Chocolates, anyone?

11th March 2005 at 00:00
Anat Arkin on materials designed to help you improve attendance and behaviour

So what incentives could you introduce to make pupils behave well and attend every day? When Denefield school asked them, many replied simply:

"Chocolate". Other suggestions included letters home to parents praising pupils when they had done well, and tickets to go swimming or bowling.

And their recommendations on sanctions for poor behaviour included one or two pupils who wanted to bring back the cane. But most suggested loss of privileges such as time out with friends at breaks and lunchtimes.

Needless to say, Denefield has not taken to caning miscreants or doling out confectionery to those who toe the line. A new rewards and sanctions system introduced last September has incorporated most of the children's other suggestions. The results are encouraging.

"Certainly in terms of behaviour in the classroom there's been a reduction in the number of incidents reported," says Dinah Reed, deputy head of this 11 to 18 school on the outskirts of Reading in Berkshire. "Also in terms of pupils failing to do their homework, the trend has definitely been downwards."

Some of the methods used were adapted from a toolkit of materials designed to help secondary schools. Ms Reed stresses that Respect for Learning, as the Denefield system is called, owes as much to the ideas and experience of Denefield staff as it does to the key stage 3 materials. They were useful, however, says Ms Reed. "They helped our thinking in terms of auditing what we were already doing and in putting a pupil questionnaire together."

The materials are one of ten toolkit units produced as part of the behaviour and attendance strand of the key stage 3 strategy. Local authority consultants help schools carry out a behaviour and attendance audit divided into the ten areas that the kits cover.

"So if after going through the audit a school says, for example, we really need to look at bullying, then the toolkit unit would be there to help staff address the issues," explains Marilyn Toft, director of the KS3 strand for behaviour and attendance. She says that far from representing a top-down initiative from the DfES, the toolkits were produced because schools said they needed support.

The type of information the toolkits cover - helping schools analyse the causes of misbehaviour, a checklist to measure the emotional health of a school - was available to teachers before. But as Sheila Loy, behaviour and attendance consultant for West Berkshire, points out, it was scattered in different places. "It is like having our own rich reference library of ideas and activities, especially issues to do with classroom management and behaviour," she says.

Behaviour and attendance consultants help schools select and use relevant activities. For Furze Platt senior school in Maidenhead that meant looking at some of the practical activities concerning attendance.

"Although we didn't have a significant problem with attendance, it probably wasn't as good as it could be for a school in our free school meal bracket and in our area, and so we began to look at the reasons why," says the headteacher, Tanya White.

A pupil questionnaire produced useful data on attitudes in Furze Platt's largely affluent catchment area. More than 16 per cent of pupils said their families regularly take them on holiday during term time. The school is now taking steps to persuade parents that this can have an impact on children's exam results.

The Furze questionnaire also asked for pupils' suggestions for reducing unauthorised absence.

"One of the interesting things for us was the number of references to making lesson more interesting and more fun," says Tanya White.

All toolkits will be available from April 1 in PDF and Microsoft Word formats. Go to issuesbehaviour You can also order CD-Rom copies

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