Best practice, evidence or just conviction? Behaviour policies in Brentwood and beyond

I fear that I am not alone as a parent in largely being unaware of the school policies of our children’s school until I have to be. Now that I am asked to write a monthly local newspaper column I have visited most websites of our local schools to check on standard practice relating to one subject or another, most recently homework.

I have found that there tends to be much in common with many policies from school to school and, in these days of internet forums and TeachMeets, I have assumed that most are based on shared best practice or government guidelines. This view was largely confirmed when reviewing behaviour policies this week for a potential article until I happened upon the policy of our new local free school.

The following within the “Aims and Principles” section, in a notably briefer document than others I reviewed, particularly struck me:

“Rewards systems do not work in the long-term. If students only work to receive awards, they have shorter attention spans, and give up more easily.”

Nothing more is said on rewards or any evidence provided for the statement. The full Becket Keys Free School policy is here:

I am genuinely intrigued by this as it is a very definite position which I therefore expected to see replicated elsewhere. I have failed to find another example. If someone can point me to one I would be very grateful.

The three secondary schools most local to Becket Keys take a different view to them it appears.

Values posterBrentwood County High School’s (BCHS) policy states:

“In order to successfully accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives it is essential that students are rewarded and successes celebrated frequently in ways which have value and meaning to them.”

Shenfield High School aims to “celebrate success wherever possible.”

While at St Martin’s School they explain that Our rewards system allows students, teachers and their parents/carers to see how well they are progressing in subjects and where they are producing sustained  good work, effort and progress.”–support.pdf

PassmoresMaybe I would get a different perspective from a school rated as “Outstanding” by Ofsted? Passmores Academy across the M11 in Harlow is well known following its exposure on TV programme “Educating Essex” and is the former school of BCHS Head Stephen Drew. The section entitled “Passmores rewards those that help themselves and take responsibility for their actions” includes:

“Passmores rewards effort and progress, as well as achievement.”

King Edward’s Grammar School in Chelmsford is probably the selective state school of choice for many of the parents of highly academic boys. Their policy states, “in addition to the personal satisfaction which results from a job well done, students who demonstrate ‘excellence’ in terms of achievement and/or effort in any area of School life will be recognised and acknowledged”  before listing possible awards.–forms/2615.html

Of course Becket Keys are sponsored by the “Russell Education Trust” so maybe their policy is informed by their experience? Their other existing school is the Bristol Free School:

reward should match the success

Maybe this policy is reflected in other Church of England secondary schools? St Edward’s School in Romford details its merit system for Years 7-9 and the criteria for “Student of the Month”.

Finally I sought guidance from relevant documents on the Department for Education (DfE) website. The following document is written by Charlie Taylor, the “Government’s Expert Adviser on behaviour in schools” and contains clear advice on how to successfully implement a rewards system including, for teachers:

Display the tariff of sanctions and rewards in each class

Have a system in place for ensuring that children never miss out on sanctions or rewards.

I am therefore confused. As I must continue to point out, I am not an education professional, I am an (overly) interested parent who wants to trust that our children are being educated in line with shared best practice, particularly if our tax is paying for it.

I am therefore keen to understand why the Becket Keys policy appears so different to all of the examples I have listed above when it is apparently based on a certainly stated premise.

Do rewards systems adversely affect student attentiveness and their determination? If so, why do all these other schools employ them?

On behalf of Brentwood’s parents, I would be grateful for any clarification.

Stephen Mayo

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