Affective strategies improve behaviour and wellbeing

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Affective strategies improve behaviour and wellbeing

Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe, Swansea, has worked hard to improve pupils’ standards, attitudes, behaviour, confidence and wellbeing. Staff including teachers, administrative staff, site staff, technicians and lunchtime staff were all trained to help pupils develop skills to problem solve and manage their own behaviour.

Number of pupils: 746
Age range: 11 - 18 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2013

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Ysgol Bryn Tawe is a designated Welsh-medium secondary school that provides education for pupils aged 11-18 years. The school is situated in the north of Swansea and it is maintained by Swansea local authority. Nineteen point six per cent (19.6%) of pupils live in 20% of the most deprived areas in Wales.

There are 746 pupils on roll, which includes 129 in the sixth form. About 12% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, which is lower than the national average, namely 17.4%. Eighteen per cent of pupils are on the school’s additional learning needs list, and 2% have a statement of special educational needs. These figures are lower than the national figures.

Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe opened in 2003 and had a very successful inspection in 2007. In January 2012, there was a low number of exclusions and there was a positive ethos at the school. Despite all these positive aspects, the school saw an opportunity to improve further and to try to be more proactive in terms of ethos and wellbeing, rather than reactive, and also to try to improve again the relationships between pupils and staff.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The school decided to adopt a specific way of interacting with pupils. The school established procedures to ensure that pupils are included in an active way in every aspect of pastoral processes. This strategy aims to give pupils more responsibility for their behaviour in order to improve behaviour and commitment to the learning process.

The school has set 3 main principles to support this work, namely:

  • including pupils and teachers in the process;
  • creation of a fair process to deal with incidents;
  • use of questions to focus pupils on how they could improve any situation that arises and to encourage pupils to express emotions freely.

In January 2012, with the full support of the management team and the Headteacher, training on these methods was conducted for all members of staff, including teachers, administrative staff, site staff, technicians and lunchtime staff. Following this training, the pastoral team began to plan a whole-school strategy that included the following points:-

Affective language – Staff were encouraged to use language that appeals to a pupil’s emotion rather than giving orders.

Staff were asked to try to use 10 ‘affective statements’ every day and to begin to consider carefully the nature of language that is used with pupils. An attempt was made to develop a common useful vocabulary across the staff in order to avoid and reduce conflict and between pupils and staff.

Quick chats – The main purpose of holding quick chats is to create opportunities for pupils to share and express emotions freely and to develop a beneficial working relationship between staff and pupils. As a result, teachers hold quick chats with pupils during every tutorial period on Monday mornings. Quick chats have also been used in a number of lessons, especially at the beginning of a unit or with more challenging groups.

Restorative circles – The school has changed its practices of dealing with problems of discipline and conflict, by using ‘restorative circles’ to solve any conflict between staff and pupils or among groups of pupils. In these sessions, everyone has an opportunity to be a part of a discussion, to express their opinions, share feelings and emotions freely in order to solve the problem in a fair and consistent way.

Using restorative questions – When investigating and trying to solve problems, all members of staff received a card with examples of restorative questions on them, and posters with restorative questions on them were put in the corridors and in all classrooms in order to try to encourage everyone to use them when discussing problems and trying to solve them.
Between January and July 2012, more staff were trained to specialise in various aspects of this practice, for example, restorative circles, restorative conferences and so on. In addition, a working party was established to lead and develop these practices across the school. The school’s discipline policy has been adapted to ensure that these strategies are at its core.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

In Estyn’s 2013 inspection, the inspectors noted that: “the school’s restorative strategies promote excellent behaviour among pupils.”

In addition, the implementation and effect of restorative strategies to promote positive behaviour across the school has reduced the number of exclusions considerably and has resulted in improvement in pupils’ standards, attitudes, behaviour, confidence and wellbeing.

Since Ysgol Bryn Tawe adopted these practices, improvement has been seen in the school’s ethos and atmosphere. In general, the school is more calm and peaceful. An improvement has been seen in pupils’ responses to incidences of negative behaviour, pupils feel more positive about the school and consider that the school is fairer. There has been a reduction in the numbers of incidents of negative behaviour and in the use of the inclusion room. Although it is low every year, there has been a reduction in the number of temporary exclusions. The use of restorative circles is an excellent way of solving conflict – a very low percentage of reoffending was seen after solving it with this practice.