Managing Physical Behaviour in Secondary Schools and Settings

When a member of education staff makes a decision about physically intervening in a ‘physical behaviour’ situation, it is possibly the most critical moment in their career.

Our training is designed to keep your organisation and all of your people safe on every level – personally, professionally, emotionally and legally. 

Our training for Secondary Schools and Colleges is specific to YOUR environment and the context of the encounters which are most likely for the people in YOUR setting. 

Behaviourally, we know that adolescents in a secondary environment:
– experience social status (the hierarchy, the pecking order) as a major driver for their behaviour
– are hugely influenced by group dynamics, are sensitive to in-group and out-group interactions
– when in conflict are influenced powerfully by the audience who is watching the incident
– if given an opportunity to withdraw and disengage from conflict, will take that option rather than ‘melt down’ in front of their peers.
The forseeable results of a poorly managed physical intervention at Secondary Schools and Colleges could be:
– a child with a life-changing injury
– a staff member with a life-changing injury
– career-ending legal proceedings against the staff member
– career-limiting prosecution of management decisions

Was able to give example scenarios and answer all questions. Excellent trainer who exceeded my expectation.

Assistant Head, Boston High School

Clear and concise – the trainer was excellent and the session exceeded my expectations.

Principal, Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College

To respond safely, your staff must know how to:

– balance their duty of care for their own safety and others.
– use only force which is reasonable in the circumstances
– make split-second decisions about Necessity and Proportionality
– employ techniques which have been medically audited for use with children and young people
– avoid the use of dangerous and prohibited methods of restraint
– follow the Department of Education guidance on Use of Force (11 pages of succinct content)
– manage their fear of post-incident allegations
– write a legally appropriate incident report after the encounter

Dealing with Intimidating or Abusive Behaviour towards Secondary Schools and Colleges Staff

However, it can be hard for staff to deploy appropriate de-escalation strategies where abuse directed towards them become very personal, or potentially damaging to their career, or over time wear away at the teacher’s professional presence (again with the issues of the audience, peer-oversight and the horizontal conflict that is often present in pressurised workplaces).  This is where giving time to staff to practice their responses to such behaviour, while overlaying some insight into conflict triggers for adolescents and young people, can be hugely valuable in giving management at a school the confidence that staff (both teaching and non-teaching) have the tools to deal with behaviour confidently and effectively.  On our courses we discuss the need for a ‘Showtime’ mindset to prepare for these critical moments, when the professionalism of the staff performance must shine through as they employ Redirections to deal with problem behaviour without escalating into direct conflict.

Breaking Up Fights in Secondary Schools and Colleges?

In our experience in helping many colleges and second-level institutions, it is pretty rare for secondary-level pupils to physically assault a member of staff. Far more likely in this context is the problem of student-student violence, where a member of staff becomes aware of a physical encounter between two (or more!) students and realises, in a critical moment, that they may have to do something about the situation presented to them.   In situations like this, your staff really need to be standing on firm ground with respect to their Duty of Care:  whose safety is a priority?  how to we prioritise action? must I physically intervene to show professionalism? could I stand back and still be upholding my duty of care?   These questions are absolutely critical to the safe resolution of ‘students fighting’ and taking time on a training day to investigate the issues and answer your team’s questions is really beneficial in our experience.

Managing the audience becomes a critical skill in these situations at Secondary Schools and Colleges and is a terrifically difficult cognitive and psychomotor skill!  Being at the centre of a large group of very aroused teenagers, who are upset about their friends winning or losing a physical fight, shouting and swearing and wanting to get involved…it takes some pre-planned and practiced responses from staff and the only way to develop those skills is by carrying out the appropriate ‘fire drills’ with your team to see how things roll!

“Very helpful and useful information, and very dynamic approach. Everything was very good – I would recommend this to colleagues 10/10”

Student Supervisor, Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College

The issues of knife crime and gang affiliation in the community setting – Secondary Schools and Colleges

A further related issue here in our secondary environments is the growing threat of young people using edged weapons and knives to settle disagreements they have, or to climb a social hierarchy in a ‘status seeking’ display. From stories dating all the way back to the murder of London head teacher Philip Lawrence, the the more recent stories about supply teacher Victor Uzomah who was stabbed in Bradford and of course the murder of Ann Maguire in Leeds, we know that some school-age young people both carry knives to school and will potentially use them.
Coupled with this is the growing problem of gang affiliation and the status of knife-crime and knife-assault in the community.  The fear of many head-teachers and Senior Leadership Teams is that community ‘beefs’ can spill onto school or college corridors. Incidents in the community on monday night can precipitate non-student intrusions on to school grounds, bringing violence and chaos to the safe learning environment we are trying to create.

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