Good behaviour is inextricably linked to the happiness and wellbeing of children in school and their ability to access and enjoy an education that brings out the best in them.
However, rhetoric that paints a picture of out-of-control children is at odds with the experiences of many. The young people we work with highlight the positive contribution they make within their schools and communities, helping to overcome the many challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Of course, children can occasionally behave badly and disrupt other students' learning. But when a child exhibits continuous bad behaviour at school it is often because the school lacks the time and resources to properly meet their needs. If this was addressed then the whole school community would benefit, and disabled children and those with Special Educational Needs, as well as boys from particular ethnic minority communities, would not continue to be over-represented in exclusions.
Behavior difficulties are closely related to unmet social, emotional and mental health difficulties. The best education settings take a whole-school approach to improving the mental health and wellbeing of both pupils and staff: proactively making good mental health the business of everyone in the school community, and providing swift referrals to more specialist services where behavior becomes a concern. Part of this approach is having robust and transparent policies on behaviour and bullying in place – something the Anti-Bullying Alliance has championed through the All Together programme.
The impact of the pandemic on children has been deeply felt, and this may provoke difficult feelings in children. But the answer is to support them through this, rather than blame them.
Sir Kevan Collins, the government's Education Recovery Commissioner, has made some important points around taking a more rounded view of children’s educational recovery. This can, and should, address issues of disruptive behaviour. We hope the Secretary of State listens to him and the proposed Behaviour Hubs include best practice about students’ wellbeing, not just discipline.