Engaged parents can help schools deliver positive behaviour strategies says Paul Featherstone, former primary school teacher and product manager at SIMS from ParentPay Group.
How often are teachers diverted away from teaching to encourage a group of pupils to stop chatting and focus on their learning or take quick action to prevent a playground altercation from spilling over into a lesson?
According to the DfE’s 2023 National Behaviour Survey, 62% of school leaders and teachers reported that misbehaviour interrupted teaching in at least some lessons and two thirds of pupils had experienced lessons disrupted by poor behaviour.
However, families can be powerful allies for tackling issues – parents were described as supportive of their school’s behaviour rules by almost 80% of school leaders.
Engagement with parents can help nip behavioural issues in the bud, whether a school wants to address bullying, low-level classroom disruption or persistent absence.
So, how can schools build stronger home-school connections and supercharge their behaviour management strategies?
Spotting the signs
If a child is frequently involved in playground frictions or suddenly starts regularly shouting at their peers or teachers, interrupting lesson time, chances are there is a lot more behind their behaviour than first meets the eye.
Small changes in a pupil’s behaviour can be hard for a teacher to spot in a busy classroom. There could be issues beyond the school gates that might shine a light on why they are behaving in a certain way too, that the school may not be aware of.
Nurturing strong partnerships with parents is critical to uncover issues that can impact on pupils’ behaviour and learning progress. They could be upset about a tragic event in the community or anxious about a sick relative and not sleeping at night.
Open and honest communication with parents allows the school and family to work together to put additional support in place where it’s needed. A referral to the school counsellor might be all that’s needed to help the child process what their dealing with and find healthy coping strategies to manage their behaviour and get back on track with their learning.
The way schools communicate with parents is key to creating this home-school partnership.
Constant letters about their child’s disruptive conduct in class can switch parents off too. Schools that take a more positive approach to communications about behaviour can get parents on side and this is a much more effective way to tackle problems.
Imagine a parent’s delight at receiving a text message from school to inform them that their child has just got star of the week or received a top story-teller award. This can brighten their day and allows them to mark their child’s achievement with a treat or reward.
Injecting some positivity into parental communications is more likely to encourage families to reinforce the school’s expectations of pupil behaviour. It will also make it easier to have difficult conversations if needed as the parents are already more engaged.
The method of communication matters too. Research has shown that parents are more likely to read a short text message rather than an email or a letter. And a generic email about the school’s behaviour policy won’t hit the mark as effectively as a communication that is personalised and addresses a situation that needs to be addressed.
Recognise and reward the positive
There is often great emphasis placed on recording details of the negative behaviour that goes on in school to help flag where investment is needed to prevent it. This approach has its place, but there can be many advantages to recording positive behaviour and achievement too.
If pupils only receive attention from the headteacher for poor behaviour, it can result in anger, disengagement and may even have a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem.
But what if the senior leadership team is automatically alerted when a quiet child has made a positive contribution to a class debate, or a pupil has got a great score in the latest history quiz? They could then spot the child in the corridor and congratulate them for their achievement.
The vast majority of schools already have schemes in place to acknowledge pupils’ achievements and encourage positive conduct on a termly or weekly basis. Being able to recognise and reward positive behaviour and achievement in real time in this way will reduce behavioural issues and help to reinforce the school’s values and ethos.
Let tech take the strain
Technology can make it easier for schools to engage parents and take a positive approach to behaviour management. Automated messaging tools enable a personalised text message to be sent out to notify a child’s family that they have just received 10 positive achievement points. Automatic alerts can be set up so that notifications arrive directly to staff members’ mobile device when certain criteria are reached too.
Teachers cannot tackle poor behaviour in isolation. With firm foundations for parental engagement and a positive approach to behaviour management, schools can form the bedrock for happier and more productive learning.
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