Catch up: Promoting positive behaviour for learning

Experienced senior teacher, Hayley McKechnie, talks of her many years supporting children’s behaviour in schools and the reasons why she was keen to contribute a course on behaviour management for the NAHT & Discovery Education Pathway programme.

Managing disruptive behaviour in the classroom frequently strikes fear into even the most experienced teacher. It is challenging and can be physically and emotionally draining every day, removing the focus on learning as teachers struggle to reduce the disruption for the other pupils and engage those whose behaviour is affecting them. But are there ways in which we can address the behaviours before they even happen? How does the way we interact with pupils from the first day affect how they relate to us?

I was delighted to be asked to be an author on the forthcoming NAHT & Discovery Education Pathway programme and my course Impactful Behaviour Management discusses ways in which we can use the ‘Three P’s’, Policy, Parents and Positivity, to support managing behaviour in the classroom, creating an environment where children feel valued and respected enough to ensure they behave appropriately more often. It is aimed at both new and experienced teachers and contains discussions with fellow educators.

My career in teaching had a late start, but began with seven years as a Primary School Teaching Assistant; if there was ever a way to experience behaviour management then that was it, as more often it would be me who was asked to deal with the child either by sitting with them or taking them for some time out. This gave me a fabulous insight, however, into what children are seeking when they behave badly and was not limited to those with SEN, but also children in care and those who had a difficult home life.

Having qualified as a teacher ten years ago, behaviour was the area which I felt I needed to ensure I mastered if the actual teaching part was going to be effective. I combined all I had learnt in school and during my PGCE to endeavour to create a calm and positive environment in my first class – Year 5 with three SEN pupils, two of which were ADHD – which I firmly believe was a valuable experience with which to begin a career!  Since then, I have developed my practice to deal with various behaviours but have arrived at the conclusion that there are several elements to success, which are not all based on the child, but also extend into school culture, with its values, norms, customs (and policies!).

Behaviour policies have to be robust and have a clear sanctions ladder, with expectations consistent across the school and deeply embedded into the whole ethos of the school, meaning they are intrinsically there and understood by everyone, pupils, staff and parents. That is not to say that extrinsic rewards are not important – what five year old would not be delighted at a sticker for being polite – but does it have the same effect with an eleven year old? Moreover, if the rewards are given out too freely, do they lose their value and credibility?

Whatever a teacher does we are invariably being scrutinised by the parents. It is imperative that a strong relationship is formed between them and the school from day one and that it is built upon as the child progresses from Foundation through to Year 6. Teachers need to ensure they work together when the child transitions, so they are fully informed about the relationship the parent has with their current teacher. The perception of teachers that many parents have from their own schooling will influence their approach. Parents will often question decisions and sanctions imposed, without even waiting to find everything out. Which is why it is imperative that teachers are honest and timely with their feedback. Letting issues build up before a phone call home is made, will be setting the teacher up for a difficult conversation. In many schools it is now common for parents to comment on a Social Media platform when they are unhappy, rather than approaching the school directly. As teachers we need to be mindful of this, yet another reason to ensure the partnership is strong, so parents feel able to approach you first rather than take to the keyboard.

Children absorb everything and are constantly learning about how to interact with others, they will be listening and watching all the time, focusing on how adults speak to the children and each other. This is why positivity is so important. It can be difficult even for the most patient person when a child’s behaviour is challenging, but if you have built a relationship with the class based on positivity and respect, managing the behaviour can be so much easier.

If you would like further information about the Pathway programme please visit


Hayley McKechnie

Hayley started in working in education as a Learning Support Assistant. Realising an interest in behaviours and the impact they have on learning, she trained as a Primary teacher. For the past nine years she has worked in a large primary school in a less affluent part of Essex, teaching Years 4, 5 and 6 whilst also, taking on the role of class mentor to many trainee teachers. She recently came out of class to lead computing across the trust of six schools and took on the role of KS2 SENCo. The increase of pupils with behaviour issues, including ADHD, ODD, Attachment disorder and mental health disorders, means she is well placed to advise on ways to manage these in the classroom. In addition, she has completed Understanding Children and Young Peoples Mental Health training. For the past four years Hayley has also delivered the Computing Training for Essex ITT Primary trainees and has recently become a NACCE Stem certified trainer. Her work as a SLE allows her to continually develop her own practice through supporting the teachers in the other trust schools.