Three common behaviour challenges in schools and trusts

Every school is on a journey – and the extent to which pupils can fulfil their potential relies heavily upon the success of a school’s journey. A large part of this is contingent on having an effective and sustainable behaviour culture.

The Behaviour Hubs programme supports a school or MAT’s behaviour journey, helping them to create calm, safe and supported environments with pupils in schools and ready to learn.

Based on the hundreds of schools and trusts that have already referred themselves to the Behaviour Hubs programme, some common behaviour challenges across all regions of the country have been identified.

1. Lack of whole school or trust-wide consistency

Many schools that refer themselves to the Behaviour Hubs programme do so because although strategies have been put in place to support pupil behaviour, they can be undermined if expectations are not consistently communicated.

This is why the programme places such a strong emphasis not simply on improving behaviour – but building a behaviour culture. A culture is larger than the sum of its parts; it will outlast the individuals who have implemented the policies and strategies which feed into it.

For MATs, it can be even more difficult to ensure consistency within schools across their trust. A recent announcement that is likely to impact the prioritisation of behaviour culture is DfE’s target for all schools to convert to academies by 2030. As a result, MATs will undoubtedly need to consider strategies to standardise their approach toward behaviour culture.

“The evidence is clear that leaders in high performing schools create a collective culture of high behavioural expectations,” explained Mark Emmerson, CEO of City of London Academy Trust and adviser on the Behaviour Hubs programme. “It is what children need and what great schools have done over many decades: building a culture and, subsequently, a reputation.”

2. Dealing with particularly challenging behaviour

While schools generally feel more confident managing low levels of disruption in the classroom, instances of high-level disruption can challenge even the most experienced teachers and senior leaders. Without the right support it can be difficult to approach challenging behaviour, which in turn can lead to an ineffective learning environment for all pupils.

This was Ercall Wood Academy’s focus when it joined the Behaviour Hubs programme in April 2021. “Ercall Wood is a diverse and comprehensive academy, drawing pupils from both affluent areas and a significantly deprived area,” explained Richard Gummery, Principal of Ercall Wood Academy.

Richard did not want to simply “deal with” these individuals – but to support them, understand and address their needs. “We wanted to develop a culture of optimism and lateral thinking in how we meet these pupils’ needs. This would involve changing a mindset that pupils who are challenging will be referred to alternative provision before exploring all possibilities.”

“The Behaviour Hubs programme helped significantly in consolidating our thinking on how to meet the needs of our most challenging young people,” Richard added. “Seeing good and outstanding practice in other academies shaped our strategies in our academy. Phrases such as ‘behaviour is communication’ and ‘certainty not severity’ are now framed in our policies and actions.”

3. Ineffective use of feedback systems

While children should have room to develop and express themselves, it is important to ensure that expectations relating to what is deemed acceptable behaviour are clearly communicated and understood.

This is what the Cornelius Vermuyden School set out to achieve when it joined the Behaviour Hubs programme last year.

“We wanted to become ‘an organised school’ with clearly defined boundaries, to remove any ambiguity regarding what is acceptable and what is not for all stakeholders. In turn, our aspiration was to ensure expectations and subsequent consequences are clearly known and understood.”

Following their year spent on the Behaviour Hubs programme, Cornelius Vermuyden is already observing green shoots from their action plan put into practice. In addition to strong positive shifts in behaviour data, 100% of teachers now think that there is a culture of recognising and celebrating positive behaviour at the school.

“We knew we had to change behaviour but we just didn’t know where to begin,” said Nadia Ounzain, Assistant Headteacher at Cornelius Vermuyden School. “But being a part of Behaviour Hubs made this process a lot more manageable. I can’t tell you how transformative the programme has been for our school.”

Every school is on a journey

The aim of the Behaviour Hubs programme is to support schools and trusts on their behaviour journey – and this journey looks different for everyone.

“The programme has been even more successful than we hoped,” said Tom Bennett, lead adviser on the Behaviour Hubs programme. “We’ve built this program with sustainability baked into it. Once the principles of effective school leadership are unpacked clearly, they cannot be unseen – and everyone who engages fully with this process will possess life-long skills, aptitudes and a language to help determine success in every school project they subsequently embark upon.”


The Behaviour Hubs programme is currently accepting applications from schools and MATs for the September 2022 and January 2023 cohorts.