Schools should be particularly alive to changes in a young person’s behaviour or emotional state which may be an indicator of welfare, safeguarding and mental health concerns. Given the significant amount of time many pupils will have been out of the school environment, some will also be adjusting back to discipline and routine.
There may also be particular challenges for SEND students, whose provision may have been disrupted during the Summer term and break, which could have an effect on their behaviour. Schools will need to work with local services (such as health services and the local authority) to ensure the services and support are in place for a smooth return to schools for these pupils.
The DfE has provided a checklist for schools in relation to behaviour and attendance (here) for re-opening. It includes evaluating behaviour policies and practices ahead of reopening to reflect any new / changed rules. For example, schools should state what behaviours are now considered more serious, for example, purposefully coughing on someone, including any escalation points in how they will be dealt with. Such policies should closely align with a school’s safeguarding arrangements (i.e. where behaviour may indicate a safeguarding concern). Where a child is displaying a change in behaviour, staff should consider consulting the DSL to ensure that they have the full picture.
Schools’ disciplinary powers remain in place, with permanent exclusion still only available a last resort. Where a child with a social worker is at risk of exclusion, their social worker should be informed and involved in relevant conversations.