A new approach to pupil behaviour management that uses restorative-practice sessions to promote values of right and wrong has led to accusations that “teacher negativity” is to blame for poor behaviour, a union has warned.
The Pivotal Approach to Behaviour Management, which is used in more than 1,000 schools and colleges, is being advocated by consultants from Pivotal Education Ltd.
The Pivotal website says the method involves “shaping the behaviour of adults” and creating a “platform for change based around the one behaviour we can control absolutely…our own”.
And the company's executive director, Paul Dix, has written a book, When the Adults Change, Everything Changes, which is billed as showing "that it’s far more effective to change the behaviour of the adults in a school than it is to try to change the behaviour of the children".
Pivotal said its approach is never about blaming teachers or lessons for poor behaviour.
But concerns from NASUWT members have prompted the union to carry out a survey to gauge opinion on the approach, which advocates “restorative sessions” as its fifth pillar of good practice.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said that “in principle” there was no problem with restorative-behaviour practices. But she said teachers often did not have enough time to take part in the required 15-minute discussions at the end of the day, on top of their “excessive workload”.
“Like any system, it can be used well or it can be abused, but at the moment, all we’re hearing is the abuse of it," she said.
“I’ve had an example raised with me where the senior management in a particular school went back after they’d been trained on this, and called a staff meeting and said 'We know what the problem of pupil indiscipline is in this school – you’re all too negative to the pupils'. So immediately the teachers were being blamed.”
She said it was “staggering” that at the same school using the Pivotal approach, teachers had been told to wear a “pledge ribbon” on their lanyard.
“The ribbons show what teachers pledged to do for pupils, for example, to ‘not be negative’," said Ms Keates. "But immediately the pupils are empowered because they know the teachers are the ones with the pressure on them.”
Ofsted has already warned that teachers are being undermined during "restorative justice" sessions held by schools. But some teachers have said the approach has had a positive effect in their schools.
Martyn Dadds, managing director of CPI International (of which Pivotal Education Ltd is a division) said: “Pivotal Education recognises the invaluable contribution that teachers make to our education system, and we are committed to empowering them to confidently and safely respond to a range of behavioural situations.
"We are proud that, across thousands of schools and colleges that we have worked in, 97 per cent rate our training as excellent.
“The concerns raised here are not an accurate reflection of the Pivotal approach, and our training clearly states that teachers do not cause poor behaviour. However, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with the union involved to discuss the issues they raise.”