Respect begins in the nursery

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Primary schools that deal firmly with agressive or bullying youngsters have found their programmes benefit pupils and staff alike, reports Anne Horner

Schools in Swansea are nipping problems in the bud with behaviour management tactics developed to show even the youngest children how to treat each other with respect.

At Terrace Road primary, nursery teacher Anne Hughes developed a programme for her school after receiving a General Teaching Council for Wales bursary. Now she hopes to publish her research so that other schools can benefit from her findings. She began by working with the school's special educational needs co-ordinator and the special needs learning support assistant studying children's behaviour in the playground. They paid particular attention to the type of language pupils used with each other.

Mrs Hughes explains why it was thought necessary to tackle the behaviour of such young children. She says: "It is the way society has gone. I feel that the children do not know how to speak to each other. Arguments happen and they misread situations. They don't react the way that they should. The result is that when a child bumps into another in the yard at playtime the incident is likely to be misread as deliberate.

"We are trying to teach the children how to distinguish between an accident and something intentional. A small percentage of children may not have time when their parents read with them, play games with them or teach them the necessary skills. When they go home they will play with computer games and watch television. Tackling behaviour in the playground is key as research suggests that three-quarters of bullying happens there."

Mrs Hughes adds: "We learned so much from listening to the children. They saw nothing wrong in the way they were speaking to each other. They were becoming aggressive quite quickly."

As a result of their observations a lunchtime club was set up for the troublemakers. Eight children were asked to sign a contract to give up half an hour of their lunch-break every day for a term.

Mrs Hughes says: "It means they are not getting into mischief in the playground and then coming into class angry. They get to sit in a quiet room away from the noise of the dining room. There's soft music playing and they talk with the learning support assistant. A lot of these children do not sit down for a family meal. All of the children who have done this really enjoyed it." These pupils have also devised a puppet show which they have shown to the infant classes.

Mrs Hughes says that as a result of the programme teachers no longer find that the first 15 minutes of the lesson are wasted with tales of the "he's been doing this, she's been doing that" variety.

The programme is used with the whole age range, but has been most successful with key stage 2 children. The pupils in the lunchtime club also get a one-to-one behaviour review with a learning support assistant once a week when they can say what they have found difficult over the week and what has improved.

At Gorseinon infants in Swansea, teacher Julie Jones also felt that younger children's behaviour problems tend to be overlooked. She was inspired by the Welsh Assembly's anti-bullying guidance to look deeper into the problem. She also received a GTC Wales grant for her work.

She says: "Anti-bullying strategies tend to be aimed at junior and comprehensive schools where it is more of an issue. In infants' schools we think in terms of fighting and arguing rather than bullying but I felt it needed to be addressed. The seeds of bullying can be seen in the playground in infants' school. We concentrated on break times to make children aware that if someone hurts or upsets them they must share it."

Pupils were given the message that they should not suffer in silence and were instructed whom to tell. A playground rap was also developed to give the message "it's not kind to hit" and there is a listening tree where pupils are encouraged to write their wishes on a leaf to demonstrate that their feelings are taken into account and that it is important to share their problems.

The school focused on raising the status of lunchtime supervisors by putting them in charge of a reward system. Dinner ladies also hand out badges for good behaviour such as "Thank you for being nice" and "Thank you for being polite", and a trophy is a awarded to the quietest table at lunchtime. Football-style cards are used to check pupils' behaviour - first a yellow warning, then an orange card ordering a child to stand by the wall and think about their behaviour, and then the red card, signalling that the pupil must see the headteacher.

Julie Jones adds: "I think parents are very sensitive to the issue of bullying and they seem to think that teachers are not interested. It's really important for parents to feel that we are doing something and to see that we are encouraging self-respect right from the start. The silence is the thing that we have to break down. Our role in the infants school is to build up self-confidence."


* Traffic light system to tackle bad behaviour

* Badges for pupils as rewards for being polite or nice

* A listening tree so pupils can express themselves

* A telling culture so pupils do not suffer in silence

* Isolating a group of troublemakers in a lunchtime club where they have quality time talking with a lunchtime supervisor

* One-to-one follow-up sessions for the troublemakers to report their progress each week


Julie Jones and Anne Hughes along with Shelley Brown, of Always primary in Newport, will speak about Poor Behaviour? Prevention Tactics on Thursday, May 26 at 2pm.

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