Day 2 Feedback 2023/24

The following elements were the subject of teachers’ experimentation:

  1. Finding strategies for creating high self-efficacy through a ‘growth mindset’ culture of normalising error, removing comparative rewards, mixed ability grouping and task related praise;
  2. Using specific strategies for dealing with extreme behaviour, specifically school refusal, anxiety and anger outbursts, noting their feelings throughout to promote self-awareness and to be aware of projection.
  3. Choosing one child to be a case study, to record observations, thoughts and feelings.
  4. Creating a containing culture in their classrooms/school.

Teachers fed back their findings on Day 2, as follows, in groups of 3,4,or 5 according to their phase

1. Self-efficacy (your belief in your ability to achieve)

Comparative rewards, ability grouping, shame at error, repeated failure and ego-related praise causes low self-efficacy.

Foundation Stage (3 teachers)

Marvellous mistakes: normalising error

Two teachers had in the past made purposeful mistakes for the children to spot but were now calling these ‘marvellous mistakes’. Children were excited about this and now don’t get embarrassed, they feel more confident to make mistakes and told a cover teacher that she’d made a marvellous mistake!

One teacher had shared the concept with parents after they told her that children were telling them they had made a ‘fabulous mistake’.

Another teacher wanted to celebrate mistakes further and had ordered a book about mistakes to share with the children (‘Oops’).

Two teachers were now not allowing rubbers so that the mistake could be seen. Children now talk about them. Looking back over their work this has been harder to ensure with some Teaching Assistants.

One teacher held a staff meeting to talk about marvellous mistakes and some staff were struggling. Having been given ideas more staff are now doing this.

Task/learning related praise

All teachers said that marvellous mistakes had led them to be more specific (task and learning related) in their praise about the learning. Children are proud to show their work. They have a sense of accomplishment and want every adult to see. Teachers found that task related praise on the move walking around the class made other children want to achieve the same thing.

During whole class phonics I walk around the classroom observing their learning. I am able to give instant task related praise. For example I said to one child ‘Wow! You have included a full stop to your sentence. That is amazing!’ The child looked very proud and I noticed others starting to add a full stop. This strategy has a whole class impact.

Charlotte Manser Beddington Infants

Comparative reward systems

Two teachers don’t use rewards, but instead use task related praise and sharing their achievements to others. Children are not relying on a physical reward but are working for the right reason. It makes them all proud. Staff were very anti this approach at first…

Two teachers use whole class rewards (marbles in a jar) which motivates the class.

Two teachers used individual target cards for children with extreme needs, but these are not compared to other children. They have worked well, with those children being less reliant on adults now.

Mixed ability

One teacher has maths and English with activities differentiated and found that children struggled if they were not in groups doing the same thing.

Another teacher has no ability grouping for anything but uses questioning. Children were exposed to all learning and learnt from each other.

Year 1/2 (4 teachers)

Marvellous mistakes: normalising error

Two teachers had children chanting ‘mistakes are marvellous!’ Children often spot teacher’s mistakes and celebrate them.

All teachers were promoting the term ‘marvellous’ for mistakes, with two using the visualiser to share a child’s work with a mistake for the whole class to work on. This has been good for discussion and children are happy to make mistakes and support each other constructively. Two teachers don’t use children’s work for the whole class to improve on, but have children helping each other talk about and correct their mistakes. This has helped children to become their own reflective learners.

Two teachers had discussed mistakes in assembly, using the book ‘Your fantastic elastic brain’ and ‘marvellous mistakes was now being implemented school wide. These are used by children to help with peer discussions which has led to continuity between the year groups.

Three teachers had removed rubbers which has meant that assessment is easier and with the introduction of celebrating mistakes, children are less concerned about making them and are proud to spot them.

Marvellous mistakes are a perfect way to pick up on misconceptions. It is embedded throughout our school and the children are not worried about sharing or making mistakes. We always try to praise their mistakes: ‘Thank you for making that marvellous mistake. I notice that a few of you have done the same thing.’ They are correcting errors and are often able to self-correct errors. They love telling me when I’ve made a mistake too!

Rachel Robin Hood Infants<

Task/learning related praise

All teachers had introduced task related praise. SEN children are doing more and feeling proud. They also seem to have been doing more work. This has led to positive attitudes and improved self-belief.

All teachers were giving immediate feedback, task related not delayed. This has led to children being more independent. They are identifying their own skills and achievement.

Comparative reward systems

Three of the four teachers now had no comparative rewards. Children in their class are not openly affected but at playtime in one school children are still being handed ‘golden tickets’ and certificates are still being given in whole school assemblies. It was felt that this must be a whole school policy decision.

In one class star of the week was kept but every child was included. School values and learning powers were the basis of their achievements.

Mixed ability

Two teachers had randomised talk partners changing every two weeks. They love learning with a new partner and it has improved their independence. It is generally popular but some children still find it hard to engage with their talk partner.

Three teachers have children changing tables weekly and sharing responsibility. There is more confidence when the class is mixed ability. High achievers take on organisational responsibility and lower to middle achievers are mostly engaged in their learning. Children not engaging well in mixed ability groups are given additional adult support. Pre-teaching was found to be better than post teaching for these children. Children are more confident with this and working more independently.

After the first session I decided to start changing my seating plan every two weeks to mixed abilities. I have quite a few SEND children in my class who don’t cope well with change, so they have stayed in their seats whilst others change around them. I’ve found this to be super effective in my classroom as the children have been able to support each other in their work, share ideas, work on questions together and there is better partner work. Adapted work is still happening for some SEND children, but the children have been understanding and do not make a big deal of the adaptations but instead are supportive.

The children have said they enjoy being able to work with children they haven’t worked with before. The classroom has become a much calmer environment as children are feeling more confident in asking each other for help. This has had an effect on the playground as children have formed new friendships and are more welcoming to others joining in with their games.

Keiley Cunningham Cheam Fields Primary School

Year 3/4 (5 teachers)

Marvellous mistakes: normalising error

All teachers had either continued with marvellous mistakes or had introduced it, using the phrase with everything, including friendships. Children repeat back ‘marvellous mistake’. They point them out in others and are happy to help sort mistakes out, including the teacher’s. Teachers had deliberately modelled mistakes which children then worked with others to spot or solve.

One teacher didn’t use ‘marvellous’ but had discussions with children about how we learn from mistakes and is saying ‘mistake moment’ and giving lots of praise when noticing mistakes, encouraging and giving children the opportunity to have another try. This works well. Children are more willing to accept their mistakes.. The PETI acronym had also been used (Practise, Effort, Time and Input – which do you need?’). Children are choosing more input, more practise or more support from an adult. These children are happy to see that they ‘don’t get it yet’.

Videos of how the brain works and how it learns from mistakes had been shared, as well as a video of Bill Gates talking about the mistakes he made when he first started out.

Task/learning related praise

All teachers said they had tried hard to give task or learning related praise but often trip up saying ‘Well done/good girl’ without the naming of the achievement. With mistakes it had been easier to focus on the learning. It was hard, therefore, to spot the impact of this strategy.

Most children enjoyed learning based praise but some children need more reassurance that may be less learning based – more persuasive to get them focused on the work.

Positive praise is often given to children that don’t follow the rules as often as others. Praise for following school rules and values was useful. A bank of words to use would be useful.

SC: task related praise is simply naming the achievement in the moment, whether that is academic (Well done-you’ve written a great adjective there), learning behaviour (I noticed you really concentrating on that tricky problem-you didn’t give up) or school values (That showed respect-thank you for using one of our values). A bank of words should not be necessary if you just ‘say what you see’.

Comparative reward systems

One teacher was not allowed to take away comparative rewards – house points or weekly writer award (which causes lots of excitement). There was a divide between infants and juniors. Children don’t like the house cup. Staff like the rewards.

Another teacher eased off on rewards to see whether children noticed, and they were unfazed saying there used to be cheating. Merit points were scrapped and the behaviour reward system was changed to traffic lights. Class of the week rather than child of the week is focused on the ‘skill of the week’. Children are generally happy to have rewards removed as it reduces the comparison effect.

Two teachers had previously used Dojo points and the class didn’t notice when they were removed. Being in the Golden Book and weekly rewards were given to every child in turn. Only parents have been difficult about the removal of rewards.

I set up a display board entitled ‘Proud Pieces’ to give all children the opportunity to celebrate work they were proud of. The board has photos of every child and children can ask to have work copied and put on display by their photo. We talk a lot about things they are proud of, what they want to celebrate etc. and bit by bit the children have started to ask for their work to be put on the display. Some children found it difficult to choose at first but now all children have at least one piece of work up. There is a lot of variety and children have celebrated work you might not necessarily choose. I might include work they found tricky at first but have made progress with or mistakes they have made and then corrected.

It is wonderful letting them choose what to celebrate and giving them the chance to celebrate everything, including the ‘not perfect’.

Gemma Reeves Stanley Park Junior School

Mixed ability

Four of the five teachers changed learning partners every one or two weeks, selected randomly. There were positive reviews of this strategy. Some children can get stressed about who they’re going to be with next.

Three teachers saw mixed ability as ‘layered learning’ where children are randomly placed, they support each other, are excited for challenges and there is no barrier to their learning.

One teacher uses compliment slips.

Year 5/6 (5 teachers)

Marvellous mistakes: normalising error

All teachers regularly made deliberate mistakes on the board for the class to discuss. There is now less competitive behaviour as they relax about making mistakes.

Some teachers found it easier to celebrate mistakes in maths, where they were now more confident. Spotting mistakes has made it fun and they now have a positive attitude and language about making mistakes.

In writing children are less likely to take ownership for their mistakes so there still seems to be some stigma about spelling mistakes etc.

The ABC feedback strategy is working well to get children to discuss mistakes and pick them apart:

A – agree (Does anyone agree with that?)

B – build on (Can you say more about that?)

C-challenge (So what could they have done?)

This has removed anxiety as all children can be involved.

All teachers said children were less competitive as a result of celebrating mistakes and more children are putting their hands up to reveal misunderstandings.

Task/learning related praise

Three teachers said they praise everything now and it is more genuine because it is specific.

All teachers praise children for making a contribution which has encouraged more children to put their hands up.

All teachers gave praise for specific academic achievement which has led to children being more likely to remember the praise.

Comparative reward systems

All teachers found it easy to implement getting rid of comparative rewards so they were unaffected by the change.

Removing Golden time and rewards had been difficult for specific children but overall children don’t care about them.

One teacher still has 10 minutes of game playing at the end of the week.

Parents are the only ones complaining about the lack of rewards. Children decided they needed to teach their parents why they were not fair.

It had been difficult to get all the staff on board. There were differences in the way teachers were handing them out.

The teachers who had removed them said there was less stress, they had an easier work load and pressure was removed from them.

I introduced the idea of not having comparative rewards and we had a class vote. Only 6 students wanted to keep the house points, 4 of whom were house captains and didn’t want to give up their job and felt they would not be contributing to the house ‘effort’. About 8 children actively wanted to get rid of them and were open about feeling low if they didn’t get as many points as someone else in their room. The others didn’t care either way – they didn’t see the value of collecting points as they didn’t get anything for them: ‘It’s just the house flags move for the week, everyone is happy for a bit, then we go back to normal. The younger kids need it more but we don’t!’

Arjun Davé St. Dunstan’s C of E Primary School

Mixed ability

All teachers were changing talk partners regularly. Children loved sitting with different people. The classroom is calmer, children are making more friends, sharing ideas and making progress in their learning.

2. Managing extreme behaviour

Foundation Stage (3 teachers)

Physical outbursts to adults and peers caused by anxiety, anger and school refusal

Three teachers made an action plan with the parents of the children. Actions included: what happens now and what happens next, social stories, visuals, timers, a ‘tidy up time’ box, a box available with fidget toys, a reward chart specifically for the particular child and giving choices. The children were helped with their independence, with instructions like asking them to sit on a red spot or a blue stool. They had a sensory room available.

It seemed important to give the children time to have their outburst if it was safe. Although regular staff communication and consistent adults was seen as key, after the outburst, it was helpful to have a different adult available as a ‘new face’ and a distraction. This also gave the class teacher and child a break from each other and helped to calm the situation.

The impact on the children was that they were less angry, they displayed the sadness behind their angry behaviour and were able to talk about home issues. They were a lot calmer, easier to manage and began to regulate their own behaviour. The impact on the class was that anxiety began to reduce for everyone.

The teachers all felt calm on the outside but frustrated on the inside.

Three teachers arranged a meeting with the parents and the children who were school refusers. They gave parents support and ideas to help them to encourage their children into school and to give them a sense of everyone working together. Ideas included an adult meeting and greeting the child at the school gate. An Emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA) programme was used by the teachers to support the children and families.

We have run an EBSA programme for six weeks at our school. This has been run by our family support worker and our pastoral lead. It involved a family member coming in with the child and working on strategies and ideas to help. These same adults are also on the gates in the morning to greet the children but also to support the families.

We send home weekly contact sheets during the summer holidays to keep that contact and to let them know we are thinking of them. We also share information with them about the new year and remind them of the memories from the previous year.

Laura Keefe Muschamp Primary School

Year 1/2 (4 teachers)

Physical outbursts to adults and peers caused by anxiety, anger and school refusal

Children who displayed anxiety and/or anger fidgeted, became worried that they were being seen as different by peers, screamed, threw themselves on the floor and went into fight or flight response. Some of them were not school ready and school refused. Other children in the class became worried and often needed reassurance.

The children with extreme behaviour needed calming time with an adult. Four teachers used emotional literacy support assistants (ELSA) to remove anxious/angry children if necessary and to speak with them about how they felt, giving them space to express their frustrations. They used books, sensory input, helped the children to recognise and verbalise which zone they were in from the zones of regulation and focused on building a relationship with them.

Teachers used guidance from outside agencies, parent/school communication, lots of praise and regular movement in class.

The teachers and ELSAs felt scared of getting hurt or of hurting others. They felt insecure about how to remove a child from a class and were aware of a lack of training in this area. They all felt worried about extreme behaviours and were emotionally drained.

A child in my class would often have meltdowns and throw themselves screaming and shouting to the floor. They would then cry and thrash around prompting class evacuations. During our first session of the research programme, we were instructed to name the child’s feelings to them during these moments in order to get through to them. I have since been telling the child, ‘ I can see how you feel (eg frustrated, angry, upset etc). We are going to find a quiet and safe space’. This seems to completely disarm the child. Whilst the meltdown will continue and they remain highly dysregulated, they willingly leave the room with the adult and share their feelings. This helps them to regulate their emotions and lessens the anxiety of the rest of the class as there is no evacuation and less exposure to the loud and distressing meltdown.

Seamus Buttle Beddington Infants School

Year 3/4 (5 teachers)

Physical outbursts to adults and peers caused by anxiety, anger and school refusal

Three teachers used the following interventions with children with ADHD and/or ASD who presented with extreme behaviour: they spoke calmly, provided learning breaks and used appropriate touch. With a particular child who was afraid of death, they avoided speaking about it and distracted the child. With anger outbursts, they gave constant reassurance to the children, gave 1-1 time, used simple language, encouraged the children to use the zones of regulation, recognising and verbalising what they felt, brought in a different teacher who the children trusted and gave thinking time to regulate emotions.

The teachers felt sad and stressed to see the struggles in their children. They also felt guilty that they had to ask for help and they struggled to manage the anger outbursts when the rest of the class still needed them.

One teacher with a Looked After child who had an anxious attachment to her and became angry when the teacher left her introduced the child to other adults in order to build a trusting relationship with them.

The teacher felt drained with the constant attention she was giving the child and she felt guilty when she couldn’t give it. She tried to remember not to take it personally when the child shouted verbal abuse at her.

One teacher who had a school refusing child spoke to the parents and set up a plan following a ‘we are awesome’ scheme, which focused on good things about that child.

The teacher felt nervous and anxious about how to respond when the child came into school late. She worried about saying the wrong things and she worried about the child’s attachment issues.

A child in my class has lived in six different homes with foster carers after her mother passed away. She has difficulty trusting adults and is needy of 1-1 attention constantly with the adults she does trust. If she doesn’t get the attention she needs, she shouts verbal abuse, refuses to learn, shuts off and builds a wall around her, throws things and has threatened to use the middle finger.

I have supported her from the start of the year by building a strong relationship with her current foster carer and with the child prior to her joining Year 4. I have used nurture and targeted praise. I have also modelled strong relationships with other adults and have provided ‘cuddle buddies’ to give her attention through toys.

I am supporting her readiness for transition by introducing her to the class teacher and other adults, doing activities in the Yrs 5/6 parts of the school and giving opportunities to have fun time with other adults so that she can experience them as safe and consistent.

Chrissie Foster Holy Trinity Junior School

Year 5/6 (5 teachers)

Physical outbursts to adults and peers caused by anxiety and anger

Five teachers used the following interventions with children with extreme behaviour: they gave options, used simple language, gave them space and thinking time, found safe ways and places to have meltdowns and recognised and named the children’s feelings. After the outbursts, they tried to understand the reason for the emotions the children displayed. Teachers felt it was important to recognise the children’s individual needs, especially those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). They also saw the importance of ‘getting all adults on board’ to treat the child in the same way.

The children were helped to manage their emotions and to self-regulate. They responded well to the space and thinking time and to the consistent approach in the school. They benefited from building trusting and caring relationships with other adults. Their peers were able to be spared of having to manage emotions projected into them that didn’t belong to them.

The teachers felt calmer as a result of using these interventions. They recognised that the children’s behaviour is showing a need; this helped them to feel less upset by it personally. Although teachers felt supported by their colleagues, it was at times hard for them to keep their own emotions intact when faced with extreme behaviour. They recognised that they also needed time and space.

The importance of getting all adults on board has probably been the single biggest factor in having a positive impact on a Year 5 pupil’s behaviour. This child has significant trauma, social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, pathological demand avoidance (PDA) and huge levels of anxiety. She has built up a reputation in the school that has caused staff high levels of anxiety. They have struggled to see beyond the behaviour that she presents and they have dreaded having her in their class.

I have worked hard to build a trusting and supportive relationship with the child and I’ve worked really closely with the TAs, SENDCos, play therapists, ASD specialist and outreach support to promote our understanding of her behaviour and how she projects into us. We show her we are not impacted by her personal comments – we do not allow her projections to get to us. It’s been really important for the child to know that whatever she says or does, the adults care about her, listen to her and will be with her during times of crisis.

By all adults understanding, investing in the child, showing care, support, consistency and genuine interest in her, we are seeing improvements in her relationships with us. Whilst the behaviour isn’t necessarily less frequent, it is less extreme than it has been in the past. She is much happier and has stopped alienating herself and pushing away emotional connections. The team around the child has been so important.

Jamie Keefe Muschamp Primary School

3. Case study child

Foundation Stage (3 teachers)

Child 1

A Year 2 child ( I think this is a mistake in the write up as it’s for Reception kids) with no official diagnosis. He is intelligent and physical. He struggles with the PSE elements in the classroom. His parents have different approaches. PE day is a trigger for him.

Teachers found it was helpful to give him time to release his physical energy. Sorting objects, having a basket for transitions and social stories helped to calm him. While sorting objects, he was able to have conversations about his behaviour.

Child 2

A four-year-old child with poor speech who can’t cross his legs. He is unable to follow a two-step instruction. No other diagnoses.

The class teacher gave him lots of praise and clear, simple instructions. He enjoyed 1-1 time with a familiar adult and responded well to having a reward for his achievements.

Child 3

A five-year-old child. He met developmental milestones early. Mum works and struggles at home and dad is absent. He struggles with being told what to do and with sitting still. He has no official diagnosis.

He responded well to a reduced timetable. It made a difference when the adults worked together with a consistent approach, got to know his triggers and planned how to intervene. They picked their battles. They also liaised with mum, which was helpful. Giving choices worked well along with calming down time, being with a trusted adult, using a weighted blanket and fiddle toys. The class teacher made an OT referral.

Year 1/2 (4 teachers)

Child 1

A six-year-old child who school refuses due to wanting to be with mum. He dysregulates and becomes jealous of mum giving attention to others. Dad is absent. Mum fled from dad’s violence and moved a lot. She has suffered trauma and is anxious.

After meetings with the educational psychologists, it was decided that the child have a 12-week adapted timetable at a special unit with a plan to reintegrate him back slowly into school. Using visuals were helpful.

Child 2

A child who lacks emotional and social skills and shows no empathy. He hurts children, is clever, aware of what he is doing and doesn’t see what is wrong with his behaviour. He is controlling at home and at school, has compulsive habits and emotionally dysregulates. There is a question regarding possible ASD.

He responded well to Wellbeing support and a referral to ‘Paving the Way’. Having the same familiar adults available to him helped. Friendship support was effective too. The class teacher built a relationship with the parents, which helped them to be less in denial about their child’s behaviour.

Child 3

An overlooked girl who has autistic siblings and is a young carer. She is bullied and struggles with friendships, although some children show empathy towards her. All adults in the school are aware.

A family support worker and Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) have been involved. The child was helped with having support just for her and was given special roles in school. The class teacher had regular meetings with the parents, checking in on their wellbeing and what support they could access.

Child 4

A seven-year-old girl who was held back a year. English is an additional language for her. She struggles with emotional regulation. Mum resists support to help her daughter to make new friends. She has recently had a new baby.

She was assessed by the Educational Psychologist. Using the zones of regulation, access to theraputty and a timer all helped with her emotional regulation. She received lunchtime support to transition into Year 2. She had adult supervision and was put in a learning support group. There was a focus on building independence. She also has a social emotional group who are her friends.

Year 3/4 (5 teachers)

Child 1

A school refusing child who worries about getting things wrong. He becomes easily embarrassed. A football incident at school triggered his behaviour. He likes to check that other children are following the rules.

The class teacher found it helpful to speak regularly with the parents. In order to help the child with his worry about getting things wrong, the following strategies were used: there are no hands up in class but lolly sticks are used; he is chosen to give an answer when he seems confident; emphasis on marvellous mistakes; other children help him if he doesn’t know an answer.

Child 2

An autistic girl with pathological demand avoidance (PDA) who masks her behaviour. She feels she has to manage other children when she sees an injustice. Often she becomes physical. She was excluded twice last year for kicking a child. She is anxious at breaktimes and stays with the class teacher. Staff recognise that she struggles with unstructured times.

The class teacher found that mum responded well to having daily conversations and regular meetings with her. The girl was encouraged to seek help from adults in the school. Relationships have been key. It was helpful for adults to warn the girl of any change. They have tried to avoid giving instructions without options. A TA has provided structured activities at break times. Visual timetables have been given.

Child 3

A boy who lives in cramped accommodation with an older sister who struggles. He has no respect for women and uses homophobic language. He tries to push adults to become angry with him. He will also try to please adults by giving them gifts.

The class teacher found it helpful to give him learning breaks. He also had a quiet desk in the classroom for his own space. It seemed essential to have regular contact with his parents. He responded well to a male mentor and a nurturing club with a female. He was given a tick sheet that he could show the Deputy Head if he responded appropriately to an instruction. Following this, he would have an extra five minutes play with a friend on a Friday.

Child 4

A looked after child who has lived with three foster families and has moved six times. She only expresses her emotions to those who are close to her, so clearly doesn’t trust adults and will push negative behaviour to test if they will leave her. She will use her traumatised background as an excuse for her behaviour.

She has related well to her ELSA. The class teacher has tried to teach the message that we can overcome our adverse experiences and not allow them to define us. Adults have used the strategy of encouraging the girl to unpick what she says, asking her what she means. Liaison with the Social Worker to help put in place some Life Story work for the girl has been successful. The foster mother is looking at the girl returning to her home location.

Child 5

A boy with a difficult home life with ASD who is very attention seeking.

The adults around him have found that distraction helps. They have also given him time and reassurance. A team approach has made it more possible to manage his needs.

The class teacher has learnt to detach at times and to move her attention elsewhere as he digs his heels in about certain points. At the same time, she has given him a message of being available, using language like ‘I understand’ and ‘I won’t leave you’. She has given him brain breaks and let him know that he can stay with her when he is anxious. Using approaches one might use with a small child have also been helpful eg ‘Bet you can’t race me’ to where he needs to go.

Year 5/6 (5 teachers)

Child 1

A Year 6 with anxiety. He becomes stressed with his mistakes and is conscious of others’ opinions.

The class teacher found that he responded well to her focusing on building his self-efficacy. It made him less anxious about making mistakes and less on the edge of emotionally ‘collapsing’. She continued to normalise mistakes, to discuss them and to intentionally make them at times.

Child 2

A Year 6 child who used to be mute and a school refuser. Her attendance is now up to 95%.

The steps that helped to get her into school included targeted interventions such as offering safe space activities chosen by the child, helping her with speaking and taking small steps eg answering when register is called, speaking to her partner, putting her hand up. For SATS exams the child was put into small groups, given support packs and strategies to manage her anxiety.

Support was also given to the child’s mum.

Child 3

A Year 5 child with ASD and behavioural difficulties.

Adults around her saw what was underneath her behaviour and gave her the message that they all cared and supported her. She has rejected the adults around her due to moving house so transitions have been carefully worked on.

Child 4

A boy in Year 5 with SEN and challenging behaviour.

Adults learnt to give short clear choices to him and not to engage with his challenging behaviours. When in the middle of a ‘meltdown’ they didn’t engage with him. Thought was given to how he could better understand his diagnosis.

Child 5

A Year 5 child with ASD and anxiety, especially about his mum. He is demanding and exhibits controlling behaviour. He is a school refuser too.

The class teacher observed that he was only happy when in control. Also, that he was happy to be in PE but refused to attend other lessons. He chose to work with certain adults and children. He would listen to adult conversations.

He was given structured choices and distraction techniques, which helped. The class teacher checked in with him daily. With ELSA help, he was given personalised strategies. The school have supported the parents and have worked with CAMHS.

4. Creating a contained classroom/school

Foundation Stage (3 teachers)

Three teachers helped children with panic or anger attacks to breathe. This led to the children feeling calmer during the time of struggling and after it. It also provided the children with the breathing strategy to use when they needed to in the future.

All three teachers recognised that it is helpful and not a sign of vulnerability to tag team and to call on other adults. This really helped them to manage difficult behaviours and to avoid a situation becoming heightened.

They also found that giving time and space to children at the right moment allowed both the child and the adult to regulate. It stopped the cycle of adult and child both projecting their emotions into each other. As a result, the children were able to think about and understand what they were experiencing.

In my school, we implemented another adult stepping in when a class teacher, TA or Learning Support Assistant (LSA) was having 1-1 time with a distressed or dysregulated child.

This allowed the adult who was replaced to have time to regulate her emotions and to avoid projecting her own distress into the child. Awareness of how other adults may be feeling has increased in the school.

Charlotte Manser Beddington Infants’ School

Year 1/2 (4 teachers)

Four teachers acknowledged children’s emotion when children were displaying difficult behaviour. They did this calmly by using language like ‘I can see that you are feeling…’ They found that this contained not just the children’s emotions but also their own.

They also all used predictable routines, visual timetables and a calm corner where distressed children could go to calm down. Fidget toys and sensory toys were available to use. This made the children less stressed and helped them to build their ability to self-control.

The teachers debriefed with the whole class after an incident. They made room for discussions in the class. This made all the children feel listened to and allowed them to move forward as well as the child who had had the incident.

Teachers found that reflective thinking was supportive and helpful for them. It was good to hear different points of view and to consider next steps.

A Year 2 boy who is one of the youngest in the class has a boisterous group of friends who are continually squabbling but within the normal range of what would be expected. This boy’s reaction is to sob, especially when he knows he is in the wrong.

I talked to him with one of the following phrases:

‘I can see you are very upset and I sense you are sorry for what has happened.’

‘I can see you are very upset. Shall we go to the sensory room?’

Then I distracted him by talking about learning or other activities.

Once he was calm, I was able to address the issue. He was then very willing to discuss the event. Together we thought about how we could put things right. I thanked him for sharing with me. I assured him that he could talk to me or any other trusted adult when he was feeling upset. We have built a good connection and the time taken to regulate is decreasing.

Tracy Caswell St Dunstan’s C of E School, Cheam

Year 3/4 (5 teachers)

Three teachers found that intervening early when children become unregulated works really well. For example, if they are taken out of the classroom early enough, they will return more easily when ready.

They also examined their feelings of guilt when not giving children what they wanted immediately. They recognised that children become calmer and build more resilience if their demands aren’t immediately met, which helped the teachers to manage their feelings of guilt in the moment.

Using explicit language was helpful, together with sharing one’s own emotions calmly. Picking one’s battles was key. Also, the modelling of using the zones of regulation, giving choices and going to a calm area with children after an incident, where the teacher could use ‘I wonder if’ language.

Four teachers gave children a fresh start after a play break. It was hard to implement this at times.

In my classroom I have a calm area to help create a containing culture. This is a space to which children take a timer (5, 2 or 1 minutes) and sit quietly in the space by the door, where the class teacher can monitor and support staff can intervene if necessary e.g. with checking in on zones of regulation with a child. The area has regulation strategies available such as breathing exercises, calming stories, cuddle buddies for children to verbalise their feelings or to squeeze or cry on and pillows and blankets for comfort and safety. It is the children’s responsibility to keep the calm area tidy and safe. They enjoy this and give the class teacher suggestions to improve the space, which she will implement where possible.

Chrissie Foster Holy Trinity Junior School

Year 5/6 (5 teachers)

Four teachers noticed how there is less personal impact on them the more they are exposed to challenging behaviours. They can also apply what they have learnt with one child to others. If they come across a new behaviour or difficulty in a child, they become quite affected again. They recognised that this could be the effect of the child’s emotions touching on their own emotions or history.

The teachers found that dissociating from their emotions brought about by certain children could be a useful strategy. They also found that they became protective of their children if other adults spoke about their negative behaviours. They realised from this how important it is to be open about one’s emotions with adults and with children.

One teacher spoke about a child’s 1-1 person becoming overwhelmed. Other staff needed to contain that person. They asked the question of who needs to be contained – the child or the adult. It is in fact both, as we see in the following anecdote.

In my classroom I have a TA who has 1-1 sessions with a child on the SEND register with behavioural difficulties. She constantly contains the child’s angry feelings, which prevents outbursts and disruption to the whole class. The child would frequently make negative comments to the TA and not respect her. The TA became upset and felt undervalued. She told the class teacher that it was beginning to affect her mental health. The class teacher listened to her, reassured her and contained her emotions. The class teacher in turn spoke with her Year group lead who helped her to put strategies in place for the TA. For example, she had two days working with other children who thanked her and rebuilt her confidence. Once the TA felt better, she was able to return to her role and continue helping her 1-1 child.

Kim Rayment Barrow Hedges Primary School