10 things to remember when using behaviour reports

When behaviour is an issue, reports can help towards improvement - but only when used correctly, says Jarlath O'Brien

Behaviour: Teachers need the a sensitive approach to using behaviour reports, writes Jarlath O'Brien

It’s that time of year when you may be starting to consider using behaviour reports.

If your tried-and-tested, lower-level strategies haven’t had the success you hoped for, it can be an obvious next step. 

But have you given sufficient thought to what the report is for and how it may be perceived by the child?  


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Here are my top tips for getting the most from them:

How to make the most of behaviour reports


Be specific

The report shouldn’t be used to judge the whole child. Being specific about what improvements are needed – staying in their seat, modifying their language or keeping their hands to themselves, for example – allows the child to understand what is required and, just as importantly, prevents us from judging the whole child. 

Reports should only be focused on what needs to improve. Any other misdemeanours should be dealt with the same way we would for the rest of our students. 

Whole-child reports that put smiley face/frowny face emojis or ticks/crosses in boxes at the end of each lesson are likely to be ineffective in getting at the root cause.

Back it up

A report that places all the emphasis on the child to improve is a demanding one. 

The report should essentially be the front end of the support measures you are using to help the child make the necessary improvements. 

Prioritise 

When deciding what needs improving, it can be unhelpful to provide a long list for the child to tackle. Choose the thing that needs to improve most urgently first and focus on that.

Listing someone’s many faults to them never goes down well – we certainly wouldn’t do it in an appraisal with a colleague, so a still-developing child is unlikely to be any more receptive.

Be realistic

Any report that holds a child to a higher standard than their classmates is unfair and will surely be seen as so by the child. We’re seeking improvements, not perfection.

Recognise progress 

Be sure to capture progress along the way. Reserving recognition for when the child no longer displays that behaviour (which could be a long way away) misses the chance to help the child (and the staff) understand that what they are doing is working and that they should do more of it and that we should all keep going.

Avoid rewards

Dangling an incentive seems intuitive, but takes the focus away from why we want the child to do what is required.

We need to hammer home the message that behaving is worth it for its own sake, not worth it in order to secure some here-today-gone-tomorrow reward.

Involve parents 

Parents always want their child to do well, so involving them from the beginning is good sense.

They can ask better questions at home about their child’s day rather than “How did today go?” and sharing the report with them will help there, too.

Avoid the temptation to offer rewards or sanctions at home for things that happen at school. I’m a firm believer that they stay separate and that things that happen at home or school are dealt with in that place only. 

Review and refine

Keep a close eye on progress (or lack of it) by regularly reviewing the effectiveness of the report and refining if necessary. A child on report for a sustained period of time is probably immune to its effects.

Involve the Sendco 

If a child has SEND then ensure the Sendco is involved from the word go – this will ensure that the support offered is suitable and doesn’t contradict anything that is already in place for the child’s SEND needs.

Be discreet

Reports should not be tools to shame children, so the subtlety with which you go about maintaining the report can help the child buy into the process.

Jarlath O'Brien works in mainstream and special schools as a teacher and leader. His latest book, Leading Better Behaviour – A Guide for School Leaders, is due out in March, published by Corwin

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