News story

Simple behaviour checklist to help teachers maintain discipline in school

A simple checklist of what schools can do to instil good behaviour in the classroom has been developed and published today by Charlie Taylor - the headteacher of a special school with some of the toughest behaviour issues and the government’s expert adviser on behaviour.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A simple checklist of what schools can do to instil good behaviour in the classroom has been developed and published today by Charlie Taylor - the headteacher of a special school with some of the toughest behaviour issues and the government’s expert adviser on behaviour.

The behaviour checklist - entitled ‘Getting the simple things right’ - follows Charlie Taylor’s recent behaviour summit, where outstanding headteachers from schools in areas of high deprivation gathered to discuss the key principles for improving behaviour. What soon became clear was how much similarity there was between the approaches that the headteachers followed. Many of them emphasised the simplicity of their approach but they agreed that most important of all was consistency.

Actions from the checklist include:

  • ensuring absolute clarity about the expected standard of pupils’ behaviour
  • displaying school rules clearly in classes and around the building. Staff and pupils should know what they are
  • ensuring that children actually receive rewards every time they have earned them and receive a sanction every time they behave badly
  • taking action to deal with poor teaching or staff who fail to follow the behaviour policy
  • ensuring pupils come in from the playground and move around the school in an orderly manner
  • ensuring that the senior leadership team like the head and assistant head are a visible presence around the school during the day, including in the lunch hall and playground, and are not confined to offices

Charlie Taylor said:

Without good behaviour teachers can’t teach and pupils can’t learn. There are schools in some of the toughest areas of the country who are getting discipline right. However, some schools struggle with managing and improving behaviour. Often the problem is that they aren’t being consistent with their behaviour policy such as ensuring that punishments always happen every time a pupil behaves badly.

As a headteacher I know that where there is inconsistency in schools, children are more likely to push the boundaries. If a pupil thinks there is a chance that the school will forget about the detention he has been given, then he is unlikely to bother to turn up. If he gets away with it, the threat of detention will be no deterrent in the future.

The checklist sets out for all schools the simple but essential things to get right to ensure strong discipline and therefore strong teaching. Teachers can run through the checklist first thing in the morning and again after lunch to ensure the correct preparations.

The behaviour checklist idea is based on the Checklist Manifesto - developed by Atul Gawande, a surgeon who was concerned that so many patients seemed to suffer serious complications in the days after their operation. He realised that many of these problems were caused by operating staff failing to follow basic procedures, for example, a surgeon forgetting that to wash his hands could cause an infection.

Mr Gawande developed a checklist that could be read out before each operation to ensure that all of the simple but essential procedures were followed. Surgeons were able to adapt the checklist to meet their own needs. The number of patients becoming seriously ill or dying after surgery dropped dramatically after the checklist was introduced.

The behaviour checklist is intended to help schools develop their own policies to improve discipline. It is not intended to be mandatory. Rather it gives schools the ability to develop the 10 or so essential actions needed to improve behaviour. The ideas themselves in the checklist are very simple. It is the process of using a checklist and ensuring consistency which can improve behaviour.

Woodend Park Primary School in Hillingdon, London, has been trialling the checklist approach. They have found that teachers who follow these guidelines find there is more consistency of approach to managing behaviour both in the classroom and around the school. It has led to improvements in behaviour as pupils know what is expected of them.

Avril Stockley, a teacher at the school who uses the checklist after helping to develop it, said:

We found the checklist a helpful way of making sure we were doing all the things to keep behaviour in order. We had found that sometimes we were forgetting to do simple things like praise children for good behaviour as well as discipline for poor behaviour.

We have found that when children know that teachers will stick to the behaviour policy and class routines, they feel safer and happy, and so not only behaviour improves but learning too.

Charlie Taylor’s checklist is also available in the Behaviour and attendance section of the Department for Education’s website.

Examples of some of the checklists schools have produced can be found on the Department for Education’s Facebook page.

Notes to editors

Charlie Taylor, the government’s expert adviser on behaviour, has worked with children with behavioural difficulties throughout his teaching career. Since 2006 he has been headteacher of the Willows Special School in Hillingdon, London, which has received ‘outstanding’ ratings in its last two Ofsted inspections. In addition he has been a behaviour consultant in both primary and secondary schools, and has worked for the anti-bullying charity Kidscape. He has written for newspapers and journals, and is the author of two books on parenting young children and teenagers. He is married with three young children and lives in west London.

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Published 19 October 2011