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Should kindness be the first school rule?

There is a momentum in kindness that beats the momentum of ‘no tolerance’*

Many school staff, and parents, face a huge challenge in trying to gain support from overstretched services whose job is to offer advice and guidance for young people. On opening every newspaper, teachers discover yet another 21st Century problem could be fixed by simply ‘teaching it in schools’ (mobile phone safety, financial skills, cooking, resilience; many of those things that communities used to teach their children).**

The key to pastoral care is complex and it encompasses all things, not ‘nuts and bolts’ of academic work. This means, among others, health in all its guises, including mental health, extracurricular offerings, happiness and resilience, behaviour and rewards, safeguarding and online safety; countless strands so important to pupils’ wellbeing, making such a difference to their potential to thrive and succeed.

There is acknowledgement in education that times are difficult, local support is sparse and an acceptance that young people face challenges that adults struggle to get to grips with. The education sector is filled with practical advice, and professionals sharing their experience of supporting pupils and parents in myriad, innovative ways.

Paul Dix, founder of Pivotal Education, advocates an astonishingly effective behaviour management technique of simple kindness and consistency (and tearing up the long list of rules). Tony Clifford’s enlightening views on Attachment ***, outline how understanding the impact of experiences in early childhood can affect the behaviour and attitude of the teenager, helping teachers get the best out of their pupils.

At Northampton High School, we aim for proactive pastoral care; spotting issues before they get out of hand and supporting the pupils in building a toolkit of strategies to help them deal with things that life can throw at them. We achieve this through our PSHEE programme, tutorials and lots of informal support. Our adoption of the Girls on Board**** programme to empower our pupils to tackle friendship problems with adult support, rather than interference, has been ground breaking. We also embrace the Positive Project *****, used across the GDST network, to help young people tap into their feelings and determine strategies for improving how they feel about life’s ups and downs.

We are fortunate to have few behavioural issues of any consequence in our school, but the headline quote embodies what every interaction between a pupil and member of staff ought to be. There is strong evidence that schools that embody mutual kindness between all members of the community have fewer behavioural issues and a greater academic purpose too.

Find out more by calling Northampton High School on 01604 765765 or email Amanda Wilmot at


* Paul Dix, founder of Pivotal Education. pivotaleducation.com/

** www.parentsandteachers.org.uk/resources/what-should-schools-teach

**** The Attachment Research Community the-arc.org.uk/about

**** www.girlsonboard.co.uk

***** positivegroup.org/schools

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