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‘Bad behaviour policy’ a must for school leaders
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19 Mar 2024 / education Print

‘Bad-behaviour policy’ a must for school leaders

School leaders must balance the rights of needy students with the aim of creating a safe place of learning for all, an MH&C briefing note has said.

Behaviours which cause concern must be met with effective crisis-response strategies to mitigate potential risks and ensure the safety and well-being of all students, the lawyers state.

A behaviour policy and associated crisis plan is as essential as a fire drill in any school, the lawyers state.

This is because the health and safety of students and staff are at risk due to “behaviours of concern” in these scenarios.

Managing behaviours

Managing such behaviours is a complex and increasingly prevalent challenge for schools, the note points out.

“It could be argued that this trend somewhat coincides with the opening of multi-special classes. Generally, the provision of these classes provides positive experiences for schools and students with complex needs,” the lawyers state.

However, outside of special classes, there may be scenarios in which students who don’t have complex needs display challenging behaviours.

What should a crisis plan include?

MH&C recommends that schools plan on the basis that a crisis will happen, rather than that it might happen.

Staff should know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.

The plan should identify and contain the names of staff members who are best placed to de-escalate an unfolding crisis.

A reporting/recording template that is fit for purpose should be provided once the crisis has been resolved.

The use of physical intervention in crisis situations, and its implications for staff and students, should also be considered.

School leaders should examine the relationship between the school code of behaviour and its health-and-safety statement, and weigh up which allowances will or won’t be made for students with complex needs, in administering sanctions.

A ‘behaviours-of-concern’ policy should be added as an appendix to the code of behaviour.

The policy

A ‘behaviours-of-concern’ policy should address:

  • The legal framework – what can and can’t be done,
  • Recognising what is categorised as a crisis,
  • Dealing with different scenarios and conducting a risk assessment,
  • Developing and implementing a robust incident reporting system, and
  • Which scenarios require physical intervention to include restraint.

A policy discussed by staff and parents, and approved by the board of management, gives clarity and reassurance to all in the school community.

An MH&C survey of attendees at a recent webinar on bad behaviour in schools showed some concerning trends:

  • 97% of school leaders want guidelines issued by the Department of Education,
  • 59% are not confident in managing challenging behaviour,
  • 72% do not have a ‘behaviours-of-concern’ policy,
  • Disruption to other students is the biggest issue (56%), followed by injury to students (20%), and injury to staff (18%).


Schools require immediate clear guidance from the Department of Education concerning the optimal management of 'behaviours of concern' and the supports that are available, the lawyers state.

They recommend that schools draft, agree, and adopt a robust ‘behaviour-of-concern’ policy without delay.

Training for staff on the effective management and de-escalation of crisis scenarios is essential.

Schools that proactively plan are more successful in mitigating their risk exposure and reducing liability, the MH&C lawyers state.

Gazette Desk
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