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On the straight and narrow

It's the end of morning break at Kingsmead School and two Year 7 boys approach maths teacher Adrian Dow in the corridor. One is fighting back tears, clearly distressed. A Year 10 student has just aggressively taken his football in the playground — the sort of incident that happens in most schools, most days. What's different at Kingsmead, an 11-18 comprehensive in the north London Borough of Enfield, is what happens next. Adrian is the schools' Behaviour Improvement Programme (BIP) manager — his main role in the school, as his teaching is limited to six lessons a week.

Within a few seconds, he's sent the boys along to the BIP room, next to the head's office. This is the base to two full-time members of staff, learning mentor Sue Batt and former policeman Nigel Harris, both central to the transformation in behaviour at Kingsmead. Minutes later, the Year 10 boy has been identified and pulled from his lesson to give his side of the story. And long before the end of period three, the ball's been returned, justice has been administered and the matter is history.

This incident symbolises how Kingsmead's BIP programme has enabled the school to nip in the bud any and every behaviour-related problem, wherever and whenever it arises.

Better environment

It hasn't turned the school's 1,400 students into angels, but it has contributed to a clear rise in academic achievement, vastly improved attendance figures, and a sharp reduction in the scale of serious misbehaviour.

But the BIP effect has also reduced the amount of low-level bad behaviour that can so easily pollute classroom atmosphere and ratchet up pressure on teachers.

The headteacher, Giles Bird, is convinced that BIP has been the key element in every aspect of school improvement. "The rising standards of teaching and learning would not have been possible without BIP. It has given us a safe and orderly environment," he says, adding: "We couldn't have done it without the money."

But the most effusive praise comes from Kingsmead's heads of year, who say they've been relieved of the constant role of disciplinarian and fire-fighter, and allowed to concentrate on the academic progress of their year groups.

Year 7 head Cath Tranter says her working life's been transformed, and she is sure her students are happier. "The kids know that not many stones go unturned, and they know things get dealt with quickly."

The turnaround began three years ago, when Kingsmead was chosen as one of four secondaries in Enfield receiving BIP funding of at least £100,000 a year. This led to the employment of the three key staff (Adrian, Sue and Nigel), plus an on-site security officer, Brian Read. His role, using the 42 closed circuit cameras around the site, is to keep an eye out for students 'bunking' lessons, be on hand for the rare occasions when teachers need an extra physical presence, and get to know the students' concerns.

Money coming to the school under other headings, including Excellence in Cities, also enabled five learning mentors to be taken on, paid for extra admin support, and for the establishment of an in-school support centre. This is separate from the special needs department, where students excluded from individual lessons get help and advice.

As well as developing one-to-one relationships with students needing help, the learning mentors run four different lunch time clubs every day — basketball, aerobics, juggling and writing among them — to help keep students active and out of trouble.

Teamwork

The whole BIP infrastructure means that any bad behaviour inside and outside lessons can be dealt with speedily, efficiently and confidentially. It enables teachers to consistently implement classroom rules, in the knowledge that there is always support to call on and places to send miscreants to calm down.

Students know this as well and, as a consequence, generally stick to the rules. One Year 11 boy, no stranger to the school's discipline code, said: "Everyone likes a laugh, but everyone knows the borders, and what'll happen if you cross them."

Perhaps the most striking sign of the priority and resources now directed towards behaviour at Kingsmead is the weekly BIP meeting after school on Wednesdays, attended by up to a dozen senior people involved in this key area of school life.

A central objective is to avoid excluding students from school, by implementing a range of in-school sanctions. Among these is a system of internal exclusion, where students work on their own at a desk in a corridor outside the BIP room and, rarely, where a student is taken to work at a partner secondary school for a day -something they find embarrassing.

Most elements of the discipline code — standard, graded responses to disruption in class, rudeness and persistent misbehaviour — will be familiar to every secondary teacher. There are no magic measures. What BIP has made possible at Kingsmead is the availability of adults to implement the code meticulously, and to devote time to spend with the students, to discuss why things are going wrong and how improvements might be brought about.

In the words of Yvonne Barry, the deputy head in charge of behaviour: "BIP has been successful because it's become the foundation of the school."

BIP at Kingsmead: Key elements

  • Kingsmead BIP staff are linked by walkie-talkies, and available all day to remove students from lessons and to address issues
  • There is structured support to reintegrate students into mainstream classes 
  • A security officer walks corridors and premises to deter truancy, vandalism and graffiti
  • Head and senior teachers are regularly booked to sit in on difficult classes
  • An educational welfare officer is based on site to tackle absences and truancy
  • A weekly BIP meeting is held, chaired by the deputy head

Since BIP started at Kingsmead

Kingsmead was among four Enfield schools joining the BIP programme in September 2002, each receiving a minimum of £100,000 a year for four years. Across England, 300 secondary schools currently receive similar funding.

  • Attendance has risen from 88 per cent to 93 per cent
  • GCSE (A* to C) pass rate has risen from 33 to 41 per cent
  • Fixed-term exclusions are down from 106 to 38
  • Permanent exclusions are down from 11 to three

Words: Steve McCormack  Pictures: David Harrison

FOR MORE INFO

To find out about what schemes are running in your area and the help available, contact your local authority. For guidance and support in tackling behaviour and attendance, go to: www.dfes.gov.uk/behaviour

This content was published in May 2005 and may not reflect current policy