Pioneering Behavioural Policy Embraced in Midlands School

It’s widely accepted that children need consequences to distinguish right from wrong and to grow into well-rounded individuals, however shame-inducing measures such as behaviour charts can lead a child to believe that they are somehow a ‘bad’ child, colouring their attitude and approach across their entire school career.


St. George’s Primary School in Telford, Shropshire, recently turned their own behaviour policy on its head, implementing an innovative new approach underpinned by positive psychology and collective rewards school-wide. Built on the foundations of their ongoing work around trauma-informed practice, their new policy has an unwavering focus on inclusivity; physical, cultural, and neurological diversity; and an absolute avoidance of shame.


A consulting educational psychologist recently visiting the school referred to it as a ‘paradigm shift’ moment, and Kath Watts, Deputy Head of St George’s School, says it’s a move that’s already paying dividends:


“A lot of groundwork went into the policy courtesy of our early years teacher Lindsey Garroway, our SENDCo Holly Evans and our Senior Middle Leader Clare Holt, and we spoke candidly with our children about how they felt when their name moved down the behavioural chart. Answers like ‘It made me feel upset because normally I’m not bad that I know of’ and ‘I felt naughty but sad’ highlighted just how shame-inducing the charts were, and we abolished them with immediate effect.


“Instead, we introduced a collaborative approach with our Behaviour Stars System. Classes now work together as a team to collect stars on a behaviour app, with 500 stars earning a whole class reward of their choice, such as a movie afternoon or class party. The system then resets, ideally earning a reward per half term.


“This system removes any shame-inducing element and promotes teamwork – encouraging responsibility and accountability in a positive way. Initial feedback from teaching staff has been incredibly positive and it has been praised as a great team motivator – encouraging the children to work together to increase their total. Children love earning stars (and individual sticker rewards) and clearly recollect how they did so, suggesting a positive pupil engagement with the system.”


Other classroom and public recognition introduced by the school includes Values Awards, Postcards or texts to parents, Class Star of the Week, Special Mentions Certificates, a ‘We Can Do It’ board, and even a ‘Wanted – Praise on Sight’ poster – all of which has had an equally promising impact. Positive behaviour is encouraged with visual prompts in class and positive reminders of values and expectations at the start of sessions, with non-verbal signals helping children stay on track.


In the event of a de-railing, consequences have been revamped to include fresh guidance for teaching staff on encouraging ‘good choices’. Language is all from the positive, categorically avoiding the use of shaming language. The approach often starts with a quiet friendly word, moving seats, or sitting a child with an adult able to address the behaviour.


Should matters escalate, time is taken to practise skills, feedback to parents, and carry out a ‘Reflect and Reset’ written task as a purposeful learning opportunity. ‘Time In’ – instead of ‘Time Out’ offers time to reflect on persistent level one behaviour with a trusted adult outside of the classroom environment, enabling restorative conversations to occur in a safe and calm manner. And Behaviour Support Plans are written by all parties – including the child, teacher, parents, inclusion team and/or SLT – and are monitored by a senior member of staff, with an Early Help Plan if required.


Level two behaviour will see a Team Pupil meeting between SLT, the SENDCo and the Inclusion Lead, and planned school interventions and a Behaviour Support Advisory Teacher or EP involvement will be considered. Suspensions where absolutely necessary provide a reparatory reset, but are reported to be extremely rare. For level three behaviour further enhanced support likely involves external agencies. 


Kath says:

“None of the measures in our new policy are shame-inducing or designed to induce guilt. Their emphasis is on being supportive, unique to each child and the circumstances, and most importantly – positive. And they’re delivered with clarity and consistency, involving everyone for a collective effort.


“A greater emphasis on thorough level one support has prevented escalated behaviour, incredibly resulting in only two children requiring Behaviour Support Plans – both chosen by the children themselves. This is in stark contrast to the nine children requiring this level of support in the previous summer term under the old policy. CPOMS incidents have also reduced. Teaching staff and SLT are passionately driving forward this approach as they’re seeing the benefits for the children first-hand.”


St. George’s has been praised by Virtual School for moving in this direction, and are keen to see more schools adopting this positive behavioural approach.