March 2013


  • Educational Freedom
    Assessment systems in the four UK countries are growing further and further apart, raising questions about the transferability, equality and credibility of qualifications. More
  • Watching Brief
    In its attempts to drive standards in teaching and learning beyond ‘good’, Peter Broughton’s school had to rethink its approach to staff development and lesson observation. He explains how their strategy has succeeded. More
  • Board spectrum
    Governance is an important focus for Ofsted inspections in colleges and is now increasingly so for schools. In a new report, charity CfBT looks at what education can learn from other sectors to help make the governing body more effective. More
  • Right Club
    A policy of keeping students in school in a dedicated Inclusion Room when they misbehave, rather than resorting to exclusions, has had profound results, says Jeremy Rowe. And everyone has signed up to it. More
  • Plan A
    Higher level apprenticeships offer an increasingly attractive alternative for young people wwho reject the traditional university route to a career. Dorothy Lepkowska reports. More
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A policy of keeping students in school in a dedicated Inclusion Room when they misbehave, rather than resorting to exclusions, has had profound results, says Jeremy Rowe. And everyone has signed up to it.

Right Club

The following approach to behaviour management at Sir John Leman High School in Suffolk is based on strategies and ideas borrowed from a range of successful schools. We do not claim to have immaculate behaviour from all of our students all of the time – unfortunately – but we have, without a doubt, made signifi cant improvements.

I moved from Cornwall to Suffolk to become headteacher in September 2008. Although the school had been through a diffi cult time, improvements were already in place, which made it easier to continue an upward trend. I felt strongly that members of staff deserved to work in an environment in which they could teach well and that students had an entitlement to come to a school where they were able to do their very best.

Everything became clear as a result of one conversation I had in which I was told that there was no soap in the students’ toilets because “they messed around with it”. What this meant was that a couple of students did. What it really meant, however, was both profound and frightening. It did not mean that one or two students were running the school; they had been given the power to do something much more important: They were defifi ning the school. No child could wash their hands because one or two students had decided that they could not.

The power a school in that position is giving away is incredible. From that point onwards we made a virtue out of taking risks with what students could ‘cope with’ – and we never looked back.

So what has been achieved? First, we must be one of a small number of large secondary schools in which no current student has ever received a fixed-term exclusion. Second, our use of various alternative placements for students we could not deal with has fallen from more than £100,000 a year to precisely zero. Third, attendance – staff and students – has risen sharply. Fourth, we are aiming to achieve our highest-ever GCSE results in 2013.

A safe, calm school

Most importantly by far, however, is that all of our students now attend a safe, calm school where values are consistent, rules are fair and where everyone has the right to do their best and to build their lives on their educational achievements.

So, how has this been achieved? The impact of our full-time Inclusion Room, used instead of fixed-term exclusions, has been profound.
People who are most critical of fixed-term exclusions describe them as rewards. I do not go that far but I do worry about the message, and implications, of depriving a student of the chance to learn in our schools.

In the Inclusion Room students spend their time working in silence. After a period of one to three days, students – with a parent – have to convince a member of the leadership group that they deserve to be readmitted to our school. Suddenly, and for the first time in their lives for some, they have to do the hard work to rebuild their relationship with the school.

If parents do not show up, we go to their homes, something that never needs to be done twice. That’s how important this is. If a child does not convince us they should be readmitted, they do a further day in the room and we try again the next day. They are likely to be a lot more contrite the second time!

Unlike fixed-term exclusions, students have to consent to the Inclusion Room, which is the reason why it is so powerful. If they fail at any point, they start again the next day.

Many students have turned their lives around as a result. We will never forget Leanne, for example, who could not quite believe that anyone in authority had the sheer audacity to ask her to do something that she did
not want to do. Leanne had been very difficult in our school and previously we would have probably used a series of fixed-term exclusions, followed by a reluctant permanent exclusion if her behaviour had continued.

After quickly working out that, in a straight choice between keeping her or the Inclusion Room, we were probably going to plump for the Inclusion Room, she actually used her time to rethink who she was living her life for.

Leanne did the work that was set, mirroring as closely as possible that
in the lessons she was missing. She passed, was readmitted, and ended up achieving a string of decent GCSEs, enabling her to progress to college and, I would predict and hope, a decent, confident, rich life.

Repairing damage

For the first time for this minority of young people, their place at our school has to be earned, which places a tremendous value and importance on it. We will work with any student to help them to repair the damage their behavioural choices have caused but we will never do that work without their involvement. The student must put it right, and we believe that a consequence such as time in our Inclusion Room is an
important way of doing that. Doing it for them is worse than pointless.

Resistance did not just come from the students, of course – in fact, that was the easy bit. Early on, some parents were opposed, although most preferred the Inclusion Room as it meant their children were still in school. Parents also began to back it almost unanimously for one other, simple, reason: It works. There were also one or two behavioural advisers who did not feel this should apply to all students. My view is that it has little value unless it does. In fact, any concerns about our approach quickly died away as behaviour improved across the school.

The lives of dozens of young people like Leanne have been transformed by our belief in the impact of the Inclusion Room. However, it would not work without the robust and rigorous behavioural strategy that underpins the school’s approach. From consequences for arriving late in the morning to members of staff popping around if mum doesn’t answer the phone (never on their own, of course), every member of staff understands how crucial it is that the school’s values define it, rather than a culture of deals and blind eyes being turned.

Cutting through resistance

We, the staff and the vast majority of children, decide how great our school is going to be, occasionally still cutting through resistance from a minority of students, parents and, yes – once or twice – our own staff. We aim high and systematically challenge what we do not like, because we know that ‘what you accept, you get’.

All of our schools are packed with brilliant young people, the vast majority of whom leave their difficulties at the door and come to school in a spirit of hope and generosity. We owe it to them to ensure that behaviour in our schools is good enough.

To be able to build schools good enough for these children is a privilege. And there is soap in the toilets, locks for every cubicle and handcream and lights around the mirrors and pictures…

  • Jeremy Rowe is headteacher of Sir John Leman High School in Beccles, Suffolk. He has written a book, The Little Book of Behaviour Management that Works, which will be available soon and he is running a session on strategic behaviour management at this year’s ASCL Conference on 16 March.

Top Tips

  • Go for it – you’ll be amazed at what can be achieved.
  • Plan properly and work strategically – it’s not about blitzes.
  • Start with the issues where change will have the most impact.
  • Ensure your behaviour management policy is constantly updated to reflect what is happening.
  • Build a consensus.
  • Make a virtue out of guaranteeing to personally see any parent who wants a meeting (with an appointment!) – you’ll keep them happy, learn more about your school and probably end up seeing fewer parents as a result.
  • Listen, but do not always agree.
  • Remember who you are working for.