When David Moore HMI is inspecting schools he takes many factors into consideration. Three key features he looks for are good behaviour from adults and children, consistency and justice. This former headteacher has more than two decades' experience of school inspection and is Ofsted's national expert on behaviour, inclusion and ethnicity. He says his inspection begins from the second he enters a school. His observations may seem simple, but he’s looking for the building blocks to good practice.
‘You walk down a corridor and a child looks at you and they are waiting for your response. You say, “How are you?” and their face lights up because you have acknowledged them,’ he says. ‘I look to see how many adults talk to the children and how the teachers respond to them. If they are doing it properly,’ he says, ‘it sets a tone.’ He understands that establishing an environment for good behaviour is essential, and this needs to be part of classroom organisation and interaction.
‘When I go into a classroom I am interested in how the children are sitting. Is the room set out in an appropriate way to allow the teacher to make eye contact with everybody? If not you can lose control.’ He considers the classroom environment very important and that there should be a seating plan, even in secondary schools.
Moore believes expectations should be set out at the beginning of every lesson and children need to know when they begin to overstep the mark. 'For example, seating plans are a good idea, and after children enter the classroom teachers should greet them and be clear that the lesson is beginning, what it will cover and what they will be expected to be able to do. As a teacher, you have to have certain visual or verbal cues so that children understand if you are getting irritated,’ he explains.
‘When dealing with behaviour it’s vital justice is felt to be done by the children, and assumptions aren’t made.’
But there can be a dilemma. ‘Many parents don’t use cues consistently and many children don’t respond to facial expressions, so you need something which is easy to recognise,’ he says. ‘For example you can tap the board twice. When you meet a class for the first time you tell them what the cue is so they know.’
Consistency is essential among staff when implementing the school’s policy and procedures around behaviour. ‘When children don’t know where they stand there is a problem,’ he says. ‘If there is a rule that children don’t wear their coats indoors, for example, but one teacher lets them, then that teacher causes a problem for everyone else.’
Moore maintains a heavy-handed approach is not necessary and can be counter-productive. ‘If a child does something foolish, poor teachers interpret it personally but a good teacher does not go off the deep end. Good practitioners include everyone in the class and might say, “we would prefer it, Paul, if you would just join in with us.” You don’t say “Don’t do it.” ’
When Moore was visiting a large Roman Catholic secondary school he observed two boys playing a tag game. As one ran from the other he rushed towards a door of reinforced glass and the other attempted to grab him but accidentally pushed him into the glass panel.
He realised the mistake and a member of staff who saw the event, instead of admonishing him, was concerned the other boy wasn’t hurt. She said to the boy who appeared to be the aggressor, ‘Tell me, do you think skin is harder than reinforced glass?’ The boy said, ‘No, sister.’ ‘I thought not,’ she said and walked away.
‘The teacher recognised the difference between intention and accident and also that the child was aware of the potential seriousness of the situation. Instead of a long lecture her comment made it clear that it was something not to be done again. If she had given a long lecture or told them off she could have provoked unnecessary resentment from them.
‘When dealing with behaviour it’s vital justice is felt to be done by the children, and assumptions aren’t made,’ he adds. ‘If I walk in on an incident where a child has grabbed another, I don’t automatically assume they’re the only one in the wrong. For example the child who has been grabbed could have been saying something horrible about the other child’s mother. Children never forget injustice so you must give a child a chance to explain.’
Moore believes successful schools are ones where there’s mutual respect and behaviour strategies which are clear to staff, parents and children.