Behaviour Q&A session with Charlie Taylor
This is a transcript of the Q&A session held on 25 October 2011, with Charlie Taylor, the Government’s expert adviser on behaviour in schools
Dear Charlie - angry child
I have a boy in my class (Year 2), who despite having improved his behaviour this academic year with lots of positive praise and effective relationship building, still has the occasional ‘angry’ moment where he pushes children hard, strangles them etc etc. We have tried social stories etc etc and although he now shows more concern when he hurts others he still finds it difficult on occasions to control his anger. I am determined to help him over this last hurdle as we have come so far. Any ideas or suggestions will be gratefully received. Thanks
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:12
The first thing to do is to look back over your shoulder at where you have come from with this boy. What you have done has worked well, yes he is still difficult, but with your support he has made great progress. Look at the words you use in your question: “on occasions, now shows more concern, still the occasional angry moment” - these show what you have achieved. Remember this boy has been stuck in this pattern of behaviour for many years and it takes time for him to unlearn this and learn to respond differently. Keep doing what you are doing, it will continue to get better over time, ensure he has a short consequence when he has an outburst, but the rest of the time praise the gentle, caring behaviour whenever you see it.
No magic solutions, just more of the same and you will get there.
Dear Charlie - searching students
On the subject of search powers, in your opinion, how would a teacher decide whether or not to search a student and what might a search look like? What would you say to those teachers who might be worried that they have not been trained to search?
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:31
I know lots of teachers are unsure of these powers. The new guidance explains the law succinctly and with clarity. It’s online at
The decision to search is based on the teacher’s judgement. They need to weigh up the situation and decide what is in the best interests of the child, the other children and the adults. Most teachers do this instinctively, but the new guidance makes this clear.
The power to search without consent allows a teacher to do a personal search, involving removal of outer clothing and searching of pockets; but not an intimate search going further than that, which only a person with more extensive powers (e.g. a police officer) can do.
Searching can only be done by a person authorised by the headteacher. That’s why I don’t believe teachers need specific training for searching as long as they are clear about the law and act within it.
My own experience of searching has involved patting down the pockets and then removing the offending item, it has always been simple and straighforward. Teachers don’t want to have to search regularly, but there are times when it’s necessary.
Dear Charlie - support withdrawn for child
what advice can you offer for a child (aspergers, probably) who has few social skills, no empathy, is consistently egocentric and lives in a black and white world? he is capable of anger tantrums, and more than capable of deliberate noncompliance. the class is frequently disrupted by his behaviour. reward systems don’t have much meaning for him and he doesn’t understand consequences very well. he had 1:1 support in YR but funding has been withdrawn by County, despite no professionals having come in to assess him. i am at a loss as to how to support him without 1:1 as he can’t work independently and i can’t work with him all the time, neither can my TA. we have other children who need our support.
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:36
You’re in a difficult situation by the sounds of it. I think you should insist that an EP sees this pupil and makes a thorough assessment of need. Until you have the full picture, it’s very difficult to be sure what he requires. Though behaviour and reward systems are not always effective with him, it is important to continue in order that he has clarity about his boundaries. Keep at it.
Best of luck
Do you think that if schools are made responsible for any child’s full time education, once on roll, no matter what happens that some will go to any lengths not to admit potentailly challenging children in the first place?
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:40
This is an excellent point to make.
There is currently a trial going on in six local authorities across England to test a new approach to school exclusions. Ministers have made the trial last three years so that they can get a thorough understanding of the issues, such as the one you raise. If this does become government policy in the future, consideration will have been given to this question of admissions of children with behaviourial difficulties.
Dear Charlie - Storing problems for future
Dear Charlie, Do you think that because so many services that supported vulnerable and challenging children and young people have been deleted by local authorities struggling with funding issues that this is preventing the ‘early intervention’ that all seem to agree is ideal and storing serious problems for the future?
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:44
Times are tough and so schools and local authorities have to prioritise services. However, I know many schools are coming up with innovative ways of supporting their most challenging children and families. As a headteacher I know the last thing I would want to get rid of are my initiatives to support my most difficult pupils.
Dear Charlie - Behaviour managment
I am an Early years trained teacher who has just recently moved from reception into year 3. I’m finding the behaviour managment with a few children in my class very difficult at the moment. I always go into class with a positive attitidue and see every day as a fresh start but the behaviour of most of the pupils just makes everything go down hill and it’s getting that every day is a constant battle! They are a very young Y3 class with the majority of them summer born and they have had variuous supply teachers during the previous year which has probably contributed to this.
I’ve tried postive approaches like certificates and house points for good behaviour and I take away privlidges for unwanted behaviour for example playtime or golden time. It’s also very hard to get their attention when we are getting ready to go home or move to a different room and I’ve tried 5 fingers, ‘quiet’ and ‘eyes on me’ signs, clapping and nothing seems to work. Help!
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:50
It’s always difficult to make a transition across phase but the techniques you will have used in reception to teach children how you want them to behave are essential with this class. Don’t be afraid to take time to get this right - it’s worth it in the end.
I’ve found it useful to decide on specific strategies you want to follow and to ensure you use them consistently. I’ve recently developed this checklist idea to help teachers with this - it’s based on my experiences and also those of heads from across the country working in some tough schools.
Have a look at it http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/behaviour/a00199342/getting-the-simple-things-right-charlie-taylors-behaviour-checklists and let me know how you get on.
Dear Charlie - The F word
A students tells a teacher to ‘f*** off’ - what should happen?
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:55
Hi Mr Leonard
There needs to be an instant sanction in line with the school’s behaviour policy. Teachers should never accept abuse or bad langague. In some families, this sort of langauge is tolerated and so it’s important not to take it personally. Also younger children may not understand what the bad language means or maybe there is some underlying issue which needs investigating.
The behaviour checklists sit firmly within a behaviourist paradigm. How does this align with the research which says that contingent praise and reward achieve short term gain at the expense of intrinsic motivation?
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 13:58
For some children, the way to build up there intrinsic motivation is to tap into extrinsic motivation. Reward and consequence give pupils clear boundaries and an understanding of what is right and wrong. There are also particularly useful for changing patterns of behaviour but I agree, ultimately the best motivations are intrinsic.
I agree completely with your recomendations regarding checklists and having clear, unambiguous expectations for what is acceptable behaviour, consistently applied. But many pupils find these hard to follow, or have so many issues in their lives that they need a much more personal approach. We teach a method of intervening based on counselling skills which teachers love - but they never feel they have enough time to spend with individual children. Are you considering how to increase the time available to teachers for their pastoral work? A small investment of time from a teacher who cares and knows how to help can transform a pupil’s chances.
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 14:03
Thanks for your support with the checklist.
I think it’s important that main focus of teachers is to make their classrooms safe, predictable, organised and happy places, where children from chaotic homes can learn. When teachers take on a therapeutic role, it’s essential that they are trained and have a clear understanding of boundaries.
I’m currently looking at how we can get more mental health support into schools.
Dear Charlie - use of symbols and visual supports in challenging behaviour
In your checklist, you mention the use of visual supports (timetables, signage etc) to support management of challenging behaviour.
Could you explain what impact they have and why? Have you a practical experience that you could relate?
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 14:07
Visual timetables for the day or the lesson are very useful to help children feel contained. When we teachers go on a course, we can’t relax until we’ve seen the agenda for the day. It’s the same for children.
Woodend Park Primary in London where I tried out the checklist idea, have a visual timetable in each class for the day. In secondary schools, it’s useful for tutors to display the timetable for the day, in the morning.
You’ll be amazed how much children like checking what’s going to be happening.
I am an NQT and have one class that can’t seem to grasp being quiet when I’m speaking. They eventually do but this is after punishments and raising my voice. I have tried counting down from 10, putting names on the board etc…
They’re a mid ability year 9 class. Any thoughts?
Posted by: Charlie Taylor 25/10/2011 at 14:13
Decide on what you’re going to use to grab their attention and then train them to respond to it. This may mean keeping some or all of them back at break for a practice on more than one occasion. It is worth persevering - you need to be clear about what you want and set the bar high.
Remember to praise the ones who are quiet straight away rather than give attention to those who continue to talk. Try to stop them less often, but when you do, insist they do it how you want them to everytime.
It might be useful to think about the way you use your voice - often dropping it down once you have their attention, in order to quieten the atmosphere in the room.
Let me know how you get on, Charlie
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