Engaging pupils to improve behaviour

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Engaging pupils to improve behaviour

Staff at Rhyl High School, Denbighshire, identified a group of learners who had behavioural issues and were at risk of permanent exclusion. The school re-engaged these pupils using a multiagency approach with local organisations that supported children. Together they created a curriculum that has improved achievement, attitudes and engagement.

Number of pupils: 772
Age range: 11 - 16 years
Date of Estyn inspection: May 2014

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Rhyl High School is an English-medium 11 to 16 mixed comprehensive school in Rhyl. There are 772 pupils on roll. Twenty-nine point nine per cent (29.9%) of pupils are eligible for free school meals and over 44% of pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas in Wales.

The school’s intake includes the full range of ability. The percentage of pupils with special educational needs is 34%, which is much higher than the national average of 19.2%.
In November 2008 Rhyl High School was placed in special measures. The current headteacher was appointed in early 2010 . In July 2010, the school was judged to no longer require special measures. Performance at key stage 4 in all key indicators has been in the top 25% during the last two years.

In 2010, 42 learners were identified at risk of permanent exclusion in one year group. They all had a history of exclusion and accounted for over 25% of all behaviour issues within the school. We recognised this cohort, in some form, existed in all year groups and we would be unable to achieve and improve unless this was addressed.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The school took a multiagency approach to re-engage these pupils in education and help them achieve their potential. We contacted local organisations who supported children, including Rhyl Football Club, Communities First, Pixel, North Wales Training, all local 14- 19 providers and the local army camp. Together we created a curriculum offer that would not only allow learners to achieve academically but also ensure improved attitudes and engagement to learning. The curriculum was tailored to the individual. Pupils worked in partnership with learning coaches to pick the subjects they would study from a package consisting of the normal school curriculum but also including additional choices such as:

  • gardening led by local youth workers in the community;
  • sport in the community delivered by Rhyl Football Club;
  • public services delivered in partnership by North Wales Training and the Army; and
  • digital media delivered by ‘Pixel’, a youth organisation in west Rhyl.

Since 2011, our curriculum has been delivered in partnership for all learners in the school. As well as traditional subjects, external providers also continue to offer courses in Sport, Digital Media and Public services while internal courses are offered in Classics, Law and Ancient Civilisations. Our pupils expect a choice of subjects that enable them to work in the community doing the things they enjoy while gaining useful qualifications.

The school has also developed this idea in key stage 3 where now pupils are given the opportunities to work with external providers across a range of subjects. These opportunities are predominately used to engage learners at risk of disaffection and improve their basic skills. These opportunities include:

  • fishing for kids – led by a well-known fisherman;
  • digital media animation led by local youth workers; and
  • art projects led by the youth service.

The school also works closely with its local primary schools:

  • The head of year 7 spends an hour each week in each partner primary school. Through these interactions she has developed effective relationships and structures before transition and identified the support some individuals may require before they join the school.
  • Joint planning for more able and talented pupils - where pupils from Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7 work together on projects based in art, technology, sport and maths.
  • The Rhyl Learning Community - developed by the primary and secondary head teachers in Rhyl to develop leadership within the region and together to ensure the highest educational outcomes for Rhyl pupils.
  • Peer mentoring where learners from Year 7 lead the development of a peer mentoring project with year 6 pupils from their previous primary schools. This mentoring initially develops confidence and builds aspirations but then develops to improve literacy and numeracy for learners eligible for free school meals.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

In August 2011, all 42 pupils from the first cohort of the ‘Potential programme’ finished school without an exclusion and with an average attendance of 94% (compared with 75% during the previous years). All gained level 2 qualifications with over half achieving the level 2 threshold. Most importantly, all chose to remain in education post 16.

The partnerships developed within our curriculum enabled our pupils to achieve whilst engaging them in their education and the future opportunities this unlocks.

Between 2010 and 2013, the impact has been sizable and impressive:

  • level 2 threshold including English and mathematics has improved by 20 percentage points;
  • level 2 threshold has improved by 51percentage points;
  • core subject indicator has improved by by 19 percentage points;
  • attendance has improved by four percentage points; and
  • exclusions have fallen by over 350 days.

But most importantly the feeling of our school changed, our children are happier and engaged in their learning, they are confident about their futures and are now proud to be a member of our school community.