Wightwick Hall School

Phase/Provision: Special

Theme: Leadership and Management

Context for joining Behaviour Hubs

Wightwick Hall school is a generic secondary special school on the Wolverhampton/Staffordshire border in the West Midlands. Despite the school being on a grand eleven-acre site, in an old stately home, in an affluent area, the school takes students with Education, Health & Care Plans from across nine different local authorities, and from a wide range of economically diverse backgrounds. This includes a large number of children who come from low-income families, generational unemployment, and social services/Early Help involvement. We have also seen an increase in the number of EBSA (emotionally-based school avoidance) students (approximately 10%) who attend on part-time arrangements, or who do not attend at all.

This academic year, the school has seen an unprecedented growth of just over 35%, with students on roll now up to 140. This increase in numbers has also seen our most diverse spread of SEND. This means we are now looking at a different school, with new teachers, a new leadership team, and a reliance on agency staff, which is in-line with the national picture. There is a large need in the area we serve, and the school continues to receive a large number of consultations, having received over 120 since September alone. With the size of the site we still have the capacity to grow, but we need to do so while continuing to consider the wider impact.

The challenge at Wightwick is to sustain our growth, whilst providing high quality opportunities and interventions for all students. Being a generic special school, there is a wide range of needs, and the school is separated into 3 pathways, from those with the most complex needs, to students who are able to be more independent both in learning and social environments, but continue to require a high level of support.


Behaviour challenges and goals

Behaviour is managed well in many parts of the school – but approaches are inconsistent, and too much low-level disruption was apparent in a number of classrooms. Pupils were not clear of expectations and rewards for positive behaviours were not clear.

There was not enough capacity within SLT, and middle leadership did not have clear roles. There appeared to be a divide where departments had been too regularly compared with each other, leading to some discontent. Staff did not feel like they had autonomy in their classrooms and were heavily reliant on a ‘C1-C4 approach’ which managed behaviours through time in ‘the hub’ with a designated teacher. In most cases, low-level disruption was not recorded or monitored other than through time in the hub.


“With rapidly increasing numbers and an increase in SEMH needs amongst both new and existing students, the school’s behaviour approach was no longer fit for purpose.”


Solutions to behaviour challenges

In order to achieve our goals, we completed the following actions:

  • Developed a behaviour working party to strategies and get buy-in from staff at all levels.
  • Increased capacity within SLT and worked with middle leaders to develop a clear structure.
  • We conducted a staff survey to find out what they felt about behaviour in school.  This gave mixed pictures and highlighted a lack of typicality.
  • We used these finding to create our new behaviour policy, which included an attached detailed code for both staff and pupils around being ‘ready, respectful and safe’.
  • Introduced a new rewards process designed by a teaching member of staff.
  • Introduced ‘golden tickets’ on a monthly basis to reward a ‘secret positive behaviour’, awarded by SLT.
  • The Maria Award has been introduced in memory of a past student, and presented by her parents. This recognises the spirit of being a good friend, student and role model.
  • Introduce ‘The Wightwick Way’ which has started to develop a structure for lessons and a language around behaviour and culture. This includes ‘non-negotiables’ to be included in all lessons, and expectations for a common approach to the first 5 minutes in all classrooms.
  • Introduced the school planner, to be used as a resource to support regulation strategies and seeking support when dysregulated.
  • Developed ‘regulation spaces’ in different areas of the school, to be seen as a positive space to regulate, rather than a place to be taken when dysregulated.
  • Strategies shared with staff during a training day. This allowed for the philosophy behind the policy to be explained.
  • A member of staff is completing the NPQ in behaviour and culture and has been given a TLR3 to support development. A teaching assistant has been removed from the classroom to work explicitly to support restorative practice and developing self regulation skills.


“The Maria Award has been introduced in memory of a past student, and presented by her parents. This recognises the spirit of being a good friend, student and role model.”


Impact on behaviour

The new behaviour policy has had a wide range of positive outcomes:

  • All pupils are able to demonstrate they are familiar with ‘ready, respectful, safe’ and staff and students are starting to use this language with each other.
  • A clear approach to behaviour is now established, although remains inconsistent. Leaders are able to monitor and hold staff to account where practice is not being followed.
  • Regulation spaces are seen in a more positive way
  • While staff still feel there is a lot to do, they are more solution-focused and are able to have a voice. Good practice is being shared and staff are actively looking to develop their skills.
  • Pupils are very passionate about the new rewards, particularly the introduction of ‘the golden ticket’ and Maria Award. This reward has also been very well received by parents/carers and has provided a natural tool to discuss positive behaviour.
  • Increased capacity and understanding within leadership.


Next steps on your behaviour journey

As the school has changed significantly in the last 12 months, with a large number of new staff and pupils, and changing needs, there is still a long way to go on the journey.
We will be working with a school to help develop a behaviour curriculum starting in January, and our current Lead School will continue to support us during the second year of supporting the Trust as a whole.

The Wightwick Way will continue to develop, with explicit expectations for all classrooms, as well as break and lunch times. We will utilise the expertise we have in school to share good practice, in what is now a much more positive environment for sharing good practice. We also plan to recognise successes and review practice regularly through weekly briefings, as well as invest in staff CPD to allow them to develop expertise that can be disseminated further.