7. Behaviour management

School culture strongly influences student behaviour. It is vital for schools to have plans in place that outline different strategies for managing student behaviour. These plans can help reduce certain behaviours and can help schools deal with difficult situations as they arise. It may be helpful to consider the following to prevent incidents escalating. The goal is to keep students at school.

Within the school environment

While the board cannot directly influence what happens within an individual student’s home, the board governs the school and can influence how the school operates. How a school operates can impact on how students behave at school.

It may be important to consider the factors that affect your school culture:

  • the degree of board and administration support
  • overall school planning and practice that promotes pro-social behaviour
  • involvement of parents and community
  • willingness to discuss and resolve issues such as teacher stress and efficacy
  • attitudes to discipline and fairness.

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The continuum of need

Schools are often approached by organisations that state they have quality programmes that can help address student behaviour. While it is ultimately your school’s decision about what programmes to deliver, some key success factors should be considered.

? Ask these questions of your school:

How do we know what a good programme looks like? What are the measureable outcomes from the delivery of the programme in schools? Is the programme evidence based? Does the provider have good information about what is happening in our school? Is our leadership team involved in the delivery of the programme? Have we linked with the community or sought advice from others?

Your school can determine the approach and the level of response right for your students. A framework to help provide a way to organise a school’s response to the level of need is:

Universal school-wide programmes

What programmes does our school have that are useful for our entire school?

Some behaviour management programmes are better than others.

Are our existing behaviour management programmes and/or initiatives actively supported and have positive outcomes? Have they been evaluated? What is our school commitment and is it ongoing?

Targeted programmes

What programmes does our school have that support ‘at-risk’ students and have the potential to reduce the need for intensive services?

These programmes tend to involve others coming into the school to provide services eg, Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour, Ministry of Education Special Education.

Do we have protocols established to enable our staff and others to work effectively with people who provide specialised services?

Intensive services

Does our school have programmes that are specialist-delivered individualised systems for students with severe and ongoing disruptive behaviour? If not, do we know where to go to access these? Do our teachers and senior staff remain involved in the programme delivery and the student outcomes?

Do we provide programmes to address identified behaviours? Have we made a referral to Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour to provide advice and guidance to teachers of students who are at risk of low achievement due to learning and/or behaviour difficulties?

Note: Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour can also assist with direct teaching, demonstrating practice and providing teaching strategies so that students receive appropriate learning programmes and behaviour management on an ongoing basis.

Are there religious or cultural values to consider? Is a translator needed?

Note: Boards of state schools are required to help all students realise their potential. Schools need to provide appropriate learning programmes and address barriers to learning to meet individual needs, while respecting cultural differences. In many cases, behavioural matters will have been brought to the attention of parents before a stand-down or suspension.

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Teacher learning and development

Teachers have direct influence over student behaviour at school. Quality professional learning and development can support teacher practice in supporting student learning and a teacher’s capacity to manage the classroom.

A positive learning environment is an important factor in determining the quality of learning and preventing bad behaviour.

? Ask these questions of your school:

Do we give our teachers the resources to do a good job?

Do we have a professional development plan that is embedded in our school culture?

Note: Deciding to stand-down or suspend a student should be a response of last resort. This is a serious decision, which can have farreaching consequences for the student (and other members of their family). Stand-downs or suspensions should be made only after considering all the implications for the educational future and life chances of the student.

Useful links

  • Information about the Ministry of Education’s behaviour work
    Taumata Whanonga 
  • Resources about behaviour management from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, an independent educational research organisation that produces educational research and research-based resources. NZCER, Education House, 178-182 Willis Street, PO Box 3237, Wellington 6140, phone: (04) 384 7939, fax: (04) 385 8738
    http://www.nzcer.org.nz/default.php?cPath=345_139_133_302
  • Information about Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour
    http://rtlb.tki.org.nz/
  • The Teacher Professional Learning and Development Best Evidence Synthesis illuminates the kind of professional learning for teachers that strengthens valued outcomes for diverse learners
    http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2515/15341
  • The Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
    http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2515/5959
  • The New Zealand Schools Trustees Association (NZSTA) represents and provides services to boards of trustees across New Zealand. NZSTA provides governance support services, industrial relations and advice free of charge. Boards of trustees can access the NZSTA National Office Trusteeship helpdesk for all matters relating to trusteeship. The Helpdesk is staffed five days a week during office hours, 8:00am to 5:00pm. 0800 STA HELP (0800 782 4357), fax (04) 473 4706, email helpdesk@nzsta.org.nz [no spam]

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Examples of alternatives to stand-downs and suspensions to manage behaviour

Example 1

A large school elected to release a teacher full time for two terms to review the school’s behaviour management plan in line with restorative practice. Professional development was provided for all teaching and support staff, and the plan was reviewed by senior management and the board of trustees. The plan was based around counselling using a ‘solve’ rather than a ‘blame’ approach.

Example 2

For incidents of ‘continual disobedience’, the classroom teacher worked with the principal and organised a parent meeting, involving the student support worker and a counsellor employed by the school. A monitoring card system was introduced and options for mentoring, anger management, social skills and a professional development programme were discussed. Special Education also helped to set an individual behaviour plan.

Example 3

A school accepted some students excluded from a neighbouring school. The students were having difficulty engaging in the new school and became disruptive and badly behaved. The school was contemplating standing-down the students. The school engaged the Interim Response Fund to provide a short-term behaviour management programme for the students. The programme focused on offering individual personal incentives that continued beyond the programme with personal rewards and recognitions. The students successfully returned to school after completing the five-day programme and their progress was monitored by the principal. The principal held fortnightly meetings with the students’ families to discuss progress and any issues. These meetings moved to being monthly and concluded after six months.

Example 4

A student stole some property and ‘tagged’ a building at a party after the school ball on the weekend. A Youth Aid officer became involved and met with the school to discuss the possibility of utilising Alternative Action, a diversion plan. The student enjoyed school, had a good attendance record and had achieved a large number of credits. The principal was keen to support the student and give him another chance by participating in the Alternative Action process to keep the student out of the official Youth Justice System and keep him at school. The Youth Aid officer convened a conference at the school and the principal and family were included. The conference outcomes were that the student would:

  • perform community service for the owner of the stolen property and tagged building
  • complete a thousand-word essay on the importance of respecting people’s rights and property
  • attend a six-week safe alcohol use programme delivered through the Salvation Army on Saturday mornings.

The school principal put in place weekly individual sessions with the guidance counsellor, and also agreed to monitor the student’s progress and meet the student on a weekly basis.



Content last updated: 24 November 2014