What is the point of DfE behaviour advisers? ask heads

The Department for Education should ‘explain the rationale’ behind its behaviour experts before spending a ‘large sum of public money’

Amy Gibbons and John Roberts

Union leaders have questioned the way  DfE behaviour hub money is being spent.

The Department for Education (DfE) should set out exactly what a team of new behaviour advisers will do to help schools and explain how and why were appointed, a headteachers’ leader has said.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School Leaders (ASCL), said it was important that the new behaviour hub programme does not end up being “another example of government bluster…that turns into a damp squib.”

And Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) has also questioned the way in which public money is being spent on the programme.


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It comes as Tes revealed a breakdown for how the £10 million being spent on behaviour hubs is being allocated. 

The government has named 22 schools or trusts that will act as leads for the programme.

The majority of the cash – around £7 million – will go towards reimbursing schools for time spent on the programme by teachers and senior leaders in the lead schools and in those schools with challenging behaviour that are receiving support.

A further £2 million will cover the costs of the Education Development Trust charity, which has been appointed to manage delivery of the programme after winning a contract.

The final £1 million will fund the work of seven behaviour experts, including the DfE’s pupil behaviour tsar, Tom Bennett, who will develop and deliver specialist training and resources for schools. 

Mr Barton said: “Before spending a large sum of public money on behaviour advisers, the government should be explaining the rationale for appointing them in the first place.

“What exactly will they do and how will their work improve outcomes for young people and support schools?

“We need to remember that there are many behaviour experts in our schools and colleges – they are called teachers.

“It is important that the appointment of behaviour advisers really does bring something extra to the party and doesn’t just end up being yet another example of government bluster that turns into the customary damp squib.”

Ms Bousted said that the DfE had “not explained clearly who is being paid what and on what basis”.

Commenting on the funding being provided to behaviour experts, she asked: “On what basis are these payments being made and for what services?

“Who judges whether the advice the behaviour ‘experts’ give is relevant and effective, and a good use of tax payers’ money? Who is involved in the trust appointed to run the programme?

“The fact that we do not know the answers to these fundamental questions raises serious questions about how the government increasingly conducts itself, lacking openness and transparency in the spending of public money.”

The DfE’s behaviour experts were appointed after a tendering process in 2019.

Criteria for successful applicants included:

  • Having a comprehensive understanding of the government’s behaviour policy.
  • Having an in-depth understanding of the evidence that underpins excellent behaviour management and be able to articulate what that means for the way in which teachers and headteachers develop a whole school culture.
  • Being able to make sound judgements about school behaviour management.
  • Having experience of working in challenging schools and a proven track record for improving standards in behaviour.
  • Having extensive experience of supporting schools to improve their behaviour.

The department also ran a tendering process for the organisation appointed to run the management of the behaviour hub programme.

When the programme was announced, Tom Bennett, the DfE’s lead behaviour adviser, said: “The hubs project is designed to start reasonably modestly, build a model that works, and then expand into a size and shape that supports more schools that need it.

“This has the capacity to make a real and substantial difference to the lives and futures of many thousands of children and families, and I cannot wait to see it develop.”

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Amy Gibbons and John Roberts

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