What you said
"They've become too familiar over the years they've been together. To say that you've learnt loads from your experience with them doesn't mean you've given up on them. The measure of a good teacher is reflection."
"Don't bother starting a whole new `this is how things are going to be from now on' system because it is unlikely they will buy into it at this stage. Appeal to their mature sides. Perhaps you could `buddy up' with a Year 7 class and get them helping out with reading once a week."
The expert view
I empathise with your situation. I have seen some of the strongest teachers struggle with just one class when no one else would mess them about. This can be due to a strange mix of students who, when dealt with individually are absolutely fine, but when put in a group become difficult to manage. I am guessing that you are not having any major problems, but rather you have a severe case of low-level disruption.
Some people might sit back and let next year go along, dealing merely with the most extreme behaviour. However, it is good to see that you want to "crack" this class before they leave. As an "outstanding" teacher, I have no doubt that you have used seating plans, detentions and contacting parents. As such, I would ask the head of year for support.
Our school uses the end of year prom as a deterrent. Each student has a "Passport to the Prom" to complete, which enables them to buy a ticket. On this, there are sections relating to completing coursework, attending revision sessions and behaviour. Form tutors have to comment on attitudes in form time and this can exclude someone from the Prom. If it is possible to bring this in for next year, then I would recommend it. By making students see that this important event might not be open to them, you will find a number being more responsive to your instructions.
Chris Wheeler is head of RE at Helsby High in Cheshire. For more behaviour advice, go to www.tes.co.ukbehaviourforum.