Creating a School Behaviour Management Policy

August 2, 2021
Clock Icon 10 min read

Behaviour is one of the main challenges that schools face. A lack of knowledge about strategies that really work – as well as a lack of consistency in approach across whole schools – can lead to extreme difficulty in handling challenging behaviour. In fact, the Department for Education noted that behaviour is a major reason for teachers to leave the profession (2019).

A solution to this problem is to create an effective, comprehensive behaviour management policy. In this article, we will explain what a school behaviour management policy is, discuss its importance, and provide guidance on how to create or update one in your setting.

Teacher talking to a pupil in school

What Is a School Behaviour Management Policy?

A school behaviour management policy (also known simply as a ‘behaviour policy’) is a document created by headteachers, senior leaders, proprietors, and governing bodies which:

  • Clearly explains the standard of behaviour expected of pupils at the school (the school rules).
  • Sets out how school staff should handle behaviour incidents, including the sanctions and consequences which will be issued, when, and by whom. The policy might also give details about when reasonable force could be used, the powers staff have to discipline students, and how incidents involving students outside school premises will be handled. It must reflect the governing body’s statements on these issues.
  • Sets out which types of rewards will be issued and when, as well as other measures that the school will use to promote good behaviour, self-discipline, and respect.
  • Takes safeguarding and the welfare of children into account at all times. Particular clarification should also be given on the school’s anti-bullying strategy and policy, approach to staff members accused of misconduct, and plans to work with other local agencies to assess pupils’ behaviour needs (where necessary).
  • Aims to enable pupils to be healthy and safe, behave appropriately, and be able to enjoy and achieve their full potential in their learning.
School staff talking to one another

It is mandatory for maintained and independent schools – and academies – to have behaviour policies. Maintained schools must publish their policies on their school websites, and it is good practice for independent schools and academies to do so as well. Behaviour policies must be made known to staff, parents, and pupils at least once a year, in writing. See the government guidance here for more information.

All school staff (as well as pupils and parents/carers) are expected to comply with the school’s behaviour policy in order to make it effective. The headteacher is ultimately responsible for the policy, but schools should also put a dedicated coordinator in place, whose responsibility it is to provide guidance and support to staff on behaviour issues, as well as regularly reviewing and updating the behaviour policy.

Why Do Schools Have Behaviour Policies and Procedures?

The main motivations behind creating behaviour policies are:

  • Fulfilling legal requirements.
  • Promoting positive behaviour, empathy, respect, self-esteem, self-discipline, and awareness of appropriate behaviour that sets children up for later life. Read our article ‘How to Teach Children About Healthy Relationships’ for more information about this.
  • Clearly setting out the standards of expected behaviour and the sanctions or consequences that may result.
  • Ensuring a safe, secure, and effective learning environment.
  • Ensuring that incidents are always dealt with fairly, consistently, and proportionately.
  • Acting as sources of support for staff, pupils, and parents – they know that incidents will always be acted upon and handled fairly, and that school management will uphold the decisions detailed in the policy. This promotes trust and wellbeing.
  • Creating a cornerstone for other policies that the school has, such as bullying, online safety, and acceptable use policies.
A teacher talking to a child about behaviour in school

By making the rules and consequences clear and well-known to all those involved with the school, the likelihood of incidents of challenging behaviour – or poor handling of them – is reduced.

However, many teachers are not made aware of the importance of following their school’s behaviour policy at all times. A survey by TeacherTapp in 2021 showed that one third of teachers deviated from the behaviour policy in one day alone, primarily for reasons of avoiding conflict, or being too busy to enforce sanctions. As a result, it’s critical that schools give their staff training that explains why the behaviour policy is necessary and equips them to put it in place.

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Need Challenging Behaviour Training?

Our Challenging Behaviour training course is recommended for professionals who want to have a better understanding of how to respond to the behaviour of the children and young people that they work with. It emphasises the importance of the consistent whole-school approach when proactively preventing behaviour incidents, as well as when responding to them and putting support in place. Visit our course library to have a look at this and our other available training courses.

How to Create a School Behaviour Management Policy

Creating a school behaviour management policy requires discussions between the headteacher, senior leaders, proprietors, and governing bodies. You could also choose to involve parents and students, giving them a survey to find out their opinions.

It’s important that everyone agrees on the standards of behaviour that the school expects, and the best way to enforce these expectations. This will form the basis of your policy.

Sections to Include in a Behaviour Policy

It is recommended that behaviour policies have sections as follows:

School Ethos and Behaviour Statementdrop down menu

Your school governors should explain what the school’s ethos is and create a written statement of general behaviour principles that will guide the headteacher. These principles might include always trying to teach children what is expected of them, without humiliation, or always promoting equality and eliminating discrimination, harassment, and bullying.

Roles and Responsibilitiesdrop down menu

You should set out the roles and responsibilities of your headteacher, senior leadership team, governors, and staff (in relation to behaviour).

Standards of Behaviourdrop down menu

The school should have high expectations of how its pupils will behave, because this has been shown to be effective at promoting positive behaviour and underpins effective learning. Schools should also set out what this means in practice. What exactly are the expectations? What is good behaviour and what is not?

Teaching of Behaviourdrop down menu

You should set out how good behaviour will be taught in the school. It should form part of your curriculum – all staff should explain what rules mean in detail, as well as helping the students to practise carrying out routines, and demonstrating good behaviour.

Rewardsdrop down menu

It’s necessary to have rewards in place to reinforce and praise good behaviour. The policy should detail what the rewards are (for example, postcards home, certificates, positive feedback, house points, golden time, or merit awards), when they will be given out, and who can issue them.

Sanctionsdrop down menu

You should discuss the sanctions for those who don’t comply. Sanctions must always be proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances. List what the agreed sanctions are (for example, verbal reprimands, traffic light system, note home to parents/carers, time out, missing break time, community penalties such as litter-picking, detention, meeting with parents/carers, suspension, exclusion (if you deem it appropriate)), when they will be given out (including the escalation process), and who can issue them (for example, all staff or merely heads of year or department).
You may wish to mention – so that pupils, parents, and carers are aware – that the school legally has the power to give detention outside of school hours, perform searches and confiscate inappropriate items from students, and discipline pupils for misbehaving outside of the school premises. Discuss whether the school intends and to use these powers or not (and when it would be appropriate to do so), as well as the protection the law affords to staff when intervening in this way. Remember that sanctions should take into account the pupil’s age, any SEND they have, and any religious requirements.

Interventionsdrop down menu

Alongside sanctions, you should discuss how you will support a child or young person who displays repeated challenging behaviour. What sorts of interventions and targeted provision could you give them? How will you monitor their behaviour and improvements? At what point will you work with other local agencies? At this point, you could consider restorative practice, which has shown to be extremely effective – find out more here.

Reasonable Forcedrop down menu

It should be made clear that reasonable force is legal but will only be used when necessary: to prevent pupils committing an offence, injuring themselves or others, or damaging property, or to maintain good order and discipline. For example, it might be used to stop a fight in the playground, to prevent a child from leaving the classroom if doing so would risk their safety, or to prevent them from attacking a member of staff. Force can never be used as a punishment. It should also be acknowledged here that the school has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children and children with SEND with regards to reasonable force.

Classroom Management Strategies for Teaching Staffdrop down menu

You could develop a class or individual plan for teachers to use, containing some classroom management strategies that your school has found to be effective.

Anti-Bullying Strategiesdrop down menu

You should define what your school considers to be ‘bullying’, and set out ways in which your school will prevent all forms of it, including cyberbullying and prejudice-based or discriminatory bullying (such as racism or homophobia). For example, school staff might gather intelligence about issues between pupils which might lead to conflict, and talk to the pupils in order to prevent bullying from occurring in the first place (e.g. in lessons, through dedicated events, or through assemblies). Staff might also undertake regular anti-bullying training, and pupils who are bullied could be given separate on-site provision to ensure that they can continue to feel safe at school while the issue is being dealt with.

Safeguarding and Welfaredrop down menu

The policy must acknowledge and explain the school’s legal duties under the Equality Act 2010 with respect to safeguarding and pupils with SEND.

Staff Development and Supportdrop down menu

Set out the disciplinary action that will be taken against pupils who are found to have made malicious accusations against school staff.

Student Support Systemsdrop down menu

Set out the pastoral/mentoring/peer support systems you have in place (for example, anti-bullying ambassadors, mental health leads, or peer mediation), and discuss how the school manages transitions between years (particularly for vulnerable children).

Liaison With Parents/Carersdrop down menu

Make it clear what the expectations of parents/carers are and when they will be contacted in relation to behaviour incidents (both good and bad), how they will be contacted, the ways in which they are expected to show support for the behaviour policy, and the procedures they can follow if they have concerns about their child.

Raising Awareness of the Policydrop down menu

It is useful to set out how you plan to raise awareness of the behaviour policy in the school. For example, the policy might be included in the school handbook/prospectus, on the school website, in the staff handbook, and on noticeboards around the school, as well as being mentioned in meetings with parents, staff, and students.

This list is not exhaustive, but covers key points that you should discuss in your policy. You might feel that other additional sections are relevant to your school, and these should be written into your policy so that it reflects your school’s ethos.

What Makes a Behaviour Policy Effective?

The most effective behaviour policies are those that are tailored to your school, simple, and clear, with no room for misinterpretation. You will need to be as specific as possible. You cannot expect staff and students to have the same understanding of ‘good behaviour’ as you – if you cite low-level disruption as a reason to give students a warning, you need to define what low-level disruption is so that this sanction is given out consistently. Is tapping a pen on the table low-level disruption? What about shouting out an answer without putting their hand up? What about talking in a low voice whilst getting on with their work – is this permitted, or should students sit in silence while they’re working?

The next steps in making your policy effective are making it known and having strong leadership to enforce it. All staff, pupils, parents, and carers should be reminded of the behaviour policy regularly – not only that it exists, but also the content within it. It is a good idea to give them a booklet about the policy, enclosing a form for them to sign that says they will adhere to it. Senior leaders within the school should then check that it is being consistently applied, making sure to deal with any issues or queries as soon as they come up. This is necessary because, as we mentioned above, consistency is key to handling challenging behaviour in schools.

Finally, effective behaviour policies should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure they’re still relevant and reflective of topical issues. At the very least, reviews should take place annually, with ad-hoc reviews or updates when the need arises.

Behaviour management policies are a legal requirement for all schools, and an opportunity to set out the standards of behaviour you expect, the sanctions and consequences that result from certain behaviour, and the support that students and staff will be given. It’s important to ensure that your policy is comprehensive and well-written – we hope that this article is helpful in that regard.

Further Resources: