The Lighthouse, St Mary’s NS, Saggart
Code of Behaviour
Our school plays a crucial role in children’s social and moral development, just as it does in their academic development. In seeking to define acceptable standards of behaviour, it is acknowledged that these are goals to be worked towards rather than expectations that are either fulfilled or not.
The Board of Management acknowledges that students with autism and complex needs regularly exhibit behaviours that are often extremely challenging for the student themselves, their families and the school community. As a school community, we must work towards standards of behaviour based on the basic principles of honesty, respect, consideration and responsibility. Acceptable standards of behaviour are those which reflect these principles.
All children need limits set for them in order to feel secure and to develop the skills for co-operation. Therefore, any rules must be appropriate, with clear and agreed consequences. Parents/guardians can support the school by encouraging their children to understand the need for school rules.
Parents/guardians are furnished with this policy prior to the enrolment of their child in the school. It is requested that all parents/guardians sign the policy, indicating that they have read, understood and consented to the implementation of the code of behaviour.
The rationale behind this policy can be explained as follows:
- A code of behaviour is established to ensure that the individuality of each child is accommodated while also acknowledging the right of each child to an education in a relatively disruption-free environment.
- The Lighthouse is required under DES Circular 20/90 the Education Act (1998) and the Education Welfare Act (2000) to develop a code of behaviour for the school.
- A code of behaviour is part of our developing School Plan.
- Relationship to school ethos
The Lighthouse is dedicated to providing the highest quality of learning, teaching, and care of students under our instruction. In partnership with the parents/guardians and families of our students, we seek to provide individual, intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual development. The dignity of every child is maintained, and we believe that each child is entitled to an education provision, regardless of individual levels of attainment and functioning. While enabling each student to develop his/her potential to the full, we also want our students to be happy in school and to enjoy the time they spend there. The Code of Behaviour reinforces our school ethos by helping students, staff and parents/guardians to work together for a happy, effective and safe school.
- Aims of this policy
The aims of this policy can be summarised as follows:
- To promote self-esteem and positive relationships.
- To encourage consistency of response to both appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.
- To foster a sense of responsibility and self-discipline in students and to support good behaviour patterns based on consideration and respect for the rights of others.
- To facilitate the education and development of every child.
- To foster caring attitudes to one another and to the environment.
- To facilitate teachers in teaching with the minimum disruption.
- To ensure that the school’s expectations and strategies are widely known and understood through the availability of policies and an ethos of open communication.
- To encourage the involvement of both home and school in the implementation of this policy.
- To provide guidance for students, teachers and parents/guardians on behavioural expectations.
- To provide for the effective and safe operation of the school.
- To allow the school to function in an orderly and harmonious way.
- To create an atmosphere of respect, tolerance and consideration for others.
- To ensure the safety and well-being of all members of the school community.
- To assist parents/guardians and students in understanding the systems and procedures that form part of the Code of Behavior and to seek their co-operation in the application of these procedures.
Every member of the school community has a role to play in the implementation of the Code of Behaviour. Rules will be kept to a minimum and will emphasise positive behavior. They will be applied in a fair and consistent manner, with due regard to the abilities of the students and to their individual differences. Parents/guardians will be notified as soon as possible should any difficulties arise in relation to their child’s behaviour. The systems and procedures used at The Lighthouse to reinforce our Code of Behaviour are outlined as follows.
- Affirming appropriate behaviour
Within The Lighthouse, all staff capitalise on learning opportunities throughout the day across all school settings to teach appropriate functional communication using whatever supports necessary (e.g. gestural or visual prompts, schedules of reinforcement etc.) in order to reduce as much as possible instances of challenging behaviour for all students.
The positive school ethos extends to all members of the school community adopting a positive, calm approach to challenges that may be encountered from time to time. Every effort is made to ensure that the classroom and school environment are enriched with frequent opportunities for students and staff to encounter social praise and acknowledgement for achievements and to experience a varied schedule of activities to be enjoyed across the school day.
Planned or unplanned verbal reprimands are not used by any member of staff at any time or under any circumstances to sanction a behaviour or to discipline a student. This means that ‘giving out’ to students is not a behavioural approach that is used at The Lighthouse. Instead, staff are trained, including training with the SESS, to redirect students using positive and affirmative statements and an appropriate tone of voice and body posture.
- Reinforcement strategies / Incentives
Reinforcement strategies may be developed by staff to increase appropriate behaviour and/or reinforce the teaching of new skills. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Social praise and acknowledgement
- Merit awards for achievements
- Token/points economies for work completed throughout the day
- Access to preferred items/activities intermittently throughout the day
- Access to break times following an appropriate request or the completion of a particular task
- Group-based reinforcement contingencies for rule-following and/or appropriate behaviour.
- Individual behaviour support plans
Challenging behaviour is believed to occur as a result of a lack of skills or a series of skills that prohibit an individual from communicating in a more adaptive manner. Given this standpoint, the school aims to reduce challenging behaviour whilst simultaneously aiming to teach or support more adaptive replacement behaviour and/or communication skills. Any student enrolled in the school who engages in challenging and/or inappropriate behaviour will have an individually designed behaviour support plan (BSP). The BSP is informed by the student’s class teacher. This team working with each child comprises the class teacher, the student’s parents/guardians, SNAs, escorts (for students who avail of transport to and from school) and other members of the student’s multi-disciplinary clinical team where possible. The BSP is led by the class teacher.
Various methods of data collection, such as VB Mapping and teacher designed tick sheets and information sheets, will be used on an on-going basis to ascertain the efficacy of the student’s BSP. These methods may be both qualitative and quantitative in nature.
The strategies and interventions used to compile a BSP are underpinned by the principles of reinforcement. These include: social praise, token economy, first/then boards, differential reinforcement procedures, task analysis and more. This list is not exhaustive and most students’ BSPs will include a combination of these interventions.
If necessary and appropriate, reductive procedures are chosen in conjunction with and to complement or support the use of the reinforcement-based strategies listed above. The following reductive procedures are the only reductive procedures used in The Lighthouse and will be used only in a planned manner:
- Contingent work – This involves bringing work to the student in cases where the student is trying to escape or avoid work. This is used where the student’s programme has been evaluated and it has been established that the student is not avoiding work because s/he needs and deserves a break or relief from the environment.
- Overcorrection – This involves delivering a correction to a pupil a number of times so that they engage in a desired behaviour repeatedly.
- Response blocking – This involves physically intervening to block behaviour to prevent the completion of the challenging behaviour.
- Response cost – This involves the loss of opportunity to earn a reinforcer such as a token or a preferred item or activity.
- Inclusionary time-out – This involves removing all reinforcers from a student such as attention, tokens, preferred items and activities by placing the student in a location in the room for a predetermined amount of time.
- Planned ignoring – This involves removing all attention from a student including eye contact and even physical proximity of staff in cases where the student is using the behaviour to try to gain attention. This may include leaving the classroom for a pre-determined period of time (Planned Ignoring Level 2). In this case, staff will always remain within sight of the child.
The decision to suspend a student requires serious grounds such as that:
- The student’s behaviour has a seriously detrimental effect on the education of other students
- The student’s continued presence in the school at this time constitutes a threat to safety
- The student is responsible for serious damage to property.
A single incident of serious misconduct may be grounds for suspension.
6.1 Procedures in respect of suspension
Where a preliminary assessment of the facts confirms serious misbehaviour that could warrant suspension, the school will observe the following procedures:
- The principal will review the case in consultation with members of the staff involved, with due regard to records of previous challenging behaviour, their pattern and context, reductive consequences and other interventions used and their outcomes, and any relevant medical information.
- The student’s parents/guardians will be informed by phone or in writing and invited to a meeting at the school with the principal and class teacher to discuss their child’s behaviour.
- A student will not be suspended for more than three days, except in exceptional circumstances where the principal considers that a period of suspension longer than three days is needed in order to achieve a particular objective.
- If a suspension longer than three days is proposed by the principal, the matter should be referred to the Board of Management for consideration and approval, giving the circumstances and the expected outcomes.
- The Board will formally review any proposal to suspend a student, where the suspension would bring the number of days for which the student has been suspended in the current school year to twenty days or more.
- The principal will notify the parents/guardians in writing of a decision to suspend.
- Parents/guardians will be informed of their right to appeal to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science (Education A 1999, Section 29).
- The principal will report all suspensions to the Board of Management, with the reasons for and the duration of each suspension. The principal is also required to report suspensions in accordance with the NEWB reporting guidelines (Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, section 21(4)(a)).
6.2 Grounds for removing a suspension
A suspension may be removed if the Board of Management decides to remove the suspension for
any reason or if the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science directs that it be
removed following an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998
6.3 After the suspension ends
A period of suspension will end on the date given in the letter of notification to the parents/guardians about the suspension. The principal and the class teacher will facilitate a review of the existing behaviour support plan for the student if required and will re-admit the student formally to the class.
Expulsion of a student is a very serious step, and one that will only be taken by the Board of Management in extreme cases of unacceptable behaviour. The school will take significant steps to address the behaviour and to avoid expulsion of a student including, as appropriate:
- Meeting with parents/guardians to try to find ways of helping the student to change their behaviour.
- Ensuring that all other possible options have been tried.
- Seeking the assistance of support agencies (e.g. National Educational Psychological Service, Health Service Executive Community Services, the National Behavioural Support Service, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, National Council for Special Education).
A proposal to expel a student requires serious grounds such as that:
- The student’s behaviour is a persistent cause of significant disruption to the learning of others or to the teaching process.
- The student’s continued presence in the school constitutes a real and significant threat to safety.
- The student is responsible for serious damage to property.
The grounds for expulsion may be similar to the grounds for suspension. In addition to factors such
as the degree of seriousness and the persistence of the behaviour, a key difference is that, where
expulsion is considered, the school authorities have tried a series of other interventions, and believe they have exhausted all possibilities for changing the student’s behaviour.
- Procedures in respect of expulsion
The following steps will be followed in respect of expulsion:
- A detailed investigation will be carried out under the direction of the principal, who will inform the student’s parents/guardians in writing of the details of the alleged misbehaviour, how it will be investigated and that it could result in expulsion. The principal will invite the student’s parents/guardians to a meeting in the school at which parents/guardians will be given every opportunity to respond to the complaint of serious misbehaviour before a decision is made and before a sanction is imposed.
- Where the principal forms a view, based on the investigation of the alleged misbehaviour, that expulsion may be warranted, the principal makes a recommendation to the Board of Management to consider expulsion.
- The Board of Management considers the principal’s recommendation, and a hearing is held.
- If the Board deems that expulsion is necessary, consultations will be arranged by the Educational Welfare Officer within twenty days of receipt of a notification from the Board of its opinion that a student should be expelled (Education (Welfare) Act 2000, section 24).
- Where the twenty-day period following notification to the Educational Welfare Officer has elapsed, and where the Board of Management remains of the view that the student should be expelled, the Board will formally confirm the decision to expel. Parents/guardians will be notified immediately in writing that the expulsion will now proceed.
- A parent may appeal a decision to expel to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science (Education Act 1998 section 29).
- School Rules
School rules are kept to a minimum and are devised with regard for the health, safety and welfare of all members of the school community. These can be summed up as follows:
- Be on time and be prepared for class every day.
- Always do your best and let others do the same.
- Do as you’re told by all staff immediately.
- Act in a safe and respectful way at all times.
- Use good manners to all children, staff and visitors to the school.
- Communication with parents/guardians
Communication with parents/guardians is central to maintaining a positive approach to dealing with our students. Parents/guardians and teachers should develop a joint strategy to address specific difficulties, in addition to sharing a broader philosophy which can be implemented at home and in school. A high level of co-operation and open communication is seen as an important factor in encouraging positive behaviour in the school. Parents/guardians should be encouraged to talk in confidence to teachers about any significant developments in a child’s life, in the past or present, which may affect the child’s behaviour. Structures and channels designed to maintain a high level of communication among staff and between staff, students and parents/guardians have been established and include:
- Informal and formal parent/teacher meetings
- Letters/notes from school to home and from home to school
- Class DOJO
- Behaviour diary (where necessary)
- Phone call
- Behaviour incident reports
- Notification regarding absences from school
Parents/guardians are requested to adhere to the following procedures when their child is absent from school:
- The school should be informed at the earliest convenience of foreseen absences for example OT appointments etc.
- In the case of unforeseen absences, owing to illness or other, the child’s class teacher should be informed in writing on the first day of the child’s return to school.
- Parents are reminded that schools are obliged to take note of all absences and report to the National Educational Welfare Board. Absences should be kept to a minimum wherever possible. Unexplained absences are noted and the NEWB may investigate should a child miss more than 20 days in a school year.
- Limitations of this policy
This document is not designed to list all the possible situations that may arise, nor state all the possible strategies to address challenging behaviour, but to serve as a general guide to the students, parents/guardians and all staff members in attempting to solve individual problems.
- Ratification by Board of Management
This policy document was ratified by the Board of Management on:
- Declaration of consent by parents/guardians
I/We, the parent(s)/guardian(s) of ________________________________ have read, understood and consent to the implementation of this Behaviour Policy.
Signed: __________________________ Date: __________________
Signed: __________________________ Date: __________________