Managing pupil behaviour using ICT

Ed Whittaker

Ed started his career in chemistry, working for ICI Organics Division in Blackley. Having decided that 21 days holiday a year was simply not enough, he left industry to take up teaching at the age of 30. He spent the next twenty odd years teaching chemistry to GCSE and A level - and learning about behaviour management the hard way. Early in his teaching career he became interested in classroom management techniques following some Keystone Kops style episodes in his Y9 lessons. For the last few years of his teaching career Ed was the behaviour lead in a large Manchester comprehensive and was responsible for the successful introduction of BFL into the school. In July 2008 Ed left teaching to form Schools Data Services Ltd, specifically to promote IRIS, an on-line behaviour and rewards management facility devised by Ed and ex school MIS manager Andrew Rose.

Ed lives in Rochdale with wife Helen, two boys and a dog of very small brain called Archie. His main ambition is to make a difference in education by providing an alternative low cost, high value MIS to schools.

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Effective and positive behaviour management is achievable in every UK secondary school, through the combination of a well-designed robust IT system and properly supported and trained teachers. Sounds like a simple strategy, but putting a software system in place that enables a school to record, monitor, analyse and manage pupil behaviour effectively can be problematic. This article discusses some of the key considerations when procuring and implementing an effective behaviour management IT system.

Teaching, learning and behaviour are inseparable issues in school. Without good order in the classroom, effective teaching cannot take place and pupils’ learning is inhibited. Even low-level disruption in the classroom is a significant source of stress for teachers. Poor behaviour, whatever the severity, impacts on every aspect of school life; from exam results to teacher and pupil wellbeing. As a result, managing pupil behaviour effectively is at the centre of a school’s core business.

Before pupil behaviour can be monitored a school needs an effective behaviour management strategy in place that is clear, simple and known and understood by all; staff, pupils and parents. There should be a sense of ‘buy-in’ to the policy by the staff so they feel supported by the school management. It needs to address both low-level and severe behaviour in a ‘fair’ manner and have a number of clear, known sanctions. The policy should also equally address and encourage positive behaviour.

Once in place, the behaviour policy will form the basis for procuring a suitable behaviour monitoring IT system. With this in mind, a system that is customisable and flexible is an excellent starting point. This will ensure the school can monitor the details that are important to it, not just what the provider thinks is important. Having input screens that are customisable gives the school greater control over the input and output data. Being compatible with the existing MIS systems, like SIMS and CMIS, will make integration of the new software quick and straightforward. This removes the need to re-enter information that already exists, such as staff, student and timetable records.   
Information sharing between stakeholders can be an issue in itself, but by choosing the right online behaviour monitoring platform, the school can provide secure access to teachers, management, governors, parents and even the pupils at anytime from anywhere. However, one of most powerful capabilities of a behaviour management system is the ability to provide real-time analysis, turning raw data into usable, useful information with the click of a mouse. The new Ofsted inspection framework, with its increased focus on behaviour, has placed greater emphasis on having the facts and evidence to inform the school plan and the ability to monitor the effects of policy changes on pupil behaviour in real-time.
Similarly, a system that can equally record and manage positive behaviour is paramount. All too often good behaviour is taken for granted in schools but reinforcing a positive behaviour learning environment will lead to a greater sense of wellbeing in the school as well as better behaviour.

Implementing the appropriate software system should make recording and monitoring behaviour simple and not labour intensive for the staff. The benefits are plentiful including reduced admin costs, improved effectiveness and efficiency of pastoral staff, better staff communication, better engaged pupils and the means to effectively tackle low level disruption in the classroom.
A key feature of an effective behaviour monitoring system is its ability to quickly and easily give feedback to teachers regarding reported incidents. Giving teachers feedback on incidents they have logged makes them feel listened to, engenders team spirit and increases staff morale and ‘buy-in’ to the system.

A positive by-product of behaviour monitoring IT systems is that teachers struggling to manage challenging behaviour and in need of support can be easily identified. This gives the senior leadership team the chance to support and highlight training needs amongst its staff members.

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