Guest blog from Tom O’Hara, Social Conduct Lead at Greenacre School (Wellspring MAT) Barnsley. @justTOhara
Greenacre School is a large special school which provides a personalised education for over 300 children and young people with severe and complex learning difficulties.
We all know of that one teacher who can walk into a class, just look at the pupils and then have them wrapped around their little finger. Almost as if they have some kind of behaviour superpower. How great would it be if those positive strategies could be shared amongst colleagues, departments or even the whole school?!
As Behaviour Lead I have the privilege of not being based in one class, which enables me to go into different classes from EYFS all the way through to our Post 16 department. This allows me to see firsthand how successful, positive relationships are built over time and used effectively by class staff to keep learners engaged and focused.
It’s fair to say we have our share of challenging behaviour, with an average of around 35 incident reports being logged on a daily basis. Previously the biggest challenge for myself and our Social Conduct Team was finding effective ways to share information with the class teams.
A formal observation would take place; this would then be typed up and shared with the staff. We used a script: ‘this worked, this didn’t work and try this from now on’. I would like to share with you how our process of analysing and reflecting on classroom behaviour has changed over time with the introduction of IRIS Connect.
The problem with lesson observations
Having a member of staff in the class to observe is not always logistically possible, with the chances of timetables perfectly syncing up unlikely. With the IRIS Connect Discovery Kit it’s as simple as point and capture. Our Social Conduct Team will identify key students who we feel would benefit from this kind of observation and then work in an appreciative manner with the class team to facilitate this.
We use IRIS Connect to look at specific approaches that have been really positive or strategies that may not have worked, then we share this and act on the feedback together. On the other hand it is also a great tool to use if a pupil's behaviour has deteriorated or they only present behaviours' in certain lessons.
“Most of my students are on their best behaviour or put their guards up when someone is sat at the back of the room with a notepad. When I started using IRIS Connect students were curious at first but now drop their guard much faster, meaning it provides a true picture of the activities that go on within my lessons” - Bethan Schofield, Post 16 Class Teacher @1BethanLouise
One obstacle we had to tackle when first introducing IRIS Connect was embedding it into our culture of reflection and collaboration. To begin with, like all things new, people veered away from our new piece of kit, expecting it to bring a more substantial workload and further complications.
But after a handful of staff used it a couple of times, word of its success travelled quickly throughout the school and it was getting booked up fast! Setting up an electronic timetable made this process much more effective and takes away the pressure of one person having sole responsibility of logistics.
Creating behaviour plans for learners
We use functional analysis assessments to un-pick behaviours and what function they may serve. This information then helps to create behaviour plans for individual learners. The behaviour plans list behaviours from low level to crisis. The IRIS Connect footage is key to informing specific stages of behaviour with the use of forms. The Social Conduct Team are able to dissect a student’s behaviour in real time and put a time scale on how long they present low level behaviours etc. This also works for strategies applied by staff, we can determine which proactive approach has or hasn’t worked, and again, all on a real time-scale.
“This collaborative process allows everyone in our team to be involved with each observation. We are constantly questioning each other’s thinking and practice. This provides us with the opportunity to continually up- skill each other. It puts professional development in our own hands” - Kirsty Taylor, Social Conduct LTA @KTaylor_0
Throughout this analytic period we always strive to find key strategies that work really well and with the classes permission we share these moments in whole school training to show how the approach looks when used effectively. We have also used the footage in our staff induction programme, to give a better understanding of proactive strategies to our new and inexperienced staff members.
Empowering class staff
We then present the fully analysed footage to class staff. Before the Social Conduct Team present their findings, we always invite thoughts & feedback from the class team. This is probably the most empowering part of the reflective process. Class staff are able to see for themselves which proactive strategies may or may not work and have conversations between themselves in terms of what the next steps may be. Although these conversations may be directed by the Social Conduct Team, the majority of the discussions and ideas are provided by the class team, allowing them to take real ownership of their classroom management.
“IRIS Connect provides us with a level of detail which is essential in order for our class staff to manage behaviour effectively. It provides them with an additional layer of support on top of that provided by our Social Conduct Team. It is a vital part of our school CPD toolkit which links intrinsically with performance management” - Marie Harper, Assistant Head teacher
Within the last year we became a part of Wellspring Academy trust alongside schools from Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. Provisions range from primary schools, pupil referral units, SEMH and Special Educational Needs schools. I would really like to set up a trust-wide group allowing greater collaboration and a wider input of expertise resulting in better outcomes for our students here at Greenacre and other provisions within the MAT. So watch this space!