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Dorothy Trussell on how to transform behaviour in your school – PP104

Dorothy Trussell

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The topic of the week is Dorothy Trussell on how to transform behaviour in your school.

Dorothy Trussell is Deputy Head at Flixton Girls’ School near Manchester in the UK. However, she began her career in hospitality before completing a PGCE.

Flixton Girls’ School has been given the rating of ‘Good with Outstanding Features’ so why is it important to have behaviour as a focus at this point?

Dorothy believes that whatever stage a school is at it needs to have effective behaviour management which is appropriate to your student body.

Behaviour management is so much more than whether the children are good or naughty – it’s the whole attitude to learning and the whole culture of the school.

Dorothy wants to see the students bouncing into school, having a positive attitude towards learning and really engaging in school life. This is linked inextricably to behaviour. The school had a very good academic record but Dorothy thought that they could only move forward with a new focus on behaviour.

What were the changes you made this September and what were the early changes you saw?

Dorothy feels that putting in 4 INSET days was ‘a dream’. it gave her the opportunity to get the Pivotal Curriculum off the ground. She led two lengthy sessions – one on culture and the other on safety. This enabled her to set the scene for the development. She included all support staff as well as teaching staff so there were over 100 people involved. Dorothy thinks this was critical in getting the whole school behind the initiative.

To start with the school didn’t have an official launch of the new approach. Instead, they introduced subtle changes:

  • positive notes home
  • teachers greeting students at the door
  • lots of smiles
  • quite a few classroom awards systems
  • removing ways of making students famous for poor behaviour like displaying lists of those in detention

The reaction to these changes was positive and students fed back that they couldn’t quite work out what was different but:

The school seemed calmer, everyone seemed to be focussing on their learning much more and there was less disruption in lessons.

Parents were also very pleased to be contacted with positive news – particularly those who Dorothy describes as ‘the quiet middle’ – the ones who often go unnoticed.

In addition there were four bigger changes:

1. The school closed its internal exclusion room

This was quite a bold move to remove something which had been used a lot in the previous year. However, it has gone well. When a couple of students have had to be removed from classrooms, the school has been creative and found places for them, for example in senior leaders’ offices.

2. A new Duty Rota for the extended leadership team

This means that every single period, there is a member of the leadership team on pro-active duty, not just responding to ‘on-calls’ in the radio but popping into lessons and using the ‘hotspot’ rota to check the places which are susceptible to disruption.

3. The new Year 7 have no detentions

The school now only uses impositions and restorative practice for Year 7 students. There are still consequences for poor behaviour but it is handled through a formal meeting with the teacher where restorative questions are used in a ten-minute conversation.

That ten-minute meeting has more impact than a one-hour detention.

4. Removing the automatic detention for being late to school twice in a week

If a girl is late, she has 10 minutes with the form tutor at the end of the day. This is also proving to be much more effective than the one hour detentions used to be. The school has had 440 fewer late incidents this year.

Have you done anything specific to sustain the improvement into a second term?

Dorothy has recruited a group of 10 teachers who were highly motivated by the sessions she ran. These are the ‘Pivotal People’ and have completed an additional online unit. Dorothy also delivered another unit to the whole staff during the Autumn term and feels lucky that she has been given regular CPD slots to continue the focus on behaviour throughout the year.

In addition, Dorothy keeps the focus on the improvements by including a message every week in the staff briefing and ensures there are up-to-date displays of progress.

Behaviour statistics:


last year to this point: 1634
this year: 503
69% reduction

‘On call’:

last year to this point: 263
this year: 53
80% reduction

Internal exclusions:

last year to this point: 88 days
this year: 0 (as there is now no internal exclusion room)

Have there been any unexpected consequence of the changes?

Attendance has improved a lot more than Dorothy was expecting with a 1.4% increase on this time last year.

Some teachers have also been involved in a mindfulness course which Dorothy says has combined in very positive ways with the Pivotal approaches.

The school is focussing on improving attendance at parents’ evenings and the recent year 9 event had 90% attendance which is a dramatic improvement from last year’s figure of around 65%.

Dorothy on Twitter: @dorothytrussell

Tweets of the Week

Ystrad Primary

Fochriw Primary


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