults Change” has been the most impactful resource, altering their teaching approach and perspective on behaviour, and has made them love their profession again.
St. Leonard’s Primary School continues their dedication to being engaged in and embedded with relational practice. As they enter their third year of implementation, they continue to seek ways to further develop their practice, recognizing that change begins with the adults.