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The Behaviour Management Database

November 30, 2006

OFSTED had committed Stafford Green to improving the “small amount of unacceptable behaviour”. Bob, the Head, decided to turn to technology for a solution.

Well I say a solution. Perhaps a “cost free activity that can be listed on forms to create the impression of action” would be a better description. Kevin, a member of middle management, had brought the “Behaviour Management Database” with him from his previous school. It wasn’t copyrighted and could be run using software the school already had access to. The idea was that all disciplinary incidents would be logged in the database, along with the action taken (chosen from Detention, contacting parents, and referring it on to a variety of the usual suspects). Once recorded the records were available to all, so tutors could monitor their students and any action taken after a referral would also be logged on the database. This replaced an informal system of emails and private conversations that had previously been used to refer incidents. Detentions were still to be organised by the teacher issuing them, using the database to organise them would have been a step too far for Bill.

The following term the system was launched. First, in one or two departments, then across the school. To begin with staff were delighted that there was something being done about behaviour. Within a month it became clear that logging detentions made very little difference. In fact as it was setting a detention meant writing a detention slip for the student, making your own record of it, writing another detention slip when they didn’t turn up, making your own record of that, informing your Head of Department that they had missed it a second time, writing another slip for your Head of Department and passing it on to a form tutor or some similar combination of futile tasks. This process was not helped by having to log the detentions, and missed detentions, in the Behaviour Management Database and so staff stopped using it for detentions and only used it for referrals – which would usually have to be typed out for emails anyway. It became in effect an ongoing log of serious incidents that was then used to judge which year heads were doing a good job or not.

During the summer holidays I ran into Kevin in school. He told me that he was steering clear of doing anything more to develop the Behaviour Management Database. Apparently the way Bob was using it was creating resentment among middle managers and for the sake of his career he needed to disassociate himself from it.

At the start of the next term I was surprised to hear Bob describing it as the Behaviour Monitoring Database rather than the Behaviour Management Database. Moreover the “follow up” option had mysteriously disappeared. The system could tell you what students had done but not what had been done about it. No record existed of any actions taken by anybody other than the class teacher. It became nothing more than a record of serious incidents, useful to the Head when trying to refer students to outside agencies, completely without advantage for dealing with individual incidents of poor behaviour. I found this out to my cost when I reported an assault on me using the system and nothing was done until he assaulted me a second time and I went to the Deputy Head and demanded action. The action consisted of a brief warning, which failed to prevent a third assault on me.

There are two lessons to be learnt from the saga of the database. The first is one that I had already learnt from Woodrow Wilson school: there is no point having systems for recording incidents if nothing is done about them. The second lesson is more interesting. The database provides an accurate record of how bad a student can be in a British secondary school and still be allowed to attend.

The worst offenders for the two terms before I left the school were:

Jack Kelps (Year 8): 96 incidents of which 16 were verbal abuse of staff.
Kieran Smith (Year 7): 77 incidents of which 20 were verbal abuse of staff.
Kieran Kennings (Year 8): 75 incidents of which 12 were verbal abuse of staff.

Now remember that this is for two terms, less than 150 days of school. Also remember that by this point staff had long since stopped logging minor incidents and so every single incident involves at the very least the sort of disruptive behaviour that requires a student be removed from the classroom. Year 7 are aged from 11-12 and Year 8 from 12-13 but because of the time of year most incidents would have occurred while they were at the lower end of that age range. None of these three were permanently excluded – the LEA had virtually eliminated permanent exclusions. Also pupils were taught mainly in their tutor groups, so sach child’s incidents would have taken place within the same class in front of the same small audience, (the two year 8’s were actually in the same tutor group). Now imagine the effect that sort of concentrated poor behaviour has on the students that witness it. Now imagine your child was a student in that class, and you could have sent them there secure in the knowledge that OFSTED had declared it to be a very good school with a small amount of unacceptable behaviour. Is this a system fit for your child? Or for that matter is it fit for the teaching staff on the receiving end of almost fifty incidents of verbal abuse a term, just from these three boys?

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7 comments

  1. We ran exactly the same thing at Hell High. In the same way you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it, you don’t make the slightest difference to anyone’s behaviour by recording it.

    Its main uses were firstly to gain an overview of behaviour patterns – e.g. we went early into the one-lesson-after-lunch pattern because more incidents occurred after lunch than before – and secondly, to print them all off as incontrovertible evidence of prolonged and persistent wrongdoing when trying to get a kid permanently excluded or referred to the PRU.

    Shortly before I left, some other schools had shown an interest and we had a meeting to compare notes. One serious shortcoming was that whereas at Hell High, minor incidents so frequent as to be unpolicable e.g. swearing at the teacher, kicking the door, shouting out, were never recorded and were only logged when they reached “assaulted another pupil”, “racist comment”, “threw chair” level, other schools more fortunately placed had such heinous crimes as “wearing large earrings” and “interrupting teacher” on theirs.


  2. It is amusing to note that any war-tale of a bad school involves the immense reluctance to deal with problematic students, because the repercussions of the statistics of expulsion inevitably affect the school as a whole, and therefore the individual careers of those in charge. It is not a system of education in these cases, it is a system for all involved to get away with as much as possible by doing as little as possible – for both students and staff. This is what happens when we are obsessed with results and make the effect of dealing with problems to a negative result; a great big carpet over every school under which problems are pushed, for everyone who can to walk away from as quickly as possible.

    Education must have as its focus the student, each and every one of them. Focus on a statistical abstraction of the results of assessment of each student reduces education to what is practically its antithesis, brainless training in meaningless indicators of worth.


  3. You are so right in the lessons you draw from having databases of behaviour in schools. If nothing is done about the incidents all this system does is present the teacher with one more time consuming, administrative task.

    Anyone know exactly what it does take for a pupil to get permanently excluded now? Heard of an incident last week where a kid had been so badly injured by another that he had to have a plate inserted in his head. The violent student was excluded for a fortnight and afterwards given a mentor who according to my reliable source, “Does all his coursework for him.” As other kids in the school see it the boy received rewards for his dreadful behaviour.


  4. Elaine, most schools will exclude for a couple of weeks for assault on a pupil (make that a week for an assault on a member of staff), dealing on the premises, theft, vandalism, arson (all with incontrovertible CCTV proof) because it makes them look as if they’re Doing Something. But what the hell they have to do to be permanently excluded is beyond me. Attempted murder doesn’t seem to guarantee it, as a teacher in a school I was on supply at last week proved: a kid set fire to her hair with a lighter, caused a serious burn to her neck and got a three-day exclusion. The teacher was assured she wouldn’t have to teach this girl again, but lo! first day back she got a cover lesson and there the grinning little cow was.


  5. News is Good – I like you.


  6. Sounds all too familiar. Having spent 4 years in rough Aussie schools and then almost 3 very miserable years in UK gaols (sorry schools) I gave up and left to the international market. I felt then, and even more so now, that the “developed” world is moving in the wrong direction in Education. This was confirmed by so many others in the good overseas schools with similar stories from the US, UK, Canada and other so called “developed” countries. OMG! What a break, what a change! Finally I could teach the way teaching was meant to happen. Now as I teach in different parts of the world on contract (of course using a bit of common-sense in which schools I applied for) has been a blessing. To find that there are real schools out there, where kids respect teachers, teachers teach and kids learn, has been totally uplifting. To my beleaguered colleagues I suggest, do it for a few years for the experience, write to a few useless politicians, ring up the press, be a troublemaker for a while, then when you discover it’s all a waste of time, pack up.

    Either move to the international circuit, whilst using a bit of prudence, or, change areas to work in a definitely better school, or, become the Prime Minister or at least Minister for Education (well no, not really likely to happen is it?), or perhaps just plain change careers. You were intelligent enough to get where you are; you deserve better than to be abused by the retards of society which have been let run amuck by spineless leaders and administrators. You can have better out there. It is there. I found it, it exists.


  7. I have worked in a school where one of these databases was used as a tool to count the amount of “on call” referrals were made by each teacher.
    I fell foul of this system due to the fact that my classroom contained the only telephone in the department. This meant that all “on call” requests for the department plus neighbouring classrooms were logged as coming from me. I was then constantly badgered about following up incidents regarding children I had never even heard of, and was even hauled in front of the deputy head. When I explained, the DH was very apologetic, but the problem continues to this day. One ridiculous HOY still insists that I set detentions for every “on call” request coming from my phone. Needless to say, i don’t!!



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