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Autumn week 5

Mentor materials

Observation discussion - addressing persistent and challenging behaviour

Teaching techniques to focus feedback on




To have planned and practised how to respond to persistent and challenging behaviour.


In the online study materials, your teacher was asked to reflect on a time when they have given consequences and then asked to choose one case study of challenging behaviour and consider how they would respond to it. Ask them to share both of their responses with you and discuss them.

The case studies your teacher has read only included information on the pupil and the incident, not information on how the teacher responded to that behaviour but if you wish, you can see how the teacher did respond which can support your discussion with your teacher. The case studies, which include how the teacher responded, are included in further sections of this page:

Praise, probe and set precise actions

The following practise should be focused around the outcomes of the probe and precise actions, so that it is specific to your teacher’s developmental needs. However, below are some practise ideas based on the online study content to support you if needed.

Plan and practice ideas

Work with your teacher to plan how to respond to challenging behaviour by building on their response in the online task and considering challenging behaviour they have encountered in their classroom or behaviour that other teachers have had to deal with across the school.

Key questions and talking points

  1. Why are consequences important and what makes them effective?
  2. How can you ensure consequences are fair and suit the behaviour?
  3. How can you ensure you remain consistent in the consequences you use?
  4. Discuss possible behaviour management strategies alongside the school’s behaviour policy i.e. how to respond to behaviour or bullying that threatens emotional safety.
  5. How can liaising with parents or carers help you to better understand pupils’ individual circumstances?
  6. If a serious incident happens, who can you go to for support with how to deal with it? Discuss with teachers that they have the right to support and if they are finding behaviour challenging, they should seek support from colleagues.
  7. If there is a system for tracking whole school behaviour, share this with your teacher if you haven’t already.

Early Years challenging behaviour case study

Pupil background

Pupil A is in Reception. He hasn’t been to a nursery prior to attending Reception. He joined at the beginning of the year. He doesn’t have a mother but lives with his dad and two older brothers who attend the same school. His dad engages with school when he can. He works shifts so sometimes is unavailable to speak to at the beginning or end of the day. When this happens, his sister collects his children from school. Is dad is concerned about his son’s behaviour and regularly asks for ways to support his son both at school and at home.

The incident

Pupil A occasionally demonstrates aggressive behaviour. In the past, he has thrown items in the classroom such as pencils or building blocks but has never harmed another pupil until this incident. He was exploring Numicon in the sandpit in the outdoor learning area. Another pupil came over to join him. Immediately, Pupil A shouted “No” and then threw the Numicon piece at that child’s face and bit his arm leaving a bruise.

Teacher response

My immediate response was to ask Pupil A to spend 5 minutes in the time out area to let him calm down and think about what he had done wrong. Whilst he was in time out, I asked my TA to inform a senior leader of the incident because this was very serious and put another pupil in danger. Therefore, she would need to phone both parents immediately to informed them of what had happened. After Pupil A had spent 5 minutes in time out, I had a restorative conversation with him where we referred to the classroom rules that we had set at the beginning of the year. When creating these rules as a class in September, pupils were asked to think about and share how they wanted to feel in the classroom and then think about behaviours that would help them to feel that way. So, I asked Pupil A to reflect on how he might have made the boy he had hurt feel and whether this was meeting our classroom rules. We then discussed what he could do to make amends with the boy. Together, we decided that he should draw a picture and write a letter of apology to say sorry and then give it to the boy he had hurt.

As I mentioned, during the afternoon, the senior leader called both parents. First, she phoned the parents of the boy who was hurt to make them aware of what had happened and explained how we were dealing with the situation. Then she phoned Pupil A’s father and asked him to attend a meeting after school so I could discuss the situation with him and how to go forwards. At the end of the day, before attending the meeting with Pupil A’s father, I ensured I took the time to speak to the parents of the pupil who had an injured arm. Whilst his parents were concerned about their pupil’s wellbeing, they understood that the situation was being dealt with appropriately by staff members in the school.

When Pupil A’s father came into school, I sat with him and his child and discussed what happened in the classroom. As this behaviour seemed to be getting more aggressive, we discussed possible next steps for a course of action. I knew other stakeholders would need to be involved in these next steps. Initially, I suggested that I speak to a pastoral member of staff as his behaviour seemed to be a way of communicating frustration or anger that he was feeling. I also suggested that I would speak to the SENDCo about the incident and discuss whether there was something they might be able to do to support Pupil A’s ability to regulate their emotions and reduce their violent and aggressive behaviour.

Over the following weeks, I worked with Pupil A’s father and the SENDCo to identify ways to help Pupil A manage his behaviour and aggression. We then used the graduated approach to monitor the progress of his success and the strategies we were using.

Primary challenging behaviour case study

Pupil background

This pupil is in year 6. He joined the school halfway through year 4 and comes from a have a challenging background. His parents are separated and have been for the duration of his time at our school. Both parents hold very different views on behaviour and as a result have different expectations of their child which can confuse him as it muddles the boundaries we try to set at school. His mother is approachable and willing to try and support him in school but often makes excuses for his lack of engagement or disruptive behaviour, often blaming the lesson for not being engaging or challenging enough for him, whereas their father is very strict and holds extremely high expectations of him. He sees his father every other weekend and I always notice a difference in his behaviour after spending time with his father. I have no contact with his father as his mother is his primary carer. He has very low self-esteem and resilience.

 The incident

The pupil regularly demonstrates challenging behaviour across a range of settings throughout the day. On one occasion, I was teaching long division, explaining the steps and asking pupils to attempt further questions on their whiteboards. Whilst I was teaching, I could see he was not tracking me or following my explanation. When asked to complete examples on his whiteboard, he rested his head on his arms and ignored my request.

Teacher response

During the explanation, when I noticed he wasn’t tracking me, I called his name and said a simple instruction, “Eyes on the board, thank you”. He did not respond to this. When I asked pupils to complete an example on their whiteboards, I went over to his desk and quietly asked him to begin an example on his whiteboard. He ignored my request. I then gave him two options, sometimes known as a deferred consequence; “You can complete this question on your whiteboard now, or you can sit with me during your lunch time and do it”. I then walked off to give him time to think about his next action. I went around the class, supporting other pupils with their working out and noticed that he had begun to complete the example on his whiteboard. When everyone had completed the example, we went through it as a class. When he demonstrated positive learning behaviours, I ensured I recognised those and rewarded him using positive and precise praise. I asked to speak with him at the end of the lesson quickly to discuss why he was refusing to engage during the lesson and how we can prevent that from happening again.

I found building trust and respect whilst addressing negative learning behaviours is very important otherwise this pupil tends to shut down completely and his behaviours escalate quite quickly.

Secondary challenging behaviour case study

Pupil background

The student (Student A) is in Year 11. He and his twin brother (Student B) have officially attended the school since arriving in Year 8 following their parents’ divorce, but both have low attendance, with the student in question on the verge of persistent non-attendance in Year 10. The boys live with their mother, though Student B has spent periods living with their father. Mother is personally supportive, but struggles to influence the behaviour of the boys, often accepting their misbehaviour or non-attendance in order to maintain her own relationship with them and avoid the risk of them returning to their father. Father refuses to interact with school. Both boys are socially active, with reports of smoking, drinking and anti-social behaviour outside of school. Both students are theoretically bright, but have limited motivation and concentration, content gaps due to absence, and a tendency to react aggressively or ‘walk out’ when challenged.

The incident

Student A and Student B are both in the same class for their English lessons, and regularly distract each other when present. Student B’s attendance has been noticeably higher than his brother’s. In the run-up to a set of mock exams, both students, following some pressure on and support from both parents, were going through a phase of regular attendance. While revising poetry, some of which Student A had not studied due to absence, Student A was distracted by Student B. When reprimanded, Student B focused on the work in question. Student A continued to attempt to catch his brother’s attention. He refused to engage with the tasks given, rejected support offered, and eventually threw his pen across the table, asserted that he couldn’t do it and couldn’t see the point, added “Fuck this”, and walked out of the lesson.

Teacher response

Obviously, the immediate response needed to be pastoral and follow the school behaviour system. In terms of my actions as the class teacher, before the next lesson, I reached out to both parents to emphasise the importance of his participation, the upcoming exams as a formative experience and avenue for success, and the range of support avenues available to him. Mother responded positively, father could not be contacted.

I re-arranged the seating plan to limit the ability of Student B and Student A to make eye contact. Student A was seated next to a similarly able and reliable student with full attendance and an approachable manner. I also made a point of bumping into Student A ‘spontaneously’ around the school beforehand to ensure a positive interpersonal dynamic at the beginning of the lesson. On his arrival into the lesson, I ensured that early tasks matched his ability and avoided ‘crunch points’ of unfamiliar content early on, promoting a positive attitude on his part and opportunities on my part to give praise. Tasks involved some interaction, but with frequent opportunities for verbal contact with me. Early work also linked thematically to later work, building a platform for Student A to participate, and with quiet prompts and support given both individually and to Student A with his partner to diminish any perceived threat or loss of face. Links were made in the lesson between familiar topics he could access and content missed so that he could see the holistic picture. Group and paired tasks were organised to ensure that compartmentalised content facilitated his participation while also filling in content gaps from his peers. Praise was emphasised, but clear boundaries were also asserted consistently and gently throughout the lesson to de-escalate potential confrontation without simply ignoring issues.

Additional support was also provided in terms of feedback during and after the lesson, some home-learning materials and pointers towards online resources. Following the lesson, pastoral staff, SLT and home were all contacted to ensure that Student A was praised through available routes for his attendance, resilience, effort and progress, with the hope of reinforcing these behaviours.

To summarise, the important factors were to see and access the wider contextual factors influencing the student’s behaviour (ensuring home buy-in, as much as possible), prevent environmental distractions, emphasise his skills and ability, confirm and build confidence through familiar content while interweaving missed content (and providing wider low-threat opportunities for filling content gaps), de-emphasise potential ‘flash’ points within the lesson, and establish a firm but positive dynamic and set of learning behaviours to promote longer-term success.