Our Approach to Behaviour

The following information is a summary of our Relations and Behaviour Management Policy. It is written primarily to advise parents/carers coming to Highfields College with their child for the first time. The leaders who oversee this policy are Mrs Lewis, Mrs Tierney and Mr Carter. A shorter strategy summary statement is also available here.

Who We Are

Like all other schools, Highfields College is a community of students, teachers, support staff, parents and other visiting adults such as counsellors, governors and social workers. And like all other schools, Highfields College is a place of work where young people come to study and adults come to fulfil their roles as teachers, mentors, admin officers and so on. 

What makes Highfields College different from most other schools is that as a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and Alternative Education Provider (AEP), we primarily take in students who have presented with behaviours which have resulted in multiple suspensions and have culminated in permanent exclusion.

Whether we like it or not, for many this is the headline that defines our school. Because of this, some people outside of our college – people who have never spent time with us – can take the view that our school is a scary place or a chaotic place without rules and expectations. These perceptions create fear for those children and families who are referred into Highfields College.

However, Highfields College is categorically not like this – it remains a safe, caring community where there is happiness and laughter. It is a place of work where you will see safety, order and purpose. A recent NSPCC report supports this view – please click here to read it. There are other reports from established organisations that support this view too which you can access here.

The way we achieve this is by having clear, easy-to-understand aims around positive behaviour and clear ‘red lines’ around what constitutes harmful behaviour. We never say our students are ‘unacceptable’ but we always challenge unacceptable ways of expressing ourselves and unacceptable ways of coping with difficulty and demand – and we relentlessly care and coach our young people into new, better ways of interacting with the world around them.

We offer an alternative to mainstream school which involves the following headline features:

  • Small group sizes of no more than 8 (on average 6) where adult attention and support is readily available – with every student having at least one key adult (Mentor) who is ever-present to support throughout their day
  • Teachers and mentors with expert levels of communication skills and understanding of how behaviour happens – and how to move it forwards.
  • Subjects and lessons designed carefully to cater for a wide variety of student abilities – with on-site SEND specialists who have postgraduate training in ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism.
  • An additional on-call team of mentors to provide extra support where needed.
  • A large team of family and student support caseworkers (FASST) to support our parents / families with the challenge of bringing up children and teenagers in the 21st century. A challenge that many of us as parents also face!
  • A school site designed in a way that it is divided into smaller ‘schools within a school’ – which means although we have nearly 200 children, they work in small clusters with familiar staff.

What We Believe and What We Do

Highfields College staff are recruited because, as much as they want to be employed, they have a strong sense of mission – they feel strongly about ‘why’ they come to work here beyond career progression and earnings. Everyday we turn this sense of mission into detailed practice, as follows:

  • We believe positive behaviours are built on positive relationships. Our staff understand that everything begins with positive relationships – talking to children and genuinely getting to know them. 
    • We have a very high staff to student ratio and most class sizes average around 6 – with students who are struggling the most receiving 1-to-1, paired and trio learning.
    • Students are carefully placed with peers who they feel safe with whom they can have a positive mutual influence.
    • Every student has at least one key adult (mentor) with their class every day. 
    • Every student has two Form Tutors (1 teacher, 1 mentor) who meets with them at the start and end of each day. The list of Form Tutors can be found here.
    • We have adopted a Supportive Social Times Strategy which, amongst other things, means we provide additional adults at social times to ensure our young people have positive experiences of break and lunch times.
  • As a UN Rights Respecting School, we believe everyone has rights – ways they can be expected to be treated. Alongside this, we believe everyone has responsibilities – ways they are expected to treat others. 

  • We believe in ‘high challenge, high support – low threat, low shame’
    • We use an on-call team of mentors and breakout spaces to take young people to one side, to speak with them about what is happening, listen to their perspectives and forewarn them of consequences.
    • Raised voices from adults are very rare at Highfields College but adults caring for and firmly coaching students in the best choices is commonplace.
  • We believe that a restorative approach is always the preferred approach. 
    • We work to ensure students are given opportunities to regulate their emotions and reflect, to ‘make good’ where they can and to begin again as soon as possible. Sometimes this is not possible on the same day but this is always our aim.
    • For those students involved in the most frequent and high-level conflict, we offer intensive intervention programmes such as Inreach and STAR to try to repair the situation.
  • We believe our students have a voice and we should listen to their perspectives ‘when things go wrong’ – ideally before the situation escalates rather than in the aftermath.  We work with students in clear stages, providing care and intervention to de-escalate behaviour.
    • This is why at times our mentors will invest significant amounts of time in withdrawing a student from class to traffic light their actions and the potential consequences. We spend time unpicking what is happening. provide support and guidance and return them to class as soon as possible.

Further Reading: Graduated Model for Behaviour & Response – Feb 2024

We believe in positive reinforcement. Through our ‘Aim High’ mantra, we provide constant, clear messages about what good behaviour actually looks like – breaking down into chunks what it means to ‘be good’. At Highfields College this is broken down into five key behaviours:

    • Attend your lesson
    • Engage in the activities offered
    • Interact respectfully
    • Open your mind
    • Use your time productively
  • When things go well, students receive prompt, tangible rewards. 
    • Each lesson students can earn points for AEIOU behaviours. 
    • We share positives every week with parents/carers via weekly certificates which are both handed to students and posted home. 
    • We provide reward trips every 3 weeks which means students every 3 weeks can start again and aim high.

  • We believe that behaviour which causes harm to others is a ‘red line’ in our community and place of work – and where this happens, we will intervene appropriately to make others safe and ensure they continue to have a positive day. At times this does mean we will suspend students and in the most difficult (and thankfully rare) situations, we will physically intervene. We hope our students and parents are reassured by this assertive approach rather than threatened and are always happy to sit and discuss it in more detail.
  • For more information:
  • We believe parents/carers have a huge influence in helping us move things forwards. 
    • We use the EduLink app to allow all parents/carers to see how their child’s day is progressing. Parents/carers can sign up for this service here.
    • We seek conversation, and ideally a face to face meeting, to talk things through ‘when things go wrong’ – not just a ‘telling off’ but a genuine exploration of the issues to get us to a better place. Whilst we are open to queries and complaints about our decisions as we never get everything right, we believe working together with parents/carers and having ‘one voice’ on behaviour is a game-changer for our young people.
  • We believe poor behaviour is often an indication of an unmet need and/or relying on a bad habit to try to get what we need. 
    • All students at Highfields College have a ‘One Doc’ which is a detailed profile of both their learning and behaviour. 
    • We use specialist tests for learning difficulties and functional behaviour assessment tools with all young people, in a non-threatening way that seeks to unpick what is happening below the surface of behaviour. 
    • We will share this openly with parents/carers and talk it through with our students in terms they understand. Parents/carers can request a meeting at any point or come to our termly open morning (on the last day of each term) to discuss further.
    • Where necessary, we will refer to outside agencies for further support.
  • We believe forming good habits requires time and constant coaching. In 2009, researchers at University College London conducted a study in which participants were asked to choose a new habit and track their progress for 84 days – the researchers found that it took an average of 66 days for the participants to form a new habit. 
    • For students who struggle most with behaviour, we work with them to create a Positive Handling Plan which sets out their preferred healthy ways to express themselves and cope (‘how to handle themselves when it gets stressful’). Key staff will then support them and coach them in this plan.
    • We use our Supportive Social Times Strategy to coach young people into more positive interaction.
    • We have a large, on-site attendance team (known as FASST) to ensure our young people attend regularly – making sure they then access both the lessons and coaching they need to move forwards.
    • We have built specialist offsite provisions to try to re-engage those young people who have become school refusers and/or find our main school environment too difficult to manage, resulting in more difficult behaviours.
    • We ensure 90%+ of suspensions involve a ‘next day return’ rather than extended time out of school.
    • We keep reduced timetables to an absolute minimum and on a time limit.

If you have any further questions about behaviour management at Highfields College, please do not hesitate to get in touch.