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Publication - Research Publication

Behaviour in Scottish schools: 2016 research

Published: 12 Dec 2017
Part of:
Children and families, Education, Research
ISBN:
9781788513319

This report is from the fourth (2016) wave of behaviour in Scottish schools research, first undertaken in 2006.

98 page PDF

2.8MB

Contents
Behaviour in Scottish schools: 2016 research
11 School ethos and support

11 School ethos and support

11.1 This chapter looks at perceptions of school ethos and the extent to which staff feel supported in their work to encourage positive relationships and behaviour and manage negative behaviour. First, staff perceptions of the overall ethos of their school are explored, before examining responses related to support, training/professional learning and involvement in whole-school approaches to relationships and behaviour. The chapter closes by looking at the ways in which incidents of serious disruptive behaviour towards staff are followed up.

Key findings

11.2 Ratings of school ethos were positive and were broadly the same as in 2012.

11.3 A positive ethos is characterised by a school feeling like a community; shared values (including, above all, respect); strong leadership from the SMT; communication and openness among staff; and everyone's voice – particularly the pupil voice – being heard.

11.4 Most teachers were confident in their ability to promote positive relationships and behaviour and respond to indiscipline in their classrooms.

11.5 Most teachers and support staff were confident that senior members of staff would help them if they experienced difficulties with behaviour management.

11.6 Headteachers and teachers thought that an effective method for improving skills to support relationships and behaviour was through peer learning, including peer observations and informal discussions with colleagues.

11.7 The experiences of support staff were mixed. Primary support staff tended to be more positive than secondary support staff. There is scope for improvement in relation to ensuring support staff feel valued; communication; involvement in discussions about individual pupils and whole-school approaches; and training.

Perceptions of school ethos

11.8 Staff were asked to rate particular aspects of their school ethos on a scale of 1-5 ('1' = 'poor' and '5' = 'very good'). Responses were largely the same as 2012, with headteacher ratings being consistently highest.

Figure 11.1: Perceptions of school ethos
Figure 11.1: Perceptions of school ethos
Bases: secondary headteacher 184, secondary teacher 1734, secondary support staff 649, primary headteacher 287, primary teacher 692, primary support staff 473

Overall ethos of your school

11.9 As in 2012, primary headteachers, teachers and support staff were very positive about their school ethos: 96% of headteachers, 86% of teachers and 81% of support staff gave this a rating of 4 or 5.

11.10 Secondary headteachers were also very positive about their school ethos (95% gave a rating of 4 or 5). Secondary teachers and support staff ratings were less positive than in the primary sector (but very similar to 2012): around two thirds of (65% of teachers and 62% of support staff) gave a rating of 4 or 5.

11.11 As discussed in Chapter 5, perception of the school ethos was the strongest predictor of experiences of disruptive behaviour: teachers and support staff who rated the overall ethos of the school they worked in as 'poor' were more likely to have experienced disruptive behaviours. (It was not an effective predictor of headteachers' experiences – because almost all headteachers gave a high rating for the ethos of their school, it is not surprising that it did not emerge as a discriminating factor).

11.12 In order to try and unpick what 'ethos' means in practice, the survey data on ethos was analysed further (see paragraphs 11.18 to 11.21 below) and it was explored in the qualitative research (see paragraphs 11.70 to 11.93 below).

How staff work together in your school

11.13 As with their ratings of the overall school ethos, results were very close to those of 2012 in both sectors.

11.14 Almost all primary headteachers (94%) gave a rating of 4 or 5 to the level of collegiality amongst staff, while 85% of teachers and 75% of support staff did so.

11.15 Ratings were lower among secondary staff: 87% of headteachers, 60% of teachers and 56% of support staff gave a rating of 4 or 5.

How the education authority works in partnership with your school to promote positive relationships and behaviour

11.16 This question was asked only of headteachers. In 2016, primary headteachers were less satisfied than in 2012, with 40% giving a rating of 4 or 5 (compared with 50% in 2012). This may reflect the reduction in local authority resources ( e.g. fewer development officers). However, results from secondary headteachers were similar to 2012 (40% in 2016 and 42% in 2012).

How your school promotes positive relationships and behaviour

11.17 This question (new in 2016) was asked only of teachers and support staff, with 81% of primary teachers and 82% of support staff giving a rating of 4 or 5. In secondary schools, 52% of teachers and 57% of support staff did so.

Factors which predict staff perceptions of ethos

11.18 In order to identify what predicts teacher and support staff [30] ratings of ethos, we used regression. This is a statistical technique which analyses a number of different variables, controls for the fact that some of them might be linked with each other (for example, deprivation might be linked to school size), and separates out the effect of each to identify which has the biggest impact.

Variables analysed

11.19 The following variables [31] were analysed:

  • school size
  • school capacity
  • school condition
  • proportion of pupils living in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland
  • length of service
  • levels of agreement with the following statements:
    • 'I can talk to colleagues openly about any behaviour-related challenges I experience' (teachers) / 'I can talk to other support staff openly about any behaviour-related challenges I experience' (support staff)
    • 'I can talk to teachers openly about any behaviour-related challenges I experience' (support staff only)
    • 'I am confident that senior staff will help me if I experience behaviour management difficulties'
    • 'I am regularly involved in discussions about improving relationships and behaviour in the whole school'
    • 'I feel supported in dealing with relationship and behaviour difficulties'
    • 'I contribute ideas and provide support to my colleagues regarding pupil relationships and behaviour' (teachers only)
    • 'My school has a clear and comprehensive whole school approach to promoting positive relationships and behaviour' (teachers only)
    • 'I have time within my contracted hours to enable discussions around classroom planning to take place' (support staff only)
    • 'I have time within my contracted hours to enable feedback discussions with colleagues/ SMT/class teacher to take place' (support staff only)
    • 'Support staff in my school play an important role in promoting positive relationships and behaviour' (support staff only)
  • ratings of:
    • 'how all staff work together in your school ( e.g. the level of collegiality)'
    • 'how your school promotes policies on positive relationships and behaviour.'

Findings

11.20 Among both primary and secondary teachers, the predictors were (shown in order of strength of prediction):

  • disagreeing that "My school has a clear and comprehensive whole-school approach to promoting positive relationships and behaviour"
  • lower ratings of "How all staff work together in your school ( e.g. the level of collegiality)"
  • disagreeing that "I am confident that senior staff will help me if I experience behaviour management difficulties"
  • lower rating of "How your school promotes policies on positive relationships and behaviour".

11.21 The picture for support staff was similar: among both primary and secondary support staff, the predictors were:

  • lower ratings of "How all staff work together in your school ( e.g. the level of collegiality)"
  • lower rating of "How your school promotes policies on positive relationships and behaviour"
  • disagreeing that "I am confident that senior staff will help me if I experience behaviour management difficulties".

(Note that support staff were not asked the question about whether "My school has a clear and comprehensive whole-school approach to promoting positive relationships and behaviour", which emerged as the strongest predictor among teachers).

Perceptions of school culture and support

11.22 Staff were also asked the extent to which they agreed with a set of statements about their school culture and the support available to them with regards to their work on pupil behaviour and relationships. Figure 11.2 shows headteacher responses to statements about their perceptions of these issues in relation to their staff. Figures 11.3 - 11.7 show responses from headteachers, teachers and support staff when asked to think about their own experiences [32] . All charts show the percentage of 'agree' or 'strongly agree' responses to these statements.

11.23 A number of new statements were added in 2016, but, where comparable to 2012, results are similar in both years.

11.24 Overall, headteachers were positive about the extent to which their colleagues are supported, with primary headteachers generally more positive than their secondary counterparts (Figure 11.2).

Figure 11.2: Headteacher perceptions of school ethos and support in relation to their staff
Figure 11.2: Headteacher perceptions of school ethos and support in relation to their staff
Bases: secondary headteacher n=291, primary headteacher n=184

School culture and policy

11.25 Almost all staff in both sectors felt that they were able to talk openly with their colleagues about any behaviour-related challenges that they faced.

11.26 Primary headteachers and teachers were more likely than their secondary counterparts to agree that their school has 'a clear and comprehensive whole-school approach to promoting positive relationships and behaviour'. In both sectors, but particularly in secondaries, headteachers were more positive than teachers.

11.27 Almost all primary staff felt that their school had 'a culture of developing positive relationships and behaviour for the health and wellbeing of all'. Secondary headteachers were also very positive on this point but teachers and support staff were more mixed in their views (67% of teachers and 74% of support staff agreed/strongly agreed).

Support available to staff

11.28 A majority of respondents from both sectors remained confident that they would receive support from senior staff if they encountered behaviour-related challenges, although levels of secondary teachers' agreement were slightly lower than 2012 (69% in 2016, 74% in 2012).

11.29 Levels of awareness of confidential support and counselling were mixed across both sectors [33] , as were levels of feeling supported to deal with relationship and behaviour difficulties [34] .

Figure 11.3: Perceptions of support available
Figure 11.3: Perceptions of support available
Bases: secondary headteacher 184, secondary teacher 1755, secondary support staff 658, primary headteacher 290, primary teacher 698, primary support staff 471

Contribution of ideas and involvement in discussion on behaviour and relationships

11.30 In both sectors headteacher perceptions of the extent of their colleagues' involvement in discussions about improving relationships and behaviour in the whole school were higher than those reported by teachers and support staff.

11.31 Almost all (92%) primary headteachers agreed or strongly agreed that 'My colleagues are regularly involved in discussions about improving relationships and behaviour in the whole school', compared with 78% of teachers and 61% of support staff who agreed/strongly agreed that 'I am regularly involved...'.Three quarters (76%) of secondary headteachers agreed with this, compared with 56% of teachers and just 33% of support staff [35] .

11.32 Headteacher and teacher perceptions on the extent of the contribution of ideas and support to colleagues were similar: 89% of secondary headteachers and 86% of secondary teachers, and 98% of primary headteachers and 94% of teachers agreed/strongly agreed with this statement.

Skills and training

11.33 Almost all (94%) primary headteachers and 85% of secondary headteachers agreed/strongly agreed that 'my colleagues have the skills to promote positive relationships and behaviour' (a new question in 2016).

11.34 Teachers were asked to rate their confidence in their ability to 'promote positive behaviour in your classroom' and 'respond to indiscipline in your classroom' on a scale of 1 to 5 (1='not confident at all' and 5='very confident'). Confidence levels were high. In relation to promoting positive behaviour, 94% of primary teachers and 94% of secondary teachers gave a rating of 4 or 5. In relation to responding to indiscipline, 89% of primary teachers and 86% of secondary teachers gave a rating of 4 or 5. Levels of confidence have not changed since 2012.

11.35 Three quarters of primary headteachers and two thirds of secondary headteachers felt they had received adequate training on how to promote positive relationships and behaviour in their school. Similarly, three quarters of primary teachers and two thirds of secondary teachers felt that they had undertaken sufficient professional learning to deal with relationship and behaviour difficulties. Teachers' views on professional learning around behaviour and relationship management were explored further in the qualitative research and are discussed in paragraphs 11.40 to 11.46 below.

11.36 Support staff were less likely than teachers to feel that they had received adequate training: 59% of primary support staff and 45% of secondary support staff agreed/ strongly agreed that 'I have received adequate training on how to deal with relationship and behaviour difficulties'. The views of support staff on training and, more broadly, their role and the support they receive were discussed in the qualitative research (see paragraphs 11.47 to 11.66 below).

The role of support staff

11.37 In both sectors, support staff felt that they play an important role in their schools in promoting positive relationships and behaviour (94% of primary support staff and 86% of secondary support staff agreed/strongly agreed). See Figure 11.4.

11.38 However, the majority of support staff did not feel they have time within their contracted hours to discuss classroom planning. While one third of primary support staff agreed or strongly agreed they had time to engage in this within their contracted hours, 43% disagreed or strongly disagreed. A quarter of secondary support staff agreed or strongly agreed, while 52% disagreed or strongly disagreed ( Figure 11.4).

11.39 Similarly, the majority of support staff did not feel they had time within contracted hours to enable feedback discussions. Only 42% of primary support staff and 36% of secondary support staff agreed or strongly agreed that they had time to do so (Figure 11.4).

Figure 11.4: Support staff perceptions of role and contracted hours
Figure 11.4: Support staff perceptions of role and contracted hours
Bases: secondary support staff 651, primary support staff 463

Teachers' professional learning on relationships and behaviour

11.40 The overwhelming message from teachers in the qualitative research [36] was that there was no single solution, or set of solutions, when it came to supporting relationships and behaviour – different approaches work for different teachers with different pupils. This meant that more formal Career-Long Professional Learning ( CLPL) courses were not always considered the most effective means of increasing skills in this area.

11.41 In general, teachers thought that there had not been many CLPL courses on supporting relationships and behaviour available in recent years. Secondary teachers commented on the fact that most of the recent courses were on subject content and the new National Qualifications. Courses that they had undertaken tended to be internal school courses completed on in-service days.

11.42 There were a number of barriers identified by teachers in accessing CLPL courses:

  • most national courses are only available in the central belt
  • a lack of supply cover
  • even if they did attend training, there were issues with having the time to put their learning into practice.

Peer learning

11.43 Headteachers and teachers in both sectors thought that the most effective method for improving skills in supporting relationships and behaviour was through peer learning and were happy with the level of internal CLPL they were receiving. This could include both informal and formal methods. Examples included peer observations, informal discussions with colleagues, teaching and learning communities dedicated to supporting relationships and behaviour, working lunch meetings to discuss strategies, and showcasing different ways of supporting relationships and behaviour at in-service days.

In terms of professional learning the best resource is...peer learning...where there are opportunities within the school for teachers to work together and learn from each other. I wouldn't say it's sharing best practice, I think it's actually learning together and sharing experiences because I don't know if there is such a thing as best practice.

Secondary headteacher

11.44 Teachers described two main benefits to peer learning in relation to supporting relationships and behaviour. Firstly, they felt that having supportive colleagues made the biggest difference to them developing their practice – and felt that they would be supported if they wanted to try something new. Secondly, discussing issues with school colleagues, rather than others on a training course, meant that they can discuss specific strategies to use with specific pupils or classes – and, as noted above, tailoring approaches to what works with individuals was thought to be key to successfully supporting relationships and behaviour.

Initial Teacher Education ( ITE)

11.45 Recently qualified teachers, and some headteachers, felt that behaviour and relationships should be given more prominence in ITE.

I think we all felt that there wasn't enough of that, so we hadn't really had any behaviour management advice before we went out on placement. Inevitably that's the thing that people are most concerned about that they want more advice on.

Secondary headteacher

11.46 There were a number of specific suggestions given on how to improve ITE provision on supporting relationships and behaviour:

  • current teachers should be invited to speak to students to share their experiences and talk them through practical scenarios
  • teaching on supporting relationships and behaviour should be provided in advance of student placements
  • observations of students' skills in supporting relationships and behaviour should be conducted early on in their series of placements to allow them to develop strengths and work on any weaknesses
  • making it clear that not all approaches will work with all pupils and that not all approaches will work for all teachers (approaches also need to suit a teacher's personality) training should focus on the flexibility and tailoring required to be effective.

Support staff: their perceptions of their role and the support they receive

11.47 The qualitative research with support staff revealed were mixed experiences in relation to their role and the support they receive. Some were largely positive while others shared experiences about aspects that were not working so well. Overall, primary support staff tended to be more positive than secondary support staff.

11.48 This reflects the quantitative findings. Almost all support staff felt that they play an important role in their school in promoting positive relationships and behaviour. Nevertheless, they were less positive, particularly in the secondary sector, about how staff work together in the school, involvement in discussions about improving relationships and behaviour in the whole school, training on how to deal with relationship and behaviour difficulties, and time for dicussions about classroom planning and feedback.

Feeling valued

11.49 In some schools, support staff felt that they were not always given their place in school, and were not seen as part of the 'team'. In one group, there was a suggestion that they are not paid enough, and that being a member of support staff nowadays was not a viable career option.

11.50 Where support staff felt undervalued, this seemed to stem mainly from perceptions about levels of support from senior management, and to a lesser extent from class teachers. Where senior management had asked their opinion and addressed specific concerns that they had raised, this backing helped support staff feel valued and part of the team.

11.51 Support staff also described feeling undervalued when their side of a story was not prioritised by senior management. For example, if a teacher and a member of support staff had both witnessed an incident, there was a perception that the teacher's side of the story would be given more weight (even if the member of support staff was on the scene first).

11.52 Related to this was a feeling that teachers can sometimes have a lack of trust in the professional judgement of support staff in particular situations. For instance, support staff described situations where teachers suggested that they had been too lenient or too strict with a pupil, when they were unaware of the background that led to that particular interaction.

Communication

11.53 Perceptions about communication between senior management, teachers and support staff tended to be more positive in the primary than in the secondary sector. Secondary support staff often described a lack of communication from senior management and teachers. One group of support staff shared experiences of being sent to classrooms and not being told any information about why they were there or which pupils they need to deal with. While primary support staff were generally positive about the level of communication, they tended to want more frequent meetings with teachers.

11.54 A couple of practical barriers to communication were raised

  • support staff are often not at a desk/computer so are unable to check their emails regularly and keep 'in the loop' about what is going on across the school
  • some support staff do not have a base where they can discuss issues with colleagues/as a team.

11.55 Examples of when communication was working well in both sectors included having regular meetings with senior management/teachers, and having the opportunity to discuss, as a team, the best approaches to support individual pupils.

Clarity on the overall approach to behaviour

11.56 Support staff in some secondary schools reported a number of concerns related to a lack of a clear overall approach to behaviour – or at least a lack of communication to them about their role. They felt that there was a lack of consistency in the approach that different teachers take when dealing with pupils. This meant that support staff were unclear about what they were supposed to do in certain situations. Similarly, one group of support staff mentioned that there was a lack of clear rationale for the support base as pupils were being sent to the base for low-level indiscipline, and they did not know whether their role was to deal with pupils with additional support needs or to work with other pupils to support positive behaviour.

Involvement in discussions about individual pupils

11.57 There were mixed experiences in both sectors about the level of involvement that support staff have in discussions about individual pupils. There was the feeling among support staff that they were told less about individual pupil circumstances than teachers. There was a recognition that this often relates to issues which senior management and teachers are not in a position to disclose. Nevertheless, it was felt that the reasons for withholding the information could be made more explicit. At other times, they felt it was simply due to a lack of communication.

Involvement in whole-school discussions about behaviour

11.58 Support staff in both sectors mentioned that they tended not to be involved in overall discussions about behaviour in schools. (In the survey, only 33% of support staff in both sectors agreed that they were involved in discussions about improving relationships and behaviour in their school). Views about involvement in discussions often depended on the approach of individual senior management teams. For instance, one group of support staff reported that they had a new pupil support base leader who was now involving them in discussions that they would not previously have been involved in.

11.59 Some support staff in the primary sector indicated that, while they were often not involved in formal discussions about behaviour, they felt that they could approach senior management with suggestions. For others, their lack of involvement meant that they did not have input into decisions about school-wide behaviour approaches. For example, one school had dropped Golden Time. The support staff did not know why this decision had been taken and felt that it had impacted negatively on behaviour – it seemed that they had no expectation of being involved in discussions about this and did not feel that they could suggest bringing it back.

Career-long Professional Learning ( CLPL)

11.60 There were varying degrees to which support staff reported that they had received training and how useful they had found it. In the quantitative research, 59% of primary support staff and 45% of secondary support staff agreed that they had received adequate training on how to deal with relationship and behavioural difficulties.

11.61 In the qualitative research it is worthwhile noting that, when referring to training, support staff tended to think in terms of 'training courses' rather than 'on the job' opportunities for learning.

11.62 Support staff raised the point that they were sometimes asked to undertake tasks such as clearing out cupboards or administrative work rather than undertake training or development activities during in-service days. They also indicated that they would like more time to discuss things with staff during in-service days.

11.63 There were a number of areas in which support staff identified that they would like more training

  • specific training for support staff
  • differentiation between the primary and secondary sectors (they felt that issues were often quite different so separate rather than combined training would be more useful)
  • approaches to behaviour
  • how to build positive relationships
  • specific training on using de-escalation/managing challenging behaviour. (Staff in a couple of schools had received this and had found it extremely helpful. Staff in another school had requested it but been told it was not necessary for the type of pupils they were dealing with – they nonetheless thought it would be).

Support staff resources

11.64 Overall, support staff in both sectors felt that they were understaffed. Headteachers and teachers shared this view and noted that there were fewer support staff, dealing with more pupils displaying challenging behaviour. Some headteachers talked about using their school budget to employ more support staff, outwith what was formally allocated through the LA formula, and investing money into support staff training.

11.65 Where there was a decrease in the number of hours that they were available to support pupils in schools, this was exacerbated by them having to do work such as playground supervision (because of the loss of playground supervisors), which meant that they have to have breaks/lunch during class time, and therefore have less time in class. There are further difficulties when support staff also have medical duties, and are called away to deal with medical problems during their class time.

11.66 In term of recruitment, a headteacher indicated that there was a specific skill set required for behaviour support and another for learning support – and that it was easier to find staff with skills for learning support than behaviour support.

Follow up of incidents of serious disruptive behaviour towards staff

11.67 In 2016, the most common ways in which an incident was followed up remained the same as in 2012 for all groups of staff in both sectors [37] ( Figures 11.5 to 11.7).

11.68 The most common outcome for incidents involving secondary headteachers was a formal meeting within school, and for primary headteachers this was a restorative meeting/discussion with pupil(s) involved.

11.69 For both teachers and support staff in both sectors, feedback on how the incident/pupils had been dealt with remained the most common follow-up approach. The frequency of feedback appears to have decreased for both groups of staff since 2012 but this may be due to the addition of 'a violence incident form completed' as the first response option in 2016 (although staff were asked to select all the responses that applied, some may have simply selected the first response that applied and moved on to the next question) .

Figure 11.5: Headteacher incident follow-up approaches 2016/2012
Figure 11.5: Headteacher incident follow-up approaches 2016/2012
Bases: secondary headteacher 63 (2016) 92 (2012), primary headteacher 98 (2016) 81 (2012)

Figure 11.6: Teacher incident follow-up approaches 2016/2012
Figure 11.6: Teacher incident follow-up approaches 2016/2012
Bases: secondary teacher 549 (2016) 696 (2012), primary teacher 148 (2016) 160 (2012)

Figure 11.7: Support staff incident follow-up approaches
Figure 11.7: Support staff incident follow-up approaches
Bases: secondary support staff 168 (2016) 192 (2012), primary support staff 139 (2016) 130 (2012)

Exploring 'ethos'

11.70 In the qualitative research with staff and parents, we explored their views on ethos: what happens in a school with a strong, positive ethos and what happens (or fails to happen) in a school with a less positive ethos? In the qualitative research with pupils, we did not ask directly about ethos – but their views on this emerged in the discussions about other aspects of their school experience ( e.g. what engages them in their learning and what makes them feel supported).

11.71 There was a great deal of consistency in the themes that emerged. There was some difference in emphasis but staff, parents and pupils – in both the primary and secondary sectors, and in large and small schools across Scotland – were agreed on the characterisics of a school with a positive ethos.

11.72 In some ways this is not surprising: few would argue with the features discussed below. Nonetheless, the research confirms the importance of these features and provides reassurance that there is a consensus on what schools should be aspiring towards. That is not to say that it is easy to create and maintain a postive school ethos – but it does suggest that there are no hidden or unexpected aspects currently being missed by policy makers and practitioners.

11.73 The apects of ethos discussed by participants were closely inter-related but can be broadly categorised as relating to:

  • what a school should be
  • school values
  • what happens (or needs to happen) to become that school and embody those values.

11.74 Each is discussed below.

What a school should be: a community

11.75 A school with a positive ethos was commonly described as feeling like a 'community' or a 'family' where all pupils, their parents and staff feel known, included, valued, safe, supported and cared for. Pupils talked about 'not being ignored'.

It's a real community. Like a wee village.

And the kids love that as well.

Primary teachers

It's just a family.

P5 parents

It's just got this feeling of warmth.

S1 parents

Everyone would feel part of one big society [in a school with a positive ethos].

Support staff (school where they did not feel this)

11.76 Supportiveness was a dominant theme. Ultimately, this meant everyone being supportive of each other but, in particular, participants stressed the importance of staff being supportive of pupils, the SMT being supportive of staff and pupils being supportive of each other.

11.77 Being part of the wider community was also seen as important.

Values

11.78 Headteachers recommended developing and agreeing values with the pupils ' so they can articulate the values in their own words' and then making explicit reference to those values day-to-day.

11.79 There was strong agreement about the most important values:

  • respect (above all)
  • fairness (raised by pupils, in particular), equality and inclusion
  • honesty and trust
  • setting high expectations/aspirations for pupils regardless of their background (in relation to attainment and positive destinations)
  • setting high standards and 'not letting little things slip' (in relation to behaviour).

It is very much about pride in themselves and respect, and if I come across poor behaviour, okay, you try to handle things as calmly as possible and respectfully as possible.

Secondary headteacher

What needs to happen to become a community and embody these values: behaviours and activities

11.80 The following behaviours and activities – the ways to become the kind of community described above – were commonly raised in the discussions.

Leadership

11.81 All categories of staff identifed the need for strong leadership from the headteacher (in particular) and the SMT. This involved:

  • imbuing a sense of purpose – having long term aims and targets
  • leading by example
  • having empathy for staff
  • being optimistic and solution focused – 'turning negatives into positives'
  • being visible (in corridors, in classrooms, around the playground, in the canteen) and approachable – from the point of view of pupils, staff and parents.

Communication, openness and sharing among staff

11.82 Lack of communication and staff cliques were frequently cited as evidence of a poor ethos. Linked to this was staff keeping problems in the classroom to themselves and not feeling that they could safely discuss problems with colleagues.

I think communication is key, that there wasn't a forum to voice their opinions to say, this is the issue, can we try and resolve it as a team? Rather than internalising the problem. […] I think that lack of communication between teachers and management meant that we were dealing with the same issues, but nothing was being resolved.

Primary teacher

11.83 In contrast, openness, honesty about problems, and sharing resources and ideas were seen as features of a positive ethos.

11.84 The visibility and approachability of the headteacher and SMT (noted under 'Leadership' above) were also viewed as key here.

11.85 To help improve communication and relationships, staff talked about making an effort to spend time together ( e.g. having coffee together, having lunch together on a Friday, having a 'social half hour').

Everyone's voice being heard

11.86 The importance of the 'pupil voice' was another dominant theme – particularly from pupils themselves. Pupil councils were the most commonly mentioned vehicle for this and pupil surveys were also suggested.

11.87 More generally, there was agreement that 'everyone being listened to' was important. This included staff and parents as well as pupils.

Yes, being an equal part of the school, being an equal and listened to, I suppose, I think that has changed, I think she [new headteacher] has pushed that forward much more.

Researcher: It sounds like you're saying that has created a more positive ethos?

It has.

I think parents want to get more involved as well, as you said, they see things are...you know, they are not just filling in a form for it to be filed away, you fill in a form and actually change might happen.

P5 parents

Keeping calm and not shouting

11.88 Pupils were particulary concerned about teachers keeping calm and not shouting. As well as being disruptive and creating an unpleasant, tense atmosphere, they felt that being shouted at led to defensiveness and an escalation of issues.

By the time everybody is shouted at, the bell goes, and that's you done the lesson, just a lesson of people getting shouted at.

[…]

I think the teachers get stressed and that's why they start shouting.

Once the teacher is stressed that's it.

S4 pupils

Researcher: If you were in charge of teacher training what would you say to them to do?

Don't take things so like...

Like serious.

Like if someone makes a mistake don't start shouting at them, just calm down

P5 pupils

11.89 Staff from all categories agreed that keeping calm and not shouting helped promote a positive ethos. Some schools had a 'no shouting' policy.

Fun events to build relationships

11.90 Opportunities to have fun and to 'have a laugh' together were felt to boost morale and help develop relationships (among pupils, among staff and between staff and pupils). A wide range of different events were mentioned: a staff panto, an X Factor competition, dressing up for Hallowe'en (all of which gave pupils a chance to laugh at their teachers and 'see that they are human'), a bake-off challenge and a running challenge.

11.91 Parents, in particular, felt that opportunities for pupils to have enjoyable, new experiences was a sign of a positive ethos.

Celebrating success

11.92 Celebrating success (in a wide range of areas – specifically not just academic success) was frequently mentioned by staff and parents as very positive. It was felt to promote inclusion and a sense of community.

School uniform

11.93 In some schools, the uniform was seen as an aspect of ethos because it was (variously) seen as a way of promoting a sense of belonging, a sense of pride in the school, and pupils' sense of pride in themselves. In order to fulfill those functions, it was explicitly talked about in those ways with pupils.


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