UNISON offers top tips for tackling difficult behaviour in schools

UNISON today will hand its 250,000 school support staff a valuable practical guide, which will assist them in managing the sometimes difficult behaviour of pupils.

Support staff need to know the best way to respond in different situations, whether it’s breaking up an argument or a fight between children, protecting someone who’s being picked on, or being faced themselves with abusive language.

“Managing challenging and difficult behaviour is one of the main issues that concerns our members,” says UNISON head of education Jon Richards.

“The teacher is theoretically the authority, the person in charge. But teaching assistants, technicians, caretakers, admin and finance staff, learning support, cooks and cleaners – every one of these staff has some contact with pupils, even if they’re not based in the classroom.

“So how do they deal with disruptive pupils? Who do they report problems to? If they intervene, what support and backing are they going to get afterwards?

“These are very important questions. Unfortunately, it is too often assumed that only teachers need support or training on behaviour management. Support staff are often overlooked.”

That’s why UNISON commissioned an expert in the area, Tom Bennett, to write the guide Managing difficult behaviour in schools, aimed specifically at support staff and to be launched at today’s school support staff seminar in Cardiff.

Mr Bennett is a behaviour consultant, who has visited over 100 schools to coach and mentor staff in basic behaviour techniques. He’s also the behaviour advisor for the TES, and a teacher himself. In 2013 he addressed UNISON’s school support staff seminar and, said Mr Richards, “went down a storm”.

His guide includes sections on diffusing difficult situations, improving communication style, talking to parents and dealing with accusations made by children about each other.

It also includes Mr Bennett’s top 10 behaviour tips, chief amongst them being the need to understand a school’s behaviour policy.

“Every good school should have a behaviour policy. If it doesn’t have a consistent approach, as a staff member you’re lost,” said Mr Richards.

He added that the guide would be a useful organising tool for UNISON reps when seeking to ensure that head teachers do have behaviour policies.

UNISON will also send the guide to the Department for Education and other relevant departments in the four nations.

Managing difficult behaviour in scgools [PDF]

UNISON in education