Pupil behaviour and feeling safe in the workplace

You should be able to feel safe in your workplace, whatever your role or post.

It is important that all staff feel able to speak up and seek support if they feel unsafe or if they face problematic comments, language, or behaviour. This could be created by one student, or a group of students, or one class.

Classroom management is a challenging aspect of professional practice. These skills are developed over time, but even experienced teachers and support staff will find the dynamic in the classroom can be challenging. Use the advice elsewhere on this page to develop a whole- school approach to behaviour and positive relationships. Collaboration across a school team has a significant impact.

In many schools, staff experience feeling supported. Unfortunately, in some schools, we find that education professionals are not supported by senior leaders and an initiative-taking culture to reporting concerns is not encouraged. This can be changed and collaborating collegiately with members in your school is the way forward.

If you do not feel safe at work, here are five things you can do:

  1. Raise with senior managers - your employer has a duty to protect your health, safety, and welfare.
  2. Speak to your union rep. You are unlikely to be the only member of staff who feels unsafe, and a collective approach works best.
  3. Request an individual assessment for a student where the behaviour of a particular pupil is creating a demonstrable risk.
  4. Report incidents, even those which are less serious, and encourage all colleagues to do the same.
  5. Check that professional support and counselling is available to staff who experience violence or abuse.

Will Behaviour Hubs help?

The Government has said that its new behaviour hubs will offer schools requiring improvement the opportunity to collaborate with other schools on their behaviour policy and practice.

The NEU rejects the link between being in a category and the assumption that those schools are ‘failing’ on behaviour. Schools in categories are often in extreme poverty area where staff recruitment and retention is challenging, and a deficit model approach is not helpful or justified.

The NEU does want to see much more peer support between schools as an approach to reviewing practice and collaborating around young people with challenging behaviour.

However, the NEU has the following concerns about aspects of the behaviour hubs program:

  • Many of the lead ‘hub’ schools in the first tranche are academies and MATs. The opportunity to engage should not be limited by school status. Whilst some of these schools will have effective approaches to behaviour, it is well documented that some academies have spear headed the Zero Tolerance approach. This failure to consider the context for behaviour leads to more unexplained exits, poor outcomes for SEND children and racial disparity in who is excluded.
  • The values being advocated by Tom Bennett is taken from his “Creating a Culture” report which highlights as good practice behaviour policies which include silent corridors; isolation rooms and behaviour ‘boot camps.’ The language is that of discipline and sanctions rather than well-being and support.

The NEU conducted research with UCL/IoE on ‘Creating a sense of place and belonging in school’ and believes that this approach is what is needed going forward. The research found that schools which used a ‘belonging’ approach had:

  • Improved behaviour
  • Fewer exclusions
  • Better staff retention
  • Improved academic outcomes.

There is a risk that using ‘selected’ schools as the ‘hub’ schools will lead to a ‘one size fits all’ approach to behaviour which focusses too much on discipline and sanctions and does little to address the wider issues which can lead to pupil misbehaviour in school when left unsupported such as: poor mental health, poverty, racial discrimination, SEND and undiagnosed SEND.

The criteria for selecting the ‘hub’ schools is based around assessment data and does not include their record on inclusion or exclusions.

We are the NEU. Join Us.

Not yet a member?

Join the largest education union in Europe. Free for trainee teachers or just £1 in your first year teaching after qualifying.

Join now
Back to top