What’s Working in Schools

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Professor Sheryl Hemphill from the Australian Catholic University's School of Psychology has found that there are a number of common generic elements and themes apparent and are shared by schools who have established safe and positive learning environments.

Consistent & Transparent Outcomes

Consistency in enforcement in codes of conduct and responses to breaches of these codes plays a key role in good behaviour management approaches. This includes:

  • ensuring that all members of the school community, including students, teachers, and families, were familiar with the Student Engagement Policy and behavioural expectations
  • providing students with the opportunity to participate in the development of behavioural expectations as a group, thus promoting adherence to these shared expectations
  • providing clear warnings when behaviour is not acceptable, followed by implementing a staged response relative to the seriousness of the behaviour
  • ensuring that classroom practices and behaviour management are in line with the Student Engagement Policy
  • monitoring and recording behaviours to ensure that each teacher responds in a similar manner, further emphasising the consistent management of student behaviour.

Procedural Fairness

Consistency is also a key component of procedural justice or fairness. In this context, procedural fairness relates to the procedure followed in the behaviour management process, as distinct from the outcome.  This can involve:

  • allowing all parties to voice their version of events, ensuring that thorough evidence was collected, and consideration was given to the context and circumstances of the event
  • giving clear, evidence based reasons for decisions made
  • in the case of suspension or expulsion, procedural fairness would involve ensuring that thorough evidence is collected, that the student is given an opportunity to voice their version of events, and that the student’s individual education needs are considered prior to making the decision to suspend or expel.

Inclusive Approaches

Exhibiting an inclusive approach to behaviour management is also important. Inclusive approaches that allow the student to remain at school should be considered, such as an in-school suspension. Principals are recommended to seek the assistance of a Student Support Group or a Student Wellbeing Officer to assist in this process of avoiding exclusion whilst simultaneously increasing support and ensuring that students are held accountable for their behaviour.

Recognition of At-risk Students

Principals and staff face the difficult task of balancing the needs of individual students against the needs of the wider student body. Effective Student Engagement Policies will highlight the importance of identifying students with increased needs for targeted behavioural support. This could include:

  • shifting from a punitive to a preventive approach when addressing behavioural issues
  • providing at-risk students with opportunities to engage in programs and activities which foster pro-social skills and alternatives to conflict
  • targeted responses such as allowing at-risk students to take a break from the yard during recess or lunch and instead spend this time supervised in the library or art room 
  • collaborating with other support services such as Student Support Services (SSS) workforces, Primary Welfare Officers, DHS case workers, police or community health services to support both the student and their family.

Promoting Positive Behaviours

Dealing with unproductive or challenging behaviour is only one side of the coin when it comes to behaviour management. The vast majority of the student body do the right thing and cause minimal disruption. Promoting positive behaviours should include recognising and reinforcing positive and pro-social behaviours. This can be done a number of ways including:

  • awarding certificates of merit
  • class-wide reward systems acknowledging collective and individual efforts
  • recognition of students in the newsletter
  • contact with parents to convey the child’s achievements.

Record Keeping & Data Collection

The importance of record keeping and collection of data is another key characteristic of good behaviour management plans. It can also play a key role in the development and monitoring of the Student Engagement Policy. Specifically, record-keeping  can serve a number of purposes including allowing staff to monitor the behaviour and wellbeing of individual students, ensuring that student behaviour is being responded to in a consistent and staged manner and support principals in the decision-making process and demonstrate that fair procedures have been followed.

Family Engagement

Establishing and maintaining meaningful contact with families can be a challenging but worthwhile endeavour.  Families are an integral part of the school community. Ensuring that behavioural expectations are upheld is a responsibility shared between the school and the family. In the same manner that schools are accountable for student behaviour and safety, so too are students’ families. ​​​​​