ResearchED Blackpool session review: Tom Bennett

4 May 2018

Author: Phil Brown

In the latest of our session summaries from #rEDBlackpool, Phil Brown (Assistant Headteacher at St Mary’s Catholic Academy, Blackpool) shares his thoughts on Tom Bennett’s talk on “Creating a Culture”.

Tom Bennett – Creating a Culture: What evidence tells us about good behaviour in schools

Tom started his session off by talking about the transition of ‘running a room’, something we are all familiar with as classroom teachers, to ‘running a series of rooms’ – or in other words ‘running a school’. Effective leadership is the key to doing this successfully and school management is linked to good classroom behaviour. Tom then went on to say how he wanted to create something that was useful to classroom staff: it was at this point he introduced his excellent report on behaviour in schools: uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/602487/ Tom_Bennett_Independent_ Review_of_Behaviour_in_ Schools.pdf 

Tom spoke about one of the key factors in dealing successfully with behaviour in our schools. He used the term ‘get in front of behaviour’ which I believe is key to tackling any behaviour issue in any school. Quite often in schools we are far too reactive and do not take the time to plan for behaviour. How can we as leaders and teachers make sure things turn out right? What process do we need to take in ensuring that nothing is left to chance and that effective planning for poor behaviour is done to a high standard? Tom then unpacked this further by saying we should define the terms of what you are discussing – he gave an example of what behaviour is expected when walking down the corridor, in the dining hall, lining up outside a lesson. Unless the students and staff are 100% clear with the expectations and standards then you will not get the behaviour you wish.

“Be conscious architects of the school culture” (Tom Bennett)

We need to design, build and maintain the culture of the school as one body. Each person within the community has a responsibility to ensure that high standards and essential routines are maintained on a daily basis. If students see that it is important to staff then it becomes important to them.

A very simple and clear message: “consistency is the key“.

Tom discussed the importance of routines, and he stated that in good schools 90% of everything that happens is routine, and that schools should not be scared of that. They should not believe this is ‘restricting’, in fact it is the polar opposite. Routines provide ‘liberation’. They give the freedom to grow, and clear boundaries help provide a structure for this. Everything in life has a structure and routines, so why not schools?

(3 Noble Truths – Tom Bennett)

Tom came out with a great catchphrase that really resonated with me: ‘what you permit, you promote’.

We have one very similar at St. Mary’s, courtesy of our CEO Stephen Tierney, ‘the standards you walk past, are the standards you expect’. These two quotes are a challenge to all teachers and all leaders in our schools. They are stating that an attention to detail is key, that the little everyday things do matter. If a student is walking down the corridor wearing headphones, then they need to be challenged if that is against your rules. If you let that go then it does not help a colleague tackle that in the future, nor does it show to other students that the rule is important.

The thought provoking session came to a close with a statement of caution. That all behaviour policies, processes and standards that you set in school must come with an *(asterisk). That you will always get exceptions in every school, and although these numbers are often small when compared with the whole cohort, you must have a process in place for them. Something bespoke where they can get the individual support they require.

The day came and went so fast and it was great for our CEO Stephen Tierney to close the event.

I honestly do not feel the day could have been summed up any better. Stephen used the work of Professor Ben Laker on Thunder and Lightning to leave us with a challenge.

‘Today was the lightning strike, what you do in your schools moving forward is the thunder. Let’s go and make some thunder’.

Can I also just take this opportunity to offer my personal thanks to Stephen Tierney, Simon Cox and Phil Naylor for all their hard work over the last six months. In order for a day to be so slick it needs an immense amount of time and planning. Congratulations, and I hope this becomes a regular event in the Blackpool calendar.

Posted on 4 May 2018
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