Positive Relationships at St Mary's
Positive Behaviour Policy to Promoting Positive Relationships Guidelines
Setting the scene
In the summer of 2019, our school realised it was time to review our Positive Behaviour Policy for lots of reasons, but the main one was that we needed everyone to understand our approach to living and working together at St. Mary’s [Leith], in the context of GIRFEC [Getting It Right For Every Child], UNCRC [United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child] and the Nurture School approach.
A lot of the staff had been involved in training in connection to Pivotal Education [Paul Dix] and the City of Edinburgh Council Nurture Approach and they really wanted to put this into practice at school.
Even though our current Positive Behaviour Policy was based on encouragement and praise, it also had a lot of focus on what happened when pupils weren’t ‘behaving’, and so we realised that it didn’t fit with the nurture and restorative approach that better reflected our school’s ethos and vision ‘Listen, learn and persevere in love’
We decided to review our school’s Vision, Values and Aims and then blend them together with the new policy as we felt that they were all inextricably linked. We wanted to be sure that we did this altogether – children, staff and families – so that everyone’s voice was heard. We realised that our new policy should focus on relationships not behaviour, as we all agreed that how we treated and interacted with one another was the most important thing of all. We also decided to call the new document guidelines and not a policy because it sounded more respectful and less strict! We were developing something that was there to help us all…. not just to make sure the children behaved! The guidelines would be for all members of the school community and would be the foundation of the school ethos.
Pupils participated in the development of the new guidelines through the long-established pupil groups – The Pupil Parliament, The Peace and Justice Group and The Rainbow Group [Inclusion and Equalities]. The Pupil Parliament representatives consulted with every class, and the Peace and Justice Group and The Rainbow group discussed and selected the specific UNCRC Articles that they felt were most relevant to ensuring a happy, safe and respectful environment in which to work and play. These were then shared with the whole school at Assembly.
We held activity-based focus sessions on In-Service Days and at meetings to gather the ideas and opinions of staff.
The first session began with an inspirational, short presentation on Relationships by the American Educator, Rita Pearson – ‘Every kid needs a champion’. Find here: https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion.
We then went on to revisit the GIRFEC indicators, our recent training on Nurture and the strategies suggested by Pivotal Education, looking at how we wanted to draw them all together to produce the best practice for St. Mary’s [Leith].
We discussed our current Positive Behaviour Policy and the strategies and processes that were in place. Staff shared their thoughts, just as the children had done, as to what they felt was working and what wasn’t, and any further ideas that might be introduced.
This information was then collated and formulated into a visual image linking all the ideas together. We chose circles to represent community and placed a heart at the centre. This was to emphasise that, as a school, we recognised that the emotional and physical health and wellbeing of everyone in our community was our absolute priority and so we placed love at the centre from which everything else would flow. The circles also held all aspects of the guidelines together, thus giving them equal importance and weight, with no area taking precedence over another.
Parents were consulted, with the support of The Parent Council, and were invited to provide in-put and comment at each stage.
The draft guidelines were then shared with the children at a whole-school Assembly and with the wider school community via the website, Twitter and paper copies.
What we do and how we want everyone to feel
2. How it links to UNCRC
3. Strategy sheet, at St Mary’s we use these strategies to help us…
The introduction of the new guidelines turned out to be a very exciting and positive experience at school. The biggest and most immediate change was the introduction of ‘Meet and Greet’ and ‘Soft Start’ throughout the school. Everyone LOVED this!
‘Meet and Greet’ was a wonderful opportunity for the Senior Leadership Team to welcome and speak to so many children as they came through the school doors and who appeared so much more relaxed and happier as they entered the building, exchanging greetings and sharing news with the SLT….after not having had to line up!
Everyone shared extremely positive feedback regarding the welcoming at the classroom doors by the classteachers – and to see the interactions was just wonderful!
‘Soft Start’ continued this positive atmosphere inside the classrooms and enabled almost all children to settle and prepare themselves emotionally for the school day. There was also a clear improvement in attendance and in managing the classroom for those pupils who had often previously found the transition into the class quite difficult. These children were able to attend an enhanced ‘Soft Start’ which took place in our Flexibase, where two members of staff were available to share breakfast, chat, play board games or just ‘be there’ – whatever the children needed.
Many parents commented very positively on the difference the new start to the day was having on their children at home in the mornings.
With regards the new strategies in place to support positive relationships and a happy and productive learning environment, once again the outcome was extremely successful.
In the beginning there was inevitably a settling- in period and the ‘Green Circle’ was sent quite often, but both staff and pupils were quick to embrace the change and recognise the positive outcomes of the new approach and the frequency of the use of the ‘Green Circle’ diminished as fewer difficulties arose.
Unfortunately, because of Lockdown in March 2020, the guidelines were only fully in place for just under two terms after which they had to be slightly adapted to meet the new regulations on the school’s return in August. However, as you can see from this sample of staff feedback below [October In-Service, 2020] the Promoting Positive Relationships Guidelines continued to flourish.
Our new Promoting Positive Relationships Guidelines brought about a significant change in the school’s rights-based practice by supporting the whole school community to frame our interactions, conversations and understanding of one another in the context of the UNCRC and helped us all to work together with a consistent and common language and approach to ensure respect and dignity for all.
Due to the arrival of a new Headteacher there has been another review of the school’s Vision, Values and Aims and Positive Relationships Guidelines, with wonderful participation from St. Mary’s [Leith] School community. This will undoubtedly enable the dignity of all to remain central to the school’s ethos.