Behaviour management: What are Ofsted looking for?

Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management

Who cares? There, I got that off my chest. The job of the inspectors is to assess if behaviour aids the learning. As long as you can show that, then no one has any right to judge you as unsatisfactory (note to self: find out what word currently means ‘rubbish’ this week in Ofsted patois). If I could be granted one wish by the Teacher Fairy it would be this: the freedom to teach without trying to please Ofsted. It is as bad as teaching to the test. Our job is to be, in the words of the great educational theorists Bill S Preston (Esq) and Theodore Logan, ‘excellent to one another’ in the classroom.

So what kind of behaviour really matters? I see three levels to focus on:

1. Compliance

As Russell Crowe’s grizzled sea captain says in the film Master and Commander, ‘Men must be governed.’ Not just men, but women and children too…at least in a classroom. Children simultaneously resent and crave boundaries. A class that lacks structure and consequences is a class that could tip into mutiny at any moment. Of course, you might believe that children will self-govern collectively out of altruism and self-interest. It’s a nice theory, but given that no community has ever proven this to be possible, we’ll park it for now. Clear boundaries, clear outcomes for meeting and defying those boundaries and the persistence to show kids you know what you mean are the keys to this level of behaviour.

2. Trust

This is when children have become so habituated into good manners that they commit to them even when they aren’t being directly monitored or under fear of the captain’s eye. Some children possess this instinctively. Others will take time to develop the ability to self-regulate. For these children, the boundaries need to crack into electrical life with every transgression until they work out the basic sense in compliance. Remember, it is for their benefit and the benefit of the classroom.

3. Independent behaviours

This is the Boss level of behaviour: when children actively seek to perform tasks that benefit the classroom, their education, or the education of others. For example, they might come in with something interesting concerning a subject you teach that they think the class might enjoy. Or they produce work− unasked for− looking for your praise or direction. That’s when you know behaviour has become character, and you now have the subsequent challenge of stretching the class even further. When kids are like this, you have a rocket you can send to the stars.

Of course, these levels are hierarchical; you can’t usually have 3 without 1. I seek compliance at first, and then tease out independent behaviours by setting tasks of incremental trust and challenge, being careful to remember that boundaries can be reined in at any time. If you do that, any inspector should have plenty to write about. And if they don’t, who really gives a fig?

Good luck



Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state schoolin Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletterson behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter

His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum/ Bloomsbury


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