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How Covid-19 has reshaped behaviour management in the classroom


In a typical academic year, teachers would be focused mainly on preparing their students for mock exams , but this year is a little different. While mocks matter more than ever, schools are also turning their attention to adapting behaviour policies. For the most part of a year, children were taught separately from their peers, with far less social interaction than they are used to. 56% of education staff agree that their ability to adapt to post-pandemic circumstances is the top skill they need to support their students with the transition from remote learning to the classroom.

With that in mind, we are going to take you through how Covid-19 has reshaped behaviour management in the classroom.

Consistency in the classroom

In the Improving Behaviour in Schools report , the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) listed consistency as one of the top recommendations for managing behaviour. Students have faced an uncertain year, but consistency can provide them with a great sense of relief. Schools will be focusing on restoring the routines and rules of the classroom, and this may include:

  • Asking students to line up before entering the classroom
  • Allowing them a few minutes to settle, then ringing a bell to signal the beginning of the class
  • Setting clear rules about the use of technology
  • Reminding them that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep the classroom tidy
  • Sharing a calendar so they know what they are learning in future lessons

Just because this is an unprecedented learning situation that does not mean teachers need to reinvent behaviour management. Schools are likely to begin favouring a clear behaviour policy as this avoids any confusion and it is easier to enforce.

Taking a flexible approach

For many students, the shift to remote learning will have been their biggest challenge yet. In fact, 98% of teachers report that their students are behind in the curriculum. As students are welcomed back to the classroom, teachers will be thinking about moving beyond a “hard” behaviour management strategy and towards a “soft” one.

This does not mean that students are necessarily treated differently. Instead, it considers that not every student shows disruptive behaviour for the same reason. One pupil may be distracting others in the class because they are not engaged, and another may be doing the same but for attention. Understanding where the behaviour stems from is essential because each warrants a different response. Reprimanding the first pupil will discourage their disruptive behaviour, but could reinforce the behaviour of the second pupil. Taking a flexible approach to behaviour management will be key.

A greater demand for adopting a Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum

Right from the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, the education sector was concerned about the adverse effects that remote learning would have on students' wellbeing. The NHS Mental Health of Children and Young People in England report , one of a number of studies into the impact of the pandemic on mental health, found that one in six students have experienced a mental disorder in 2020. This is up from one in nine in 2017, reflecting the heightened worries and anxieties of school students during the pandemic. This sparks the conversation of whether a Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum should be adopted.

For this holistic approach to be effective, schools will need to provide their staff with the appropriate training. Alternatively, they may look to additional staffing, such as behaviour mentors and those with a counselling background, who could support existing staff. While it still might be unclear whether the resources for this would be available, schools can be sure that having staff who understand misbehaviour is essential to provide effective responses.

A greater focus on one-to-one time

As the Mental Health Foundation outlines in the Returning to school after the coronavirus lockdown guide - one size will not fit all. Understanding each student’s experience of the lockdown will help teachers understand how they can offer support. As students transition back to learning in the classroom, schools will see the importance of making sure that each child knows there is a teacher they can turn to for one-to-one support.

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