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Working with students to shape a behaviour policy based on shared values

Working with students to shape a behaviour policy based on shared values

As a High Performance Learning school, we believe in working with our students.

This means many things in practice. For example, we have restructured our student voice approach to reflect the things our students particularly care about, namely:

  • Sustainability
  • Wellbeing
  • Diversity of nation and culture
  • Inclusivity

In the classroom, we give expression to working with students through our commitment to enquiry-based learning, which makes students 'partners' not 'subjects' in their learning. The philosophy of working with students has nudged us to think carefully about how we appreciate or reward students and the other side of that: how we can facilitate reflection and apology if behaviour falls short. Doing this well is not easy!

Traditionally schools rely on unnegotiated carrot and stick systems (often with more carrots than sticks) to regulate behaviour. We wanted to go beyond this approach, so we set out to build a system with students. In creating it together, we hoped to reach an outcome that would help students to self-regulate their own behaviour and to develop empathy for others to a much greater degree.
The first step was taken three years ago when we adopted the ’Girls on Board' approach, which helps students to navigate the choppy waters of teenage friendships. Students explore and build their understanding of relationships by engaging with peers in a spirit of empathy. This empathetic starting point is that essentially all girls want the same thing: to feel included in a friendship group. There is a deliberate attempt to keep adults at arm's length if problems occur, allowing girls to build the tools to self-regulate their own relationships with each other.

We applied the same approach to redesigning expectations of student behaviour. All students and staff have had input in to shaping the revised approach. After consultation, it was clear that students wanted a system that better reflected our school values and enabled us to show how vital they are. After much discussion, we finalised the values that we hold dear as a school community via the following mnemonic:

At St Mary’s we value:
  • H ard work
  • E mpathy
  • A gility
  • R esponsibility
  • T hinking

From the Autumn Term, we will award house points against these shared values. As these have been shaped together, we are confident students will commit to them with energy and enthusiasm.

This has been a lengthy process, and work will continue with the Student Council to further refine the policy of how we appreciate and apologise as a community. Ultimately, we would say that the process itself reflects well who we are; a community built on trust where efforts are made to work together with students and not to them ... enabling everyone to be their very best.

Kate Latham, Director of Teaching and Learning

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