As part of our Teach First training several of us spent a fascinating morning in a Pupil Referral Unit. It was an inspiration, and several points stick out in my mind from it:
- The competencies a teacher needs to teach effectively in a PRU are the same as those in a mainstream school, only extended. Getting to know pupils, making lessons relevant to them, setting clear boundaries, and outstanding teaching were repeated themes throughout the day.
- There is always a reason for poor behaviour. If you can find out that reason, you have the best chance of addressing the behaviour.
- Its most important to get to know the students you least want to teach. It’s those students who will respond best to a personalised approach.
- In terms of safeguarding: if a student discloses something to you, its often because they want something done about it. Students rarely disclose accidentally.
- Building a relationship with students is crucial in being able to de-escalate behaviours in the classroom: “keep your distance but let them in.”
- Allowing students to take control of the lesson, and giving your most challenging student responsibilities can work wonders in classroom management.
So how can I apply this in my own school? Obvious parallels are to focus on getting to know students as much as I can early on, particularly individual interests and needs. The second point is for me to set myself a challenge of putting extra effort in to getting to know and engaging the students I least want to teach. This will be difficult! But valuable.