How to transform behaviour with staff and students from Oldham Sixth Form College – PP155

Tara Elie
Tara Elie

Oldham Sixth Form College have had two trainers trained by Pivotal Education in Levels 1, 2 and 3 of the Pivotal Curriculum. Tara visited the college and recorded some interviews ‘on location’ to find out how the Pivotal Curriculum is affecting staff and students.

What has changed?

Tara spoke to Louise and Doug and asked them what has improved since starting to use Pivotal approaches. After implementing their 30 Day Pledge which was about meet and greet, all staff including the support staff noticed a change in the culture of the college. Simple things like all staff being outside their classrooms to help manage the behaviour in the corridors made an immediate difference.

“There was more a sense of calm at the beginning of the year…because there was a bigger staff presence in the corridor.”

Oldham College logoStaff are also managing low-level behaviour  problems in their own classrooms rather than referring issues upwards and there has been a definite shift away from passing behaviour onto the senior leadership team.

Consistency amongst staff has also improved with more of a shared understanding of what’s needed.

Measurement and evidence

It’s important for all staff to understand the impact of the changes and so the college have been keen to collect data. For example, from September to March this year, referral appointments to escalate behaviour incidents have gone down by 47%. This is evidence that staff are dealing with a lot more of the behaviour incidents themselves. This means that if the Senior Leadership Team have to deal with an issue, it’s a significant, serious one rather than the low-level ones they used to see.

Staff now have the tools and the confidence to deal effectively with behaviour issues themselves.

When staff were surveyed before the implementation of the Pivotal approaches, the messages were that behaviour management was inconsistent and that staff wanted more sanctions. The 47% reduction shows that staff are not thinking like this anymore. They don’t think that behaviour management is a sanctions-based system now. Instead, they believe that they should be dealing with issues in their own classrooms – managing and improving relationships and therefore improving outcomes.

Sone staff initially thought that the Pivotal approach might be ‘too soft’ for 16-19 students but they now understand that it does work and improves both outcomes and relationships.

Have students also noticed changes?

Tara spoke to Kamal who said that he had noticed more positive postcards had been sent home. He thinks it helps a lot because students aren’t just noticed when they are ‘being naughty’ but also when they are behaving positively. He also likes the way it shows his parents how he is doing in college. He put the postcard he received up on the fridge and he says it motivated him to see it there.

Other students mentioned the impact of recognition boards and meet and greet. These small changes are being noticed and appreciated by students.

Are the changes in approach just for the 95% of students who generally behave well?

Oldham Sixth Form College is also seeing improvements in ‘Hard to reach students’ who tend to be disengaged with the education system. Retention figures for this group have improved from 92% last year to 95% this year. The college attribute this to the strong relationships which have been developed through the Pivotal approach between teaching and pastoral staff and this group of students. Not only does this help academically but also in a great deal of character development. Students value the consistency they now get from staff – the positive approach, the clear expectations and the positive recognition.  Particularly pleasing is the number of students who have been in re-take courses who are now accessing university places.

What about support staff engagement?

Tara says that support staff are often neglected in training but in Oldham Sixth Form College, this is where the biggest impact has been seen. The college has around 80-90 support staff which is 50% of the workforce. Training in the Pivotal approach has been delivered to them as well. They are ‘really buying into’ the approach because they have never had the consistent tools to handle behaviour in the same way. They have come together to decide what the behaviour issues are, for example, in the Learning Resources Area. They have created behaviour posters and Tara noticed that the reception staff had taken and embellished the rules to make them more relevant to their own area of the college.


Doug and Louise have shared the training responsibilities in a co-training arrangement. Doug has valued Louise’s experience of training in different situations as well as the way in which they have been able to plan the best approaches for their staff and learners. It’s also helpful for staff to have two trainers to provide a bit of contrast in delivery. Doug also sees the value in training existing teaching staff to deliver the Pivotal Curriculum as they have a large amount of credibility with the staff.

Louise points out that delivering training is exhausting so it’s good to share the load. She also values having someone else to manage the training – ‘reading the room’ while she is delivering content, for example, or collaborating on approaches and improving sessions based on feedback.

Pivotal Curriculum Training

“In 22 years this is by far the best behaviour management programme I’ve ever been on and ever delivered.”

Louise thinks the quality and effectiveness of Pivotal behaviour training lies partly in its on-going nature. There are a series of units, all focussing on changing one thing. She came away from the first two days of training thinking ‘this is it – this is the key!’

Doug is looking forward to embarking on the action research module and how it will help to develop behaviour management even further, giving staff even more ownership over the processes and encourage a more collaborative approach.

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