Behaviour and Attitudes
The behaviour an attitudes of students are separated out from personal development and welfare in the new framework. Although the three clearly overlap, this should allow greater focus on the specifics of behaviour and attitude within the school. I have certainly worked in schools in the past where behaviour was lacklustre, but where it would have been unfair to say that student welfare was compromised overall. This usually resulted in the school being graded better for the old behaviour and welfare element than perhaps behaviour alone would have allowed. In some senses then I can see the logic of divorcing this element. I suspect there are also concerns with relation to teacher retention and recruitment, hence the increased focus. I have tried to draw out some of the key points below:
Issue 1: Much of the focus in this very brief (compared to “quality of education) section is on high expectations and positive attitudes. The language is actually not too dissimilar to that used within the Teachers’ Standards. The school needs to show “high expectations”, to apply these “consistently and fairly”, to enable students to have a positive attitude towards learning, and to encourage resilience and pride in their work.
From a school point of view, I suspect that much of this will be uncontroversial. There is no fixed idea about how these things might be achieved, nor of the level of behavioural intervention as long as things are fair, consistent, and have a positive impact on conduct. Where schools may want to take more note is if they have systems which work in theory, but in practice are subverted because they don’t work in practice, or because staff are not supported when they do use the behaviour systems. There is an implicit focus on the idea that good behaviour needs to be supported at all levels in school. This is something Tom Bennett touched upon in his 2017 Behaviour Report: “Creating a culture: how school leaders can optimise behaviour”
Issue 2: One challenging element in the new framework draft is the re-wording around attendance. Previously this was termed “prompt and regular”, but now the demand is “high attendance” and “punctual.”
This will clearly present much greater challenges to some school than others. We won’t really know until the framework has been in operation or a while where the inspectorate will se the line for this. Or indeed, whether this will be related more to local circumstances. The new challenge however is balancing attendance with the curricular demands outlined in the rest of the framework. One approach to improving attendance for some student was to reduce curriculum. There is no knowing at this point which of these aspects might take priority.
Issue 3: A nice addition to this framework is the focus on staff and students reflecting a positive and respectful culture.
Whilst this presents some challenges, I suspect that most schools hold this principle as fairly central. It does however mean some considerable thought before adopting extreme zero tolerance approaches to behaviour management, or by contrast, extreme laissez faire approaches. Sensible policies which are widely supported by the school and staff seem to be key.
As already noted, personal development is separated out from the welfare heading in this framework. Interestingly, personal development also overlaps with the “quality of education” element, reinforcing the strong focus on curriculum in the draft. Again, here are my key takeaways:
Issue 1: There is a balancing of the language of academic challenge from the “quality of education” section with a focus on curricular breadth in non-academic areas. This chimes to some extent with the Activity Passport idea mooted by Damien Hinds before Christmas. However there is a focus on helping students to develop interests and talents beyond academic, technical, or vocational subjects.
In principle I cannot see many schools disagreeing with this. However I think it raises significant challenges for some institutions. First, those schools who prioritise examination results above all else, cutting back broader educational provisions and limiting freedoms of choice for students at risk of not hitting targets. Second, those schools for who fail to offer provision beyond the curriculum at all. This is actually much more challenging as financial constraints have meant schools being unable to fund extensive extra-curricular activities and having to rely heavily on the goodwill of staff. I do fear that this focus will lead to increasing pressure for staff to offer extra-curricular provision. This was an issue discussed at length on Paul Dwyer and Will Bailey-Watson’s podcast recently. There may also be implications for the school day. Many Yorkshire schools now have a 30 minute lunch break, leaving little time for extra-curricular provision. For schools with large numbers of children who are “bussed-in” this is really the only time for a fully accessible provision.
Issue 2: There is quite a heavy focus on “character development”. This seems to include things like resilience, confidence and independence, as well as physical and mental wellbeing. So far this feels like the least coherently thought through point. A huge range of things are covered here and there is a lot of debate now about where the remit of schools ends. That said there is a reduction of “listed” topics e.g. healthy eating, internet safety etc. This might encourage a more coherent and locally applicable approach to what an appropriate pastoral curriculum might look like.
I do worry here that there will be a flurry of consultants offering resilience lessons and the such like. For my money, this needs couching much more in terms of how the school supports student development. The obvious answer to a lot of this is a functioning pastoral system, but that doesn’t seem immediately obvious from the text. My plea here: don’t try to tick the boxes without proper consideration for the whole school pastoral approach.
Issue 3: British values finds its way in here again.
Until genuine consideration is given for how we teach civics and politics to students under the age of 16, there will be little real progress in this area. As a history teacher I know that I have often had to pick up elements of civics with students because our provision in the UK in this area is so dire. Even when we have had citizenship lessons in the past, the content had been far too vague. Any school which develops a proper civics programme in response to this would get a huge thumbs up in my book!