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Justice for all

Treating all children the same is not easy, says Sue Cowley - because some are just more likeable than others.Consistency: the Holy Grail of headteachers. If only all the staff would apply the same policy, in the same way, to all the children. There are good reasons why they should: fairness, certainty, a sense of community, letting the pupils know what to expect.

But it's complicated. Teachers are human beings - some days we can't be bothered to crack down on every minor infringement. And there's an unspoken truth in teaching, an elephant in the room. It's hard to treat all children the same, because there are some that are more likeable than others. We have to fight our instincts to treat all pupils equally.

Apply the policy whenever you can: sort the gum, the phones, the ties - but don't forget the big picture. Understand which battles to fight to win the war; know when a relaxed and flexible approach will help you build positive relationships.

There's no shame in differentiating your behaviour management approaches, just as you differentiate your lessons. Don't adapt the rules, but adapt the way you apply the rules as the situation requires. Yes, all children are equal, but some need a helping hand to be as equal as the rest

Sue Cowley is an educational author, trainer and presenter. Her books include Guerilla Guide to Teaching (Continuum). For more information, visit

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