The Behaviour Question

9th November 2012 at 00:00

I have a Year 6 class in which almost 40 per cent of pupils have special educational needs, including two with statements of emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD). One of the statemented children is particularly needy - he did not spend much time in class last year, struggles with reading and writing and can often be rude and aggressive towards other children, as well as a distraction. If we are doing something he doesn't want to do, his default reaction is to sulk and whinge, then refuse and finally just walk straight out of class (via the main door or fire exit) and either wander around or go to the EBD unit. I'm at my wits' end.

What you said


We have a similar situation with a pupil who will run and hide. We think she likes the attention. So we have decided to not feed into the attention-getting. We are now giving her a pass to carry that says "The teacher is aware that I am out of the room and not to worry". When other teachers see this they are to leave her alone. Our hope is that the pupil will become bored and return to class.


If a child walks out of my class (also Year 6) then I leave them to it. That child then has to make that time up for me and discuss why they walked out. This has worked so far.

The expert view

There is one thing I need to ask - have you tried sanctions? If a child is desperately seeking attention and gets it from storming out, then they will never amend their behaviour. Rather, it is being fed and rewarded by exactly what they want. Try the following:

1. Use praise whenever he does something commendable - this can be pastoral or work-related. Do it whenever you can to show him that good behaviour gets attention.

2. Make sure that bad behaviour is punished. The child needs to see that if he does something unpleasant then the world becomes a darker, less agreeable place. Have a place to which he can be removed whenever he kicks off or, better still, when he shows signs of imminently kicking off. Just have him taken out to a quiet place where he doesn't have the attention of his peers. Don't let it escalate to the point where he walks out.

3. I wouldn't just let him wander around with a pass, however, as this creates a sense of power for him and says he can do as he pleases. If you're waiting for him to amend his ways, you'll be waiting for ever. He needs interventions that are consistent, fair and monotonously predictable until he works out that it's easier to behave than not to. He needs this now, or he'll simply repeat his behaviours into young adult life. If he does that in secondary, he's doomed to a lifetime of underachievement and living on the fringes of society. Worse, it could reinforce his antisocial behaviour. Good luck.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his blog,, or follow him on Twitter at @tombennett71. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum

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