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The DfE Publishes New Advice on Behaviour in Schools

on Thursday, 25 August 2022.

In July 2022, the DfE published new advice on Behaviour in Schools. In this article, we outline some of the key changes made, and the impact they will have for schools from September.

The new Behaviour in Schools - Advice for Headteachers and school staff advice (Behaviour Advice) comes into force on 1 September 2022, and was published alongside the Government Response to Behaviour and Exclusion Guidance Consultation.

Please also see our separate article on the DfE's new statutory guidance Suspension and Permanent Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England, including pupil movement for a summary of key changes to the suspension/exclusion process.

Schools are advised to use a 'whole school' pervasive approach to managing behaviour, to improve culture and protect the school community from harm. The Behaviour Advice gives more detail on what should be included within the Behaviour Policy, as well as setting out the expectations for appropriate record-keeping and trend analysis overseen by the school's Governing Board.

There is an increased focus on the need to support pupils to improve their behaviour, reinforcing that this support can be provided alongside a sanction - the two are not mutually exclusive. This is particularly the case after a sanction has been imposed to prevent a recurrence, with a section dedicated to reintegration following removal from class, direction off-site, time in a pupil support unit or suspension from school (previously known as fixed term exclusion).

What Are the Main Key Changes?

  • Information on the role of school leaders (who should be "highly visible" to pupils, parents and staff), Headteachers, staff, pupils and parents). All staff should be appropriately trained in the school's behaviour management processes (including the duties owed to pupils with special educational needs (SEN), disabilities and mental health needs), particularly on induction.
  • A 'national minimum expectation' for the approach schools take to behaviour, aligned with the Ofsted 'good' grade descriptor for assessing behaviour and attitudes. Schools are to have a 'school behaviour curriculum' which is taught to pupils and reinforced when expectations are met, with sanctions being imposed when they are not.
  • Explicit confirmation that the decision and imposition of a sanction (including suspension/exclusion) may only take place on the school premises or while the pupil is under the lawful charge of a staff member. This will be relevant where the pupil is already suspended or directed off-site, is absent due to sickness or other reason, or the behaviour occurred off-site (but not on a school trip or activity), when the pupil will need to be brought back into school for the sanction to be imposed.
  • Removal from classrooms (previously known as 'isolation' or 'seclusion', and not to be confused with the use of nurture/sensory rooms for non-disciplinary reasons to meet need), which must only be used for "serious disciplinary reasons" in prescribed circumstances, and for a limited amount of time (during which meaningful continuous education must be provided), with parents being informed on the day. Its use must be set out in the Behaviour Policy, with timescales and a process for reintegration, and data on its use should be collected and analysed.
  • Pupil support units (called 'in-school behaviour units' during consultation) are described as a "planned intervention occurring in small groups and in place of mainstream lessons". They are to be used for behavioural or pastoral reasons, or as a final preventative measure where the pupil is at risk of exclusion, with the underlying aim of improving behaviour. A distinction is made with 'in-school Alternative Provision (AP) units' that accommodate pupils from other settings as well (ie commissioned places), where the DfE's Alternative Provision comes into play and pupils must be admitted on a dual registration basis.
  • Information on dealing with child-on-child (previously 'peer-on-peer') sexual violence and sexual harassment, with cross reference to the DfE's revised Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 statutory guidance which now includes the previously separate guidance on this subject.
  • Online incidents (including bullying, sharing nude or semi-nude images and sexual harassment), which can be dealt with as a disciplinary matter, as well as invoking the schools Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and procedures, alongside referrals to the police and Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).
  • Specific advice on mobile phones, with schools being actively encouraged to list them as an item banned by the school in the Behaviour Policy (or at least their use heavily restricted). Where they are not prohibited entirely, schools should have a "clear plan to mitigate the risks of allowing access to phones".

Pupils with SEN and/or Disabilities

There is more detailed information on managing behaviour in respect of pupils with SEN and/or disabilities, reinforcing that there may be a link between the pupil's SEN and/or disability and their behaviour. It is made very clear that schools must meet their duties under both the Equality Act 2010 and Children and Families Act 2014 when dealing with behaviour incidents involving these pupils.

Schools are explicitly required to consider the support that has been provided to the pupil (at the time of the incident and beforehand) and whether this was adequate. A graduated approach by assessing, planning, delivering and reviewing the impact of the support should be adopted, as well as adjusting Behaviour Policies and other school policies to avoid particular/substantial disadvantage in their application to these pupils. Schools should anticipate likely triggers for misbehaviour and put in place support/interventions to prevent these, as well as using de-escalation techniques, and pre-agreed scripts and phrases where appropriate.

It is made very clear that, if adjustments are not made for pupils with a disability that can manifest in a breach of discipline if their needs are not met, a decision to sanction (including a decision to suspend or permanently exclude, and removal from class) may be discriminatory.

What Do Schools Need to Do Now?

  • Review and amend the school's Behaviour Policy (and other behaviour related policies, such as Anti-Bullying, Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs, Acceptable Use and Use of Reasonable Force).
  • Review and amend the school's existing template exclusion letters from the Headteacher and the Governing Board.
  • Arrange appropriate training for headteachers, staff (including the DSL, SEN Co-ordinator and designated teacher for looked after children), Governors and Clerk.

How Can VWV Help?

  • We are revising our template Behaviour Policy (and other behaviour related policies, such as Anti-Bullying, Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs, Acceptable Use and Use of Reasonable Force) which are available for a fixed fee (with a reduction for retainer clients).
  • We are revising our suite of 18 template exclusion letters, which include an explanatory table and a briefing note on writing effective exclusion letters.
  • We are presenting a Behaviour and Exclusions Update webinar on Tuesday 20 September 2022, from 3.30pm to 5.00pm, which is free to attend - register here.

  • We can provide bespoke training (via webinar or on-site) tailored to the specific needs and demographics of your school(s) for a competitive fixed fee.

If you have a query relating to the information above or would like to discuss ways we can help and our fees for doing so, please contact Joanna Goddard on 020 7665 0805 or Yvonne Spencer on 020 7665 0870, in our Regulatory Compliance team, or complete the form below.

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