Challenging behaviour and inclusion in a secondary school: Perceptions, policies and practices

Fripps, Linda Emily (2011). Challenging behaviour and inclusion in a secondary school: Perceptions, policies and practices. EdD thesis The Open University.



It has been widely reported in research and by the media that pupils' challenging behaviour causes concern amongst teachers, parents and politicians. Theories abound attributing indiscipline to factors related to the child, the family and, to a lesser degree, the school.

This study investigates the experiences and perceptions of pupils and staff regarding challenging behaviour and inclusion in a mainstream secondary school. The research seeks the views of pupils considered challenging by school authorities and also those of their teachers. It also elicits the opinions of pupils who are generally considered to be well-behaved and those of support staff, as their experience of behaviour in mainstream schools appears to be understudied within the existing literature.

The research took place at an all-ability Roman Catholic boys' school in a selective London Borough. The school has adopted measures to address challenging behaviour, including the use of punitive spaces such as the detention room and an inclusion unit. Within these spaces discipline is exercised and the implicit aim is to produce 'docile bodies' (Foucault, 1977, p.138).

The study incorporates methods designed to facilitate students' involvement as participants and co-researchers. The research findings stress the importance of relationships with peers, parents and teachers in children's behaviour. The notion of blame is also advanced. Each group blames others for indiscipline and generally absolves itself of responsibility for it. Children whose behaviour is seen as challenging are 'othered' by staff and students alike, who place limits on inclusion and advocate an exclusionary approach to addressing indiscipline.

In describing developments arising from the research, the study advocates listening to children and highlights the importance of collaborative working and consistency in developing and implementing whole school policy and inclusive practice relating to behaviour in school.

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