What was your school like before relational practice?
Meridian Community Primary School and Nursery is an inclusive school, and all members of the school community should be free from discrimination of any sort (as set out in the Equality Act 2010). To this end the school has a clear and comprehensive Anti-Bullying Policy that is known and understood by all, where incidents are recorded when appropriate. Measures to protect children from bullying and discrimination as a result of sex, gender reassignment, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief or background are clearly set out and regularly monitored for their effective implementation.
What triggered the change?
In 2017 our Headteacher (Claire Westcott) read the book – “When the adults change, everything changes” and began to share some of the insights which she felt were relevant to our children and community. There were things which really resonated with us and we began to explore how maybe there was a different way of handling things when children were being disruptive or struggling to manage their behaviour.
What were the expectations/hopes?
We recognised that rewards at the end of the week e.g. golden time were no longer fit for purpose. Our hope was to create a culture with the children, that learning was the reward itself and being part of a community who were learning and respectful towards each other. We were under no illusion that we would still have children who found school difficult and there would be adjustments needed. But our main hope was that 95% of our children would quickly get on board which in turn would set the standard for great behaviour.
What happened – what have you done, how did it pan out?
The following summer in July 2018, I attended the pivotal level 1 instructor training – that was the moment that snippets from the book which had been shared with the whole staff flourished into a full-blown review of our behaviour practise and a brand-new behaviour policy came in the Autumn. Gone were names on a hand and golden time on a Friday and in came a consistent approach which all staff subscribed to when talking about behaviour at Meridian. In September 2018, I delivered a whole school INSET where we started everything again and ensured that all staff knew that this was the way forward.
In November 2018, Ofsted arrived and discovered the following – “this is a calm and purposeful school where pupils enjoy and are very proud of their learning and how their teachers help them to learn”.
In July 2019, I became a level 2 instructor and as a team we continued to develop and embed the principles of ‘When the adults change’ into our school life. The calm and consistent approaches remained but we further embedded the methods of recognition such as postcards and positive phone calls home. In pupil voice with the children mention these are the things they remember the most about their year and our parents and carers adore receiving these small but hugely impactful insights about their child’s behaviour and learning.
Our music teacher has written a school anthem and every Tuesday and Thursday morning if you were walking past our school hall just after 9:00am you would hear the children proudly sing the chorus “Meridian, Meridian, Ready, Respectful & Safe” – I’ve attached the lyrics if you’d like to read through them and of course you would all be more than welcome to visit to hear the song in person!
What was easy, what was hard?
Making the initial decision – something had to change! The current system wasn’t good enough. When you know this then the only way you can move is forward.
Recognition – it was exciting generating our own methods to recognise great behaviour which matched our context. I will never forget the first time I made a positive phone call to a parent. It had been an awful week at school and I had been made to feel incredibly small by one tricky family. Rather than go home and dwell on it, I picked up the phone and spoke to a parent about their child’s behaviour acknowledging just how hard they tried. The parent broke down on the phone and told me how much that made their week.
Choosing the rule…Ready, Respectful, Safe. Easy! There is not a single scenario which these do not apply to.
100% buy-in. For this to work every member of staff from the office team to the Headteacher needed to be on our boat. We didn’t achieve 100% buy in and we still don’t have it now. However, we’re a lot further along the road than we were.
Behaviour is a key focus in our recruitment process and we talk to potential new members of staff about their own beliefs and how closely they align with our school policy.
Staff buy-in was made even more complicated as schools are changeable places and we’ve had lots of staff come and go. Of course, we also have lots of children come and go so we needed to meet people where they were currently at and coach them through our way of being ready, respectful and safe.
Changing school culture is hard, you must be relentless and resilient. But noticing the small changes that start to happen completely outweigh the hardships.
Where are you now?
Along the way we’ve had significant staff turnover so we’ve had to manage our staff induction very carefully to support them to understand ‘the Meridian way’. We’ve also made slight adjustments to the policy – for example removing two systems of rewards (coins for effort and fish for behaviour) and streamlined it to a single system of coins which recognise the fantastic learning which we believe behaviour forms a really important part of. But the essence of our original policy which was based on the thinking of Paul Dix is essentially still the same. Ready, Respectful & Safe children who see learning as the reward and are supported by compassionate, skilled adults who want the best for every single child in our school.
Every classroom has a dedicated behaviour board which consists of a blue background, with a wave design and an underwater theme. On this board (or near the display) there will be our school rules, a coin chart for filling with coins, the school values and details of wet play arrangements. There will also be space for the class to write up the whole class treat they are working towards.
Rewards are given by all adults in school; some are individual rewards and some rewards promote team behaviour. They may be for academic achievement, effort or positive behaviour. This demonstrates that positive choices and behaviours result in positive consequences.
- Praise – verbal and written praise can be one of the most effective types of reward.
- Coins in the treasure chest –– these celebrate children’s behaviour and learning. Rewards can be givenas a single golden coin by any adult. Staff will also have stickers to give out coins when children are on the playground or walking through the school.
- Postcards – when children have gone ‘over and above’ what is expected of them it is appropriate to givea postcard to share the child’s positive contributions. These will be posted home as a surprise and every child will receive a minimum of one postcard per academic year. This will be recorded on CPOMs.
- Phone Call – as above. When children are going over and above what is expected the class teacher willmake a phone call to the parent/carer. Each child will receive a minimum of 1 phone call home per academic year. This will be recorded on CPOMs.
- Visit to SLT/Phase leader – some children enjoy being sent to a phase leader or member of theleadership team to share their success with their learning or progress with their positive behaviour.
We use three clear and simple rules which all adults and children agree to adhere to both in and outside of the learning environment.
We are proud of the culture we are building at Meridian and take a real pride in showing visitors around and the words they are always guaranteed to say are “gosh isn’t it calm” – no matter the time of day.
What advice would they give to others?
Read the book! This was the seed that started it all. It became the guide that there was a better way to do things.
Celebrate the small stuff. Things won’t change in one week, one term or even one year. But if you’re fully committed to making schools a great place to learn then you’ll soon notice a positive shift in attitudes and that feeling is exhilarating.
Talk to others. We couldn’t have done this without the support of Paul and his tram in the initial ‘Pivotal’ days. But that then meant we could form small networks with other schools who were on their own journey. Teaching is such a supportive and collaborative environment and we don’t do it enough.