About your school – What did the school look like before relational practice?

Alan Horberry took up the position of Headteacher of Banff Academy in September 2017. Prior to that point the school had undergone uncertain times in terms of leadership following an inspection report. There was a culture and climate across the school of disaffected young people and directionless staff which resulted in high number of behavioural referrals and a lack of confidence in the school from the wider community.

What triggered the change?

The change in leadership was quickly followed by an inspection in February 2018. We acknowledged the comments from HMiE with the need to improve behaviour and relationships in S1 – S3.

After significant research into behavioural strategies, we chanced across “When the Adults Change, Everything Changes” literature. One member of our Senior Leadership team attended a conference in late 2018 and were enthused by what they saw, returning to plan and deliver a whole school initiative for building relationships.

What were the expectations/hopes?

Our DHT for Professional Learning fed back to the Leadership Team, purchasing one book for each member to digest and discuss the expectations for our whole school. It was unanimously agreed that it promoted key strategies which aligned with our vision for the school and would address the comments in the February 2018 HMIe report. We aspired to having a relational practice school and placing our relationships with our students at the heart of everything we do.

What happened – what have you done, how did it pan out?

All staff (teaching and support) were issued their own individual copy of “When the Adults Changes…” books which would direct conversations and be supplemented with a 10-hour professional learning program scaffolded around the book. These sessions were delivered during Faculty Meetings and whole staff meetings. At the start of the COVID pandemic, our collegiate professional learning helped shape our strategies for maintaining contact and continuing to develop the relationship with our students.

As staff found themselves “talking into the void” we had to be creative in how we were able to engage with young people during the COVID lockdown. The Paul Dix training was instrumental in helping developing and maintaining relationships when we implemented SQUAD. We designed our pastoral SQUAD supports following professional visits to XP Doncaster in conjunction with the Wood Foundation’s Excelerate investment.

When we returned on site after the Lockdown 1 & 2, staff knowledge was refreshed through whole staff in-service training professional learning, where we launched with Banff Academy Sketchnote. This graphic was designed to be used as an aide- memoire and is displayed prominently in all learning areas in the school and is used as a prompt for all learning conversations within our community. It underpins our whole school vision for positive relational practice.

As part of their induction at Banff Academy learning community, all new staff receive input into Paul Dix relational practice. Last year staff attended two online events ( one hour each) with Paul Dix trainer, Dan Edwards, to discuss vision, values and approaches with all new members of staff.

We launched Hot Chocolate Fridays which we prominently celebrate on our Social Media platforms. We rotate weeks around between Broad General Education Phase (S1-S3) and our Senior Phase (S4-6).

These are based on staff nominations and our criteria for observations have been refined as our School Leavers Profile has evolved. Hot Chocolate Fridays have also been used with Staff and also have focused on “noticing the unnoticed” and “going above and beyond”

The “When the Adult changes…” has become the linchpin of our child-centred, relational practice.

What was easy, what was hard?

Staff buy-in was intrinsic to the cultural shift of the school – the school learning environment was transformed from a shouty place with disengaged learning to a calm, nurturing setting where relationships with our wider community have been key. Staff were able to see the value of this change and we evaluate the impact in a number of ways – the number of negative behavioural referrals have reduced dramatically, and the high number of weekly HCF nominations have significantly increased.

We have expanded the weekly Hot Chocolate initiative to include a termly reward which we have called the Golden Ticket which has been extremely popular.

Maintaining the profile of the “When the Adult Changes…” principles and practice has been key to ensure this relational approach is at the forefront of our behaviour management policy and has not always been easy as the school year places varying demands on teacher priorities. We have had to constantly revise our in-service materials to ensure they stay relevant to our school setting and are in regular use. With our recently launched School Leaver Profile, we ensured that the new school practice and values were complementary to the professional learning already undertaken.

Where are you now?

Our school thrives on the positive relationships between students, staff and our wider community. These are continually developed and strengthened by ‘Noticing the Unnoticed’ – our revised HCF nomination form looks beyond academic success celebrating at the spectrum of our 8 key School Leaver skills:

We have also rolled out the principle of “Noticing the Unnoticed” for student peer observations with our “Squad-servation” forms where students are encouraged to pay additional attention to students in their Squad and celebrate their quiet wins.

We have revised our end-of-session ‘Celebrating Success’ Showcase, behaviour referrals, relationships are improved, students using the language, reframed prize-giving, as Celebration 2023.

What advice would they give to others?

Do it! Yes, there was the initial financial investment and a large proportion of our professional learning time allocated to working through the Paul Dix materials however this laid the foundations of the new school culture we wanted for our school – a school built on relationships. The real investment was for the heart and minds of our staff and young people and ensure that we changed practice NOT simply policy. Our professional learning as a learning community ensures that every decision we make as a school puts our students at the centre of all we do.

Our school social media accounts share our successes: