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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Good, bad or just ugly?

Many teachers face a huge dilemma when it comes to dealing with kids who have statements, especially if they are focussed on behaviour. On one hand, the natural instinct is to feel sympathetic support for such children, especially because they may be dealing with a raft of other issues that affect their experience of school. We aren’t doing our jobs if we aren’t attempting to engage and educate every child in our eyeline. But, on the other hand, a tension occurs if their behaviour starts to defy the order of the classroom, especially when it occurs on a regular basis. How to strike a happy medium? Or is there one?

1. Read their Individual Education Plan (IEP): some schools provide these through their SENCOs; they should be a brief summary of the reason for their statement, plus some suggestions about strategies that might prove useful. With the greatest deference to the many diligent professionals who create these documents, these are advice sheets, and must be interpreted to suit the dimensions of your classroom, not the other way around. Often such statements will include well-meant but awkward advice such as ‘allow them to leave the room when they feel like it.’ Now that might sound like a reasonable adjustment to make, but such accommodations stick out like a sore thumb for the other kids. Remember them? They wonder why they can’t just up sticks when the wanderlust seizes them, and who can blame them? Pretty soon, they quite fancy an IEP too. So make sure that you consider the recommendations, but absorb them reflectively.

2. Consider the nature of their situation: do they have a condition or not? If they have been identified with something ontologically verifiable, such as autism, then the adjustments must come from you. But if they have merely been identified as ‘quick tempered’ then all I hear is ‘behaves badly’, and you’ll find that many children in that category magically CAN behave when given loving boundaries backed up with consequences. Funny that. You’d think that they were human beings with free will…oh, hang on: they are. The danger of medicalising perfectly normal (albeit extreme) segments of the behaviour spectrum is one of the most dangerous developments in recent decades.

3. Develop a home relationship. I don’t mean take them out for coffee (although you could), but if you have a child with a statement, then make sure that you make some links between yourself and the home carer, because in most cases they will know all about the strategies that work best for getting little Sammy or Sunita into a learning space. Few of us are experts in the myriad afflictions of the human condition, and it’s best if we share our resources with those that have them, rather than start from scratch and pretend to be experts.

Good luck


Read more from Tom here on his personal blog, or follow him on Twitter here.

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