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Solving challenging behaviour consistently across a trust

Find out how, with help from Scomis, Pencoys school is taking the lead in reengineering its approach to behaviour and achievement so that effective, targeted intervention strategies can now be implemented. 

Jenny Beesley, Pastoral Lead and Alex Craig, Head Teacher, Pencoys School, Crofty MAT. Jane McFall, Education & Product Specialist, Scomis

Overview – Solving challenging behaviour consistently across a trust 

Ever realised you don’t know what you don’t know, but you know there’s something missing? That’s exactly where Jenny and Alex found themselves. Pencoys School is only a small primary school, but it has challenging children with complex needs. Jenny and Alex knew that there was a problem with behaviour and achievement but despite the size of the school, were struggling to pinpoint exactly where the problem lay. 

As pastoral lead, Jenny knew what she wanted to know but was struggling to find the answers. This was largely due to the inconsistent way in which behaviour and achievement was recorded and a lack of knowledge of how the systems the school already had in place could hold the key to success. 

Find out more about the approach they took to addressing this challenge, the benefits they are experiencing and how learnings and best practice are being cascaded and shared across all schools within the trust. 

About Pencoys and Crofty MAT 

Pencoys is one of nine schools within Crofty MAT which serves the communities of Cambourne, Pool and Redruth in West Cornwall.  

By ‘working as one,’ the trust aims to create a culture of shared responsibility for all children in their schools. Sharing resources enables them to maximise opportunities, innovate and pursue equity for their learners. 

Having moved all of their schools to cloud-based SIMS with the Scomis Hosted Application Service and Scomis MIS Support, this session explores the benefits from one school’s perspective of the trusts strategy for standardisation and builds on our session ‘Working as one’ with Crofty MAT. 

Next steps

The challenge we’ve explored here with Pencoys School today, is just one example of the many ways in which Scomis can help you make more effective and efficient use of your Management Information System.  

We aim to help you exploit SIMS to its full potential to ensure that it is fully embedded across your school or multi academy trust. In doing so we help you achieve consistency of use to deliver efficiency gains, reduce staff workload, realise best value, and ultimately drive forward school improvement.  

Find out more about our services that could help you get more out of SIMS:  

For help when you need it most Scomis MIS Support Services 

Anytime, Anywhere, Any device access to SIMS in the Cloud Hosted Application Service 

Improving outcomes through reliable data insights – Managed Reporting Service 

Supporting Improved Outcomes – School Leadership Services 

Tutor-led and Self-directed Digital Learning Courses for SIMS – Training Courses 

If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch. (hyperlink to contact form). 

Other related topics 

Find out how Scomis contributed to delivering Crofty MATs “Working as One” strategy, by transferring all of the trust’s schools to cloud-based SIMS, with Scomis’ Hosted Application Service.

Further reading and reference material

To follow

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Session Transcript

Jane McFall talks to Jenny Beasley and Alex Craig about managing children with complex needs

JANE: Pencoys School, a school in the Crofty MAT, is taking the lead to reengineer its approach to recording behaviour and achievement so it is more effective. It targets intervention strategies that can be implemented and you can hear how they approach this, the time it took and the outcomes include how learnings and best practice are to be cascaded and shared across all schools within the Trust. I am going to be talking with Jenny and Alex about how they have approached this. My first question is for Jenny in the main; can you describe and outline how behaviour and achievement was recorded at Pencoys before you started to consider there must be a more efficient way?

JENNY: We started off using a book, the “Red Book”, that we would update by hand. Each class would have a book and record incidents in it. We had various sanctions in place, and everybody followed that, but everybody had to hand-write it. Then I would have a lengthy weekly meeting to put that all together to make sure that everything was being followed through and pick up on trends and whether support was needed for a particular child having issues. It worked, but it was very time-consuming. We were recording our achievements on a target track, but it was difficult to keep track of effectively. So we needed to approach it in a different way.

But you had no idea know how to go about it?

JENNY: Not at all, no.

That is what both us were feeling. We were aware how time consuming it was, and we had different systems working individually, but we were looking for a way to bring things into one unified system.

JENNY: We moved on to Excel, which was quicker, but obviously with Excel it goes on and on. So, to get a nice, simple report – yes, that was tricky.

JANE: Alex, as the headteacher of a primary school, had you thought of using SIMS?

ALEX: Not at all. It was strange, as SIMS has been part of school for a long time – we were using it, but the main use we had for it was tracking attendance. I was limited in my knowledge of what SIMS had to offer – beyond taking a register, or perhaps pulling off an attendance report for the governor’s meeting, I did not know much beyond that. Like Jenny was, we were searching around for a way of making things tighter, more succinct, and more efficient.

JANE: As I recall, Jenny, you contacted me in March 2021 to get an attendance report. I think I said at the time, “there is a much more efficient way of you getting the attendance data you want when you want it, to put it at your fingertips without relying on a report – you can have it as a visual display.” You asked how to do that, so I suggested having an awareness session on configuring the home page. After a 30-minute session, you had a eureka moment, leading on to thinking we could do something else. Was it easy for you to configure the home page?

JENNY: I knew nothing, but your support changed everything. Having my homepage configured with all of the information that I need led on to more – it just changed everything. It was just all right there.

ALEX: I remember Jenny coming to me to say, “I’ve configured my homepage on SIMS – you won’t believe it when you see it.” Then I looked at my home page and from there the ball was rolling in terms of getting this information out to people as it would make all of our lives easier.

JANE: I remember saying to you, “You can have behaviour and achievement, but we have to do a bit of a process behind it first, because it is important for you to know what your policies are and to make sure that the criteria to report on is a line to the policies.” Can you remember what we did first with behaviour and achievement?

JENNY: We made it specific for our school – you showed me how to change the different behaviour types and the action attendant, things like that – so we started by changing it so it suited our needs.

ALEX: Initially, I suppose it is indicative of what I thought about SIMS in the first place; I had felt it was really for secondary schools, almost. But at that stage, when we realised that a lot of the behaviour types in there didn’t need to remain the same but could be tailored to suit the school, I thought we could make it primary-friendly but specifically Pencoys-friendly. So, where we have a focus around learning habits, or diamond rules and our celebration certificates and so on, we suddenly discovered that actually we could tailor and change the categories to suit specifically what we were doing in school. That was the first step. We spent time together really unpicking our behaviour policy, what the categories were, thinking about how we wanted it to look.

JANE: Picking up on that, the teachers are now using it, so it is a more efficient use of their time: getting things recorded immediately so that you can pick up on the trends quicker than you were before. I know that we started this back in March last year; I guess because we were in the height of the pandemic and schools were closing and there were high levels of absence from staff and pupils that maybe the process took longer, but it was good to be able to have that time to monitor and to review each stage, wasn’t it?

JENNY: Absolutely. For me, it was great having it. There was less pressure as we wanted to start it but we knew we had to learn, to develop, and to change it to how we wanted it. So it gave us a window to do all of that and to slowly introduce it to the teachers. So we were ready to go in September – it did take a little longer, but that was not a particularly bad thing.

ALEX: I think because we were able to put the leg work in beforehand, and to identify some of the things we thought were going to be stumbling blocks, and to drip-feed the information to staff about what we were planning for September, it gave a chance for everyone to have a little go – to not feel the threat of us having transferred over to a new system that might or might not work. As everyone had been on the journey with us, they were at a point in time to just give this a go. So, yes!

JENNY: We had a session with all the teachers in the summer where we went through the whole process so that right at the very end of that academic year they had the whole process going through. Even though we had a trial, we went over it again so everybody was ready for September. So, it definitely would not have taken so long had we not been in the situation that we were all in but it was quite good in that it gave us a gradual approach which was better for the teachers.

JANE: How many classes do you have in Pencoys School?

ALEX: Seven across the school.

JANE: Were the TAs doing anything, or was recording behavior and achievement solely down to the teachers?

JENNY: They have had the training as well. I did a session with the TAs and made a step-by-step route to do it all, like a flow chart, so that if it has been a while they can grab their script and go and do it. Everybody has access to it.

JANE: So, all the staff that access SIMS have their homepage configured – that is something that you think is important. Is it helping?

JENNY: Yes. When they have the information, they stopped doing so many trips to the office, as they can get some of the information that they need right there where they are.

It is very useful if another member of staff is having a conversation with a parent. If I have a parent on the phone or a member of staff who is speaking to a parent on the phone, I can pull up the information about that child in front of me. It is all there in one place: I can see what the achievements are, what some of the behaviours have been. I do not have to go searching for it before having the conversations. It is very helpful.

JANE: I think the clever thing about the home page is that it is configured according to the user, so each one can look different.

ALEX: The key thing has been that, if staff members enter details about a child, they can also send messages to anyone who might need to be alerted – so I might have a message pop up on my page and be able to look into something right away. It is all there in one place.

JANE: Fast forward to September – you have the implementation going. I can remember, Jenny, you contacted me to say, “I need to get the information out now.” I told you that you had not put enough in to make that realistic; you had to allow a couple of weeks.

JENNY: We did; that was quite funny. Obviously we wanted to see what a report would look like – I was jumping the gun, too keen! So, we waited, and people were using it – then, once it was populated with the data, we got to a point around half-term where we could notice specific trends – in our case those concerned a particular year group and a particular gender.

JANE: How long would that have taken you otherwise? You may have had an idea in your head in the past, but how long would it have taken to find the evidence?

JENNY: It would have taken a long time. We knew that there was an issue but, having the resources that we have now, we have the data to show that we are correct. But it narrows it down even more to give us the area of behaviour; whereas before that would have taken a long time to collate. We might know that there was an issue in a certain year group or in a certain cohort, but we might not have always had the time to do that. Now we have a graph, and we know exactly what to target. And this information is exactly what we need to then use for class assemblies and teachers to do work with in the class, in PSHE or circle time.

ALEX: So, targeted intervention can happen. It is all well and good having information about behaviour and achievements, but what matters is what you do with the data. That is the bit that helped us with the most. Echoing what Jenny said there, it can be targeted to either a year group or even to particular groups of children within a class – sometimes one-to-one intervention, or support from Jenny in her pastoral role.

JANE: I think you mentioned that you noticed a significant reduction in the number of lates?

JENNY: Yes – because they know it is being recorded, and not in a book. It is on SIMS, and I think that they feel it is more official. But generally, everything has improved – behaviour, lates, and even attendance. But it has definitely had a very positive effect.

That’s good. So, by the second half of term you had done away with maintaining spreadsheets and bits of paper and different coloured books and things like that – how easy was it to get the analysis of the data out of SMS?

Once I had my training with you, I found it really easy and actually quite fun!

ALEX: Our staff initially did have that sense of not quite knowing whether doing things this way would be worthwhile and what the impact would be. A useful thing was when you provided a training session for the staff to look at the discovery package – SIMS Discover. Once the staff could then see how that data was manipulated, how they could use it, and what the trends where within particular classes or children and across the school, they were absolutely sold. That, then, was a real motivation for them to think that this was really important.

JANE: The thing about Gary – who did the training session you spoke about – is that he is one of our School Improvement Consultants but with a wealth of knowledge and experience within the education sector; he was an Assistant Head Teacher in a secondary school. So, he is a great practitioner of SIMS, and knows how to get the best out of the system for analysis. I know he enjoyed the sessions with you and colleagues down at the school, and I know that you enjoyed his delivery as well.

ALEX: It was great. He made us feel that, if we had a question, there was no question that was too daft, silly or little. Some of the things raised in the session, including us being able to design our celebration certificates specifically for Pencoys School, a way of that being a part of the process to cut down on photocopying and going back and forth on it – we were able to send him our design of the celebration assembly, and he was able to put it together for us for us to use.

JANE: Out of curiosity, roughly how much time would that take for the office to produce the certificates?

ALEX: Well, it would vary – as you know, anyone working in the office would start a job and then get taken off to do something else. But now, it can just be done with the click of a button.

JENNY: For me, I personally think that, because of the way in which we are doing things now, were are going to be able to monitor it. So, as I said to Alex, “if we are doing lots of that one, why are we not doing something on that?” Maybe we have to push that area.

ALEX: Exactly; we are celebrating one area of the school that is always the part that is celebrated or that achievement that is highlighted, so why not have a look at another area in the school to promote or push that.

JENNY: What I like is that it is not just about behaviour. It is about how we are achieving, making sure that we are covering lots of different areas of achievement.

JANE: It is about the whole pupil, not just little bits. You can see the whole picture, as it were. And those certificates are recorded or maintained in SIMS, so when you look at the pupil’s record you can see what they have been getting?

ALEX: Yep.

JANE: And the staff are creating the certificates? The teaching staff?

JENNY: That is our new thing! We are gradually doing that.

JANE: Can you provide a summary, Alex and Jenny, of the key benefits you perceived for using SIMS for a good term-and-a-half, almost, to record behaviour and achievement automatically on a day-by-day basis? What do you think are the significant benefits?

JENNY: The most significant is time – the next major benefit is obviously all of the information that you gain from it.

ALEX: And the analysis that you can do – it is forensic analysis now. But what often comes with forensic analysis is a huge amount of time. It has slashed that amount of time to enable to us dig beneath the surface in terms of behaviour and achievement, and the impact of that is then to put it into targeted intervention really early.

JENNY: The biggest benefit is all the information that we can gain. All the different areas to access – as in for behaviour and achievements and attendance – it is all in one area. So, we all go straight to that area.

ALEX: It is good for reporting, as well – for example, to governors. Jenny has printed off graphs from different classes and we’ve been able to share that information, which is useful for them.

JENNY: Another benefit is how easily we can keep a record of everything. So when you put it in there, and we have our information, then we have targeted that bit this time – the next time, we can target another bit. So, we have all of that information to keep moving forward rather than repeating anything. We keep moving. I find that they are the most significant changes – but obviously the biggest one is time.

JANE: By giving you the time, Jenny, what is it freeing you up to do more importantly?

JENNY: Seeing the children. I can see more children. And that is my main role. Working with children throughout the school – one-to-ones, group sessions, even just a quick chat – but it is so beneficial to have that time. So my time for this sort of thing has reduced hugely. I now can put it into a slot and the rest is freed up for actually seeing the children, which is great.

JANE: Crofty is passionate about working as a multi-academy Trust to improve outcomes for all the children and to have standardisation. I understand, having spoken to Martin, that you are now intending, Alex, to cascade the information to your colleagues – is that correct?

ALEX: Yes – what has been important for us as a school, and for anybody that is looking to adopt something new, was to be able to try it out for ourselves first before we start. The last thing we want to do is to recommend something to other schools before having a go at it ourselves – but certainly, from our point of view, having been on the journey and having implemented it since September, the next step for us is that we feel confident and more than happy to cascade that information and share it with other schools within the Crofty MAT to talk about our positive experience of this and what the impact has been. It is not just a package that you adopt; it is very much about an individual school. It will take time. It is not a magic wand that solves everything at the touch of a button – if you are prepared to invest the time and put the stamp of your school on it, it will work brilliantly.

JENNY: At the beginning, it was a step-by-step journey. As long as people appreciate that there is a process to it, and they go with it, they will see the benefits at the end.

JANE: It is very important to get the step-by-steps right; to get the procedures and processes and to bring the staff with you, rather than say that this is how it will be. If you have the staff with you, it makes a huge difference.

I would just like to say when we spoke a couple of weeks ago you gave me positive feedback about your experience, would you be prepared to share that today?

ALEX: Yes!

JANE: What you said was this: the transition to recording achievement and behaviour in SIMS from a time-consuming manual process has been brilliant and exciting. Not many people expect a primary school to be saying that about SIMS! I think it is important that schools understand that there is a great deal of flexibility within the system, but they do not necessarily know that it is there or they do not know how to get it. But because we did it over a period of time, we were able to see the benefits and work through it.

JENNY: That is true. Your help and support was great; you have been so understanding, and that is so important as well. It has just been a great process.

JANE: I have received one question that someone would like me to put to you. The question is: how do you identify trends of behaviour now that you are using SIMS to record data?

ALEX: That is using SIMS Discover. Each of the behaviours has a particular category that we have chosen to suit the needs of our school. So we have Diamond Rules, for instance: say for instance that some behaviour is categorised under swearing, as an example, that will be identified as use of bad language and then when you then look in Discover it will show you, on a graph, the whole school. All of those incidents: each individual behaviour. Then it gives a breakdown of the whole school – the individual year groups, if it is a boy thing or a girl thing. It gives you so much information that you then can make use of; it may not be an individual, it may be a whole class.

It can be general unkindness between peers, and the other thing we did not mention is that you can assign a grading to the types of behaviour. So, for example, bullying is maybe three points because of the severity of the incidence. At the same time, you do not have to have any points – it is up to you to decide. Then you can get a report of the children that have been recorded for behaviour and what they have done, so you can look at the individual children as well.

If there is a trend, bullying in a particular year group, cohort, key stage, then you can, in addition to what you do, provide more support, either through targeted circle time or what have you.

JANE: The area we have explored today is “recording behaviour and achievement”, but I think that we have picked up on other areas as well – saving time, improving how information is recorded – and you and I will cascade that to your colleagues. A big thank you to you both.