The topic of the week is Tom Vodden on Behaviour Data: Rational, responsive and real.
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We spoke to Tom Vodden this week about a subject which is not always seen as relevant or exciting. However, as you will hear in this episode, it’s can be very interesting and hugely beneficial to schools!
Tom trained as a secondary RE specialist and has taught in mainstream and special schools in England and Australia.
He is the originator of the Sleuth Behaviour Tracking and Reward System and a Director of the School Software Company.
Tom now works as a consultant and trainer he has worked with hundreds of mainstream, special schools and PRUs with a specific focus on inclusion and behaviour management and support.
Tom VoddenTom has been engaged as an Associate Lecturer at the University of Bristol and sits on the National Council of SEBDA, an association which represents and supports professionals and young people within the field of Social, Emotional and Mental Health.
Tom has always been interested in helping schools to manage behaviour in a more pro-active and strategic way. He finds that there is often a lack of information collected by schools about behaviour and this leads to a lack of ability to create effective strategies and inform conversations and communicate about behaviour effectively.
This led to the creation of the ‘Sleuth’ behaviour tracking system and Tom now works with over 1,000 schools across the UK and abroad.
What behaviour data should schools be tracking on individuals?
Tom believes there is an important distinction between data and information. Schools often collect a lot of data about behaviour but this is not always translated into something meaningful – proper information which can inform practice.
The data should be used to develop our understanding of the challenges and obstacles young people face.
So it might be useful to track:
- Which times of day a learner may find challenging
- Particular days of the week which are problematic
- Specific types of behaviour which could be shared amongst teachers to inform practice
- Things that the learners do well – so we can celebrate these things
This means that what we do in schools can be properly evidence-based. Otherwise, we can quickly build up very negative perceptions of the child and set up self-fulfilling prophesies.
Great data collection can enable us to help individuals by:
- Tweaking timetables
- Support staff working with the individual
- Set appropriate targets
- Celebrate successes
- Share the information in a constructive way with parents
How do you make it easy for teachers to collect the data?
We need to be realistic about what information we collect.
Schools need to identify a threshold which is the trigger for collecting information, both good and bad about a pupil’s behaviour.
The outcomes for the information also need to be identified. It all needs to be based on policy, ethos and values – it’s not a bolt on, it’s part of the fabric of the school.
Processes can be simplified – for example, simply putting an individual stamp in every child’s planner can be replaced with a single form – but this always has to be tied into the overall behaviour management practice of the school in order to be effective.
How can teachers then use the data to understand more about the quality of interventions?
It’s important to be able to see how behaviour in a school looks over time. If a specific intervention has been put in place I need to be able to see if this has had an impact over time.
If I have been capturing data about my tutor group, for example, the progress of what I am doing needs to be shared with the tutor group regularly, perhaps even every morning. This also needs to be shared with and readily available to everyone in the school who also comes into contact with that group.
The way in which the information is shared around the school is very important. Tom points out that where it works poorly, a school may have a ‘data manager’ who doesn’t have any responsibility for behaviour management. So why are they controlling the data? Staff need to have access to the information which is relevant to them. In an SLT briefing, for example, there could be an overview of the last week’s behaviour management data. As a head of year, I should be able to go into a system, click on certain groups or individuals and see what the latest information is.
If the value of the information is increased via access to it for those who need it, then the collection of it becomes more relevant to the teachers involved and they will be keener to collect it in the first place.
Having access to rich information about individuals helps in every aspect of behaviour management.
What advice do you give to schools on gathering whole-school behaviour data?
Tom tries to tailor this kind of advice as far as possible to reflect the school. It needs consideration of what kind of data members of staff will benefit most from to help them with their responsibilities. In some cases this may end up being a very small data set which will provide the most beneficial information for that school. For example, some schools will focus just on low-level disruption with a ‘RAG’ rating (Red Amber Green). Combining data from across the school over time can lead to a good understanding of how effective a particular change in policy has been. It is then possible to ‘drill down’ into specific year groups and learning sets to identify particular groups within the overall picture where it may be essential to change the approach.
The link between policy and practice, between what schools say they are going to do and what they actually end up doing is crucial and the role of data collection is to provide information on whether staff are doing what they are meant to be doing in support of the policy.
What do you repeatedly say to schools around behaviour data?
- We need to demystify what we are talking about – it’s simply information which informs practice
- Identify where the information is going to be helpful and plan for how it will be used in the short, medium and long term
- The information needs to target and be available to every single member of the school community including parents and carers
There is so much more packed into this great episode, please do listen right through to the end!
If you are interested in speaking to Tom about ‘Sleuth’ the software package he has developed to help with behaviour data and turning it into useful information, please call 01223 900 300 or visit schoolsoftwarecompany.com.
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