4 ways to manage behaviour in sixth form

Sixth-formers present their own behaviour challenges – here's how I tackle them, says Yousuf Hamid 
14th November 2020, 6:00am


4 ways to manage behaviour in sixth form

How Teachers Can Manage Behaviour In School Sixth Form

We might get sympathy from our colleagues when telling them about the trials of Year 8, last period on a Friday, but few give you the same reaction if you talk about behaviour in sixth form. 

And yet sixth form is a much-understated challenge when it comes to behaviour. 

There may be a lax behaviour policy, limited formal sanctions available and there is the challenge of students struggling to adapt to being given responsibility to manage their own workload and timekeeping.

Behaviour management in sixth form

I teach in the sixth form for more than half of the week, and to meet this challenge I rely on the following four things. 

1. My room, my rules

It is important to resist the urge to think that, at 16 years old, students will know the expectations of how to behave in a classroom. 

Just like any other year group, I always start by going through exactly what the expectations are in my classroom. I discuss routines for everything from what happens when I am speaking to when they want to ask a question, handing in homework and, this year, how to ensure that their desks are wiped clean at the end of a lesson. 

Students will come from a variety of different schools with different social norms. It is crucial that we give them clear instructions about what is expected in our classroom. The certainty students get from clear expectation trumps any fear of them being patronised every time for me.

2. Make it clear that A level is different to GCSE

There will be some students in your class who coasted through their GCSE and managed to obtain reasonable grades through cramming - they may be labouring under the delusion that they can do the same at A level. 

I start my A-level classes with a few cautionary tales of students who felt that they could do this and failed or retook Year 12.

Similarly, I always ensure that the first week has an extensive level of homework and expected reading. Students immediately realise that things are different in sixth form, and that the level of independent learning is going to step up a gear.

Similarly, I link everything to their final A-level grade and post-18 plans. More than any other students, these are the young people for whom we can explicitly link every action to their futures

3. Sweat the small things

It is (hopefully) unlikely that a student is going to be openly defiant or aggressive, but the danger is death by a thousand cuts. It is poor punctuality, poor homework completion and a sloppy dress code that can lead to a slippery slope of low standards.

I always try and ensure I am on this straight away with clear conversations with parents, internal escalation points and following the behavioural policy (sending students away if they are late, if this is your school's policy). More than any other year group, I find sixth-formers need to understand that, yes, these rules really do apply to them and will be enforced.

4. Praise and parental involvement

It can feel like students get to an age where parental involvement is not needed but I find that sixth-formers still respond as well as any other students to both positive and negative phone calls home. I have 6ft 18-year-olds asking if they could get a sticker in their book like last time to show their parents.

An overlooked but vital element of ensuring excellent behaviour is to ensure that there is a regular feedback loop home so parents are aware if students are meeting the academic expectations so their children can thrive.

Yousuf Hamid is a business and economics teacher at a high school in London

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