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Temporary changes to behaviour policy – guidance for schools

Last Updated 2:56pm, 5 June 2020


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As children start returning to the classroom, school leaders will have much to consider regarding the health and safety of their pupils and staff. This will include the behaviour policy and practice in light of the conditions in which schools operate being different to those which prevailed prior to the lockdown. Schools should refer to Department for Education (DfE) guidance released to support schools in the planning for the return of pupils other than the inclusion of pupils currently attending school as key worker children or children known to social care or otherwise deemed at risk. Primary schools should refer to the DfE planning guidance.

Behaviour Policy

It is for the governing board to set the principles for behaviour and inclusion. It is for school leaders to develop operational policy and practice based on the guidance available and in line with board expectations. The board should approve or ratify any changes, temporary amendments or additions to school policy by school leaders.

As children begin to return to school in greater numbers and with coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns in mind, head teachers should work with their colleagues to identify children who may present behavioural challenges on their return to school. In Devon, we will all be working on the basis that we want to find ways in which to accommodate all children successfully. This may of course include children who prior to lockdown were at risk, but also children who have had difficulties or even traumatic experiences whilst away from school and children who will find returning to a school quite different from the one they left, confusing, unpredictable and challenging.

School leaders must also consider the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and all other children attending the setting. If a child is unwell, or showing the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (as defined by current government guidelines) or the school has information that parents are not following current government guidelines, they will expect the child to remain at home and offer provision and support remotely informing relevant partner agencies through the Early Help triage process. This will include establishing regular contact with the family until such time as they have adhered to guidelines enabling the now well or symptom-free child to return to school. Leaders will use their professional discretion, working with any partner agencies and Local Authority officers should other exceptional circumstances exist whereby a child compromises the health, wellbeing or safety of staff or other children.

Additional items for behaviour policy during the pandemic

Items schools may wish to add to their behaviour policy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

  • Following any altered routines for arrival or departure
  • Following school instructions on hygiene, such as handwashing and sanitising
  • Following instructions on who pupils can socialise with at school
  • Moving around the school following specific instructions (for example, one-way systems, out of bounds areas, queuing, lunch routines)
  • Expectations about sneezing, coughing, tissues and disposal (‘catch it, bin it, kill it’)
  • Telling an adult if they are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus
  • Rules about sharing any equipment or other items including drinking bottles
  • Amended expectations about break & play times, including where children may or may not play
  • Use of toilets and cloakroom facilities
  • Clear rules about coughing or spitting at or towards any other person
  • Amended rewards and sanction system where appropriate.

Schools will need to identify any reasonable adjustments that need to be made for pupils with more challenging behaviour or special educational needs.

Risk of exclusion

While it is likely that further guidance will be issued from the DfE, where schools are predicting risk which may lead to exclusion of a pupil the following would be useful:

  • School teams should risk assess and consequently develop a school-based plan designed to meet the pupils needs, reduce the risk of incidents occurring and which consider the safety and wellbeing of the pupil themselves, other pupils and school staff.
  • Reference should be given to the Devon Graduated Response Tool, EHCPs and other assessment processes. Through the tool, school staff can consider their proactive and responsive plans based on their understanding of the child’s needs.
  • Relational Support Plans, Co-Regulation Support Plans and Behaviour Care Plans are all useful templates for school-based plans. These can also be supported by resources such as the Five Point Scales which can be found on the Babcock Support for Schools pages.
  • Where the individual planning for identified pupils is proving challenging, school staff should liaise with Babcock LDP SEN Support Teams and/or the DCC Inclusion Team as well as other agencies who may be involved with the child and family.
  • Where a reduced timetable is being considered, other agencies should be consulted, a consensus agreed and an Annex R should be completed and returned to DCC Inclusion
  • Once children are in school, school-based plans should be monitored, reviewed and adapted when required. The SEND Code of Practice Assess, Plan, Do, Review approach applies to all children with identified SEN including unmet SEMH needs.
  • If despite detailed planning and implementation, behaviour proves to be challenging, schools should again seek the support of Babcock LDP SEND Support colleagues and DCC Inclusion colleagues who can support the review of school-based plans. Under current working arrangements that will be on a virtual basis.
  • If a child has an EHCP and there are specific concerns about the individual’s needs in attending school, this should be addressed through a discussion with parents about the delivery of the EHCP. Advice about how to frame this discussion is provided in the SEND risk assessment on the government website.


No school wishes to exclude a child or young person however, where there is a significant breach or persistent breaches of the school behaviour policy (and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school):

  • Head teachers can consider either fixed or permanent exclusion as a response.
  • For permanent exclusions reference should be given to the DfE guidance.
  • For fixed term exclusion head teachers should complete a coronavirus (COVID-19) amended Annex B and return to DCC Inclusion.
  • Where a pupil is excluded for disciplinary reasons, schools should reassess the pupil’s RAG rating on their Vulnerable Pupils list. Where the pupil is open to social care, schools should speak to the social worker prior to the exclusion where possible and as a minimum notify the social worker to ensure there is a log of the call.
  • During coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, consideration should be given to maintaining contact with the child and family during the period of exclusion.
  • During the exclusion period, schools should review the pupil’s school-based plan considering what will need to be different about provision for the pupil to be successful on their return.
  • On their return the pupil should be involved in a reintegration meeting which will outline how the school aims to support their successful inclusion.
  • On the pupil’s return to school staff should implement the school-based plan
    effectively and consistently. They should continue to review the effectiveness of the plan making changes where appropriate. When in doubt, they should liaise with Babcock LDP SEND Support colleagues, DCC Inclusion Team Colleagues and other agencies.
  • For permanent exclusion the duty lies with the local authority to provide education from day 6 of the exclusion, however you should have notified your chair of Governors and may wish to adjourn the Governors disciplinary meeting until all parties are able to access the hearing.
  • Until day 6 and or until notified by the Local Authority Inclusion team, the school should maintain daily contact with the pupil and parent/carers.