An important step in the right direction – new behaviour guidance is a welcome shift

22 September 2022

New guidance that highlights the importance of a whole school approach to behaviour is now in force in schools in England. 

The advice, published by the Department for Education (DfE), makes a welcome move away from the more punitive approach of former guidance – but does it go far enough? 

Whole school approach

The guidance acknowledges that it is up to individual schools to develop their own best practice for behaviour management, but it gives a steer on how schools can and should ‘create a culture with high expectations of behaviour’. It is refreshing to see that school leaders are encouraged to take proactive steps to focus on positive behaviour. For example, the guidance suggests implementing a “behaviour curriculum” which clearly sets out what positive behaviour should look like. Staff should also have training on the behaviour policy and model the expected behaviour, and pupils should be routinely inducted and reminded of expectations, the advice says. The overarching aim of the new guidance is to create a “calm, safe and supportive environment” (a phrase emphasised repeatedly), as this limits disruption and promotes a school culture where children and young people can learn and thrive.

The guidance could go further still and recognise that behaviour policies can play an important role in fostering a nurturing environment and that a school culture needs to enable healthy social and emotional development for all pupils. For example, sections 41 to 44 of the guidance explain that responses to misbehaviour should aim to maintain the positive culture of the school and restore a calm and safe environment. There is a list of the various objectives as including: deterrence, protection and improvement. All these are important of course, but the obvious omission is the aim of supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of the pupil.

Nurturing approaches

There are a number of references to nurturing approaches – the guidance mentions “small groups” as being useful initial intervention strategies following behavioural incidents[1]. Still, nurtureuk would have liked the guidance to recognise that a nurturing approach is a central part of how schools can achieve the aim of “calm, safe and supportive environments” through behaviour policies.

The DfE consulted on the new guidance ahead of its publication. When asking which types of early intervention work best to address behaviour issues, the consultation found “many responses suggested targeted interventions to help pupils in managing their emotions and behaviour, such as mindfulness, emotion coaching, behaviour support plans, small nurture groups and support with transition from primary to secondary”[2]. It is disappointing that this emphasis is largely missing in the guidance itself.

Pupil transition and communication

It is encouraging to see the updated guidance takes into account the role of transitions on pupil behaviour. Section 10, which sets out what school behaviour policies should cover, includes – the importance of transition in children’s lives and advises that behaviour policies include detail on transitions, including the induction and re-induction into behaviour systems, rules, and routines’.[3]

Transition is one of the six principles of nurture, and it is good to see it included here. One of the other six principles: all behaviour is communication, is however not so well reflected in the guidance. A common response to the consultation regarding minimum standards of behaviour was that the guidance should recognise behaviour as both a form of communication and evidence of unmet need. It is therefore surprising that the updated guidance sidesteps this and continues instead to focus on ‘expectations’ of good behaviour.[4]

Overall, schools will find much of the updated guidance helpful in developing approaches to behaviour policy, with a whole-school approach that is consistent, inclusive and positive. There are signs here too that the new direction set by the Timpson Review, to prevent inappropriate and premature use of exclusions, is going in the right direction. However, nurtureuk would like to see future advice go further – fully reflecting the need for nurture in schools to enable all children and young people to be ready and able to learn. 


[1] Behaviour in Schools – Advice for headteachers and school staff (, section 96

[2] Government response to Behaviour guidance and Exclusions guidance consultation July 2022 (, page 13.

[3] Behaviour in Schools – Advice for headteachers and school staff (, section 10

[4] Government response to Behaviour guidance and Exclusions guidance consultation July 2022 ( page 7.