Supporting and sharing transformation

Issue: Volume 95, Number 7

Posted: 26 April 2016
Reference #: 1H9d1N

The Positive Behaviour for Learning programme is made up of a number of initiatives to help school communities address problem behaviour and improve student wellbeing. Education Gazette looks at how a recent expo in Nelson brought together schools in the region to share their PB4L stories.

As of March 2016, the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) School-Wide initiative is being used, or soon will be, by 661 schools, with reports of improved relationships, culture and student engagement across the board.

Schools in the Nelson region are no exception, and a special expo held on 18 March highlighted good work being done and encouraged new schools to adopt the framework.

Around 150 people attended the event, which was held at the Tahuna Beach Conference Centre. Staff and students from schools in Nelson, Tasman, West Coast and Marlborough came to share their PB4L stories, listen to others, and discuss ideas.

Ministry of Education district manager in Nelson Patrick McEntyre says the PB4L School-Wide expo highlighted some excellent work being done by local schools to create a positive environment for staff and students alike.

“It was great to see the schools all sharing ideas with each other. It was very well received,” he says.

Patrick, who was part of an organising committee that also included a group of principals and deputy principals, says that initially all the PB4L schools in the region were invited to submit an abstract, and the team chose nine to deliver presentations from those plans.

“We had a good geographical spread from West Coast to Marlborough, as well as a good variety of different schools, from area schools to rural and urban schools, secondary and primary.”

More keys to success at Motueka South

Motueka South School’s principal Michael Harrison delivered a presentation about the school’s six-year journey with PB4L, which began with participation in the national trial.

“We were happy to be one of the early trials, because we saw PB4L as extending on work we had already been doing through our own ‘Keys to Success’ programme,” says Michael.

“Our presentation was about what we do at our school and how it has been effective for our students and community. We were excited to share our ideas and the things we’ve learned with our fellow schools.”

“It’s something that at Motueka South we really ‘live’, and feel strongly about. The language is in our school – it’s real for us.”

Linda Beatson is deputy principal at Motueka South School, and part of the organising team for the expo.

She says the event was the culmination of several months’ teamwork – and a gathering of good practice.

“It was about showcasing excellence – initiatives that have worked for the different schools in our region. We were all really heartened by the day.”

While a main goal was to get new schools excited about PB4L, the expo encompassed a wide range of helpful strategies and tools for schools to encourage positive behaviour.

“We were encouraging other schools to take up PB4L – but even if they didn’t, if they got something from the day about how to support positive behaviour and relationships – it was still a win,” says Linda.

“It’s not that we’re experts, but rather that we have worked successfully with the programme for years. There’s no sense to us in new PB4L schools having to reinvent the wheel. Every school has its own flavour, but there are some really good tools that can be adapted for a start, and we know they work well.”

Lunch in the Principal’s office

Being sent to the principal’s office has taken on a new meaning at Rai Valley Area School, where positive behaviour is not only encouraged, but also rewarded with special privileges. One such treat is a lunch date with principal Angela Sloane.

Rai Valley has been a PB4L school for just over two years, and Angela was also part of the team that helped to organise the expo. She says a defining feature of PB4L at Rai Valley School is positive reinforcement, which can be seen in the signage around the school, the reward system for students and public acknowledgement, for example at school assemblies.

“We also have our special ‘Rai Way’ motto – respect, achieve, inspire,” she says. “We’ve been really pushing that within the whole school, and that includes students, parents and staff.”

Angela says that adopting the PB4L framework has led to a focus on building good relationships at the school.

“We’re now having a half-hour meeting each week to talk especially about behaviour, and share positive stories from around the school. At assemblies we are acknowledging these too, and students respond very well to this. We operate a ‘stamp system’, and once students get 25 stamps they’re allowed to spin a prize wheel, and one of the prizes they could choose is lunch with me."

Angela jokes that the older children are less keen – but the junior students really enjoy it.

“They bring their lunch box and we spend 10 to 15 minutes sitting together at a picnic table near my office – they can bring a friend or come on their own. We have a special time – they find out a bit more about me and I learn about them. It’s very sweet, and I really enjoy it too.”

Angela believes the PB4L School-Wide framework has helped teaching staff be consistent in how they deal with a range of issues as they arise.

“It’s made us do a stocktake of where we were, and how we can move forward, with a focus on us all being very consistent about how we deal with issues that come up.”

“Another good thing for us has been our student management system. We are tracking our students much more, and this has helped us to work out the factors that might be behind certain behaviour. For example, by looking through our logged data, we saw that we were experiencing most of our behaviour issues straight after morning tea, so now we are looking at why that’s happening and what we can do to reduce it."

“So through the PB4L framework, we are looking more closely at what’s happening and recording the information to help us address issues.”

Angela says the expo reinforced the idea that PB4L is a framework, rather than a programme to follow.

“It was so good to hear all the different stories, and look at the display tables and posters. There are some really great ideas that other schools have thought of – ideas we can try, too."

“We’ve all got our different schools but what we have in common is a desire to create the best school environment we can.”

Intermediate years as prime time

Paul Johnstone is deputy principal at Broadgreen Intermediate in Stoke, but also works as an in-school coach who supports the local PB4L Ministry-appointed practitioner.

Broadgreen Intermediate has been working under the PB4L framework for five years, and Paul says it was valuable to talk about the initiative from a smaller, local perspective.

“I think it was a very good day. I’ve also attended several of the national PB4L conferences, which are good but struggle to capture the local flavour of what is happening."

“It’s the first time that an expo like this has been held for PB4L – and we hope it will be used as a model for other regions in New Zealand.”

Paul believes that intermediate schools are especially well suited to implementing PB4L.

“The age and stage of the students at intermediate level are very receptive to the features of PB4L – the types of incentives and rewards that we can easily offer, for example."

“They’re developing a really independent and clear student voice at that age, that helps to put these programmes together, and because it’s a very narrow age group, all our resourcing can be targeted in a narrow way, so it’s cost and time effective."

“The fact that in a traditional intermediate, half the student body changes every year means that we’re forced to re-examine and reinvigorate the way we do things. That’s why I believe PB4L works particularly well in an intermediate school.”

In 2016, NZCER published an evaluation report for PB4L School-Wide. This report can be found on the Education Counts website(external link)

What is PB4L?

The PB4L action plan aims to turn around problem behaviour in children and to encourage pro-social behaviour.

It is this encouraging of pro-social behaviour that makes the difference to reducing disruptive incidents alongside the use of data to inform decision and practice underpinned by the commitment of all in the school.

It delivers a number of programmes and initiatives: Positive Behaviour for Learning – School-Wide, The Incredible Years – Teacher Programme, and The Incredible Years – Parent Programme.

The principles behind PB4L represent a major shift in the way disruptive behaviour at school is managed, and acknowledges that, given time and attention, a school environment can be changed to support positive behaviour.

The three tiers of the PB4L school-wide framework

Tier 1: The foundation. Looks at support systems and processes across the whole school – things that impact on all students and adults.
Tier 2: Looks at interventions for students who require additional behavioural and learning support.
Tier 3: Looks at more individualised and intensive support for students who experience chronic, severe and challenging behaviour.

Positive behaviour for learning – school-wide

Focuses on preventing problem behaviour, developing students’ social skills, reinforcing desired behaviour, consistently addressing and reducing inappropriate behaviours, and using data-based assessment and problem solving to address concerns.

Participating schools go through a stepped process that involves:
  • Strong, visible leadership and commitment from the principal and board of trustees.
  • Consulting with teaching and support staff and the wider school community.
  • A behavioural stocktake that records incidents, reports, visits to the principal, detentions, suspensions, stand-downs, etc. (This system allows schools to make decisions that are well grounded in evidence and to track their school’s progress over time.)
  • Setting up a school team to lead the implementation of the programme.
  • Positively stating expectations for all students and staff in the school (clear, positive definitions that all staff, students and parents can understand and remember).
  • Procedures for teaching these expectations (explaining, modelling, practising, and consistently acknowledging).
  • A reinforcement system for encouraging students to demonstrate and maintain these expectations.
  • A continuum of logical consequences for students to discourage problem behaviour.

Importantly, schools are beginning to find through research that the results achieved in New Zealand schools include reduced number of behaviour difficulties, more time for learning, reduced teacher stress and greater opportunity to support those learners with the greatest difficulties.

The expo presentations

In addition to poster presentations and table displays, the following are presentations delivered at the expo. Some involved school staff and students:

  • Address from Dr David Wales, national director of Special Education.
  • School-Wide PB4L and Keys to Success, Motueka South School
  • Showcasing staff commitment: PB4L unit plans, Rai Valley Area School
  • Fussbusters at Work! Do you value student input into your social skills teaching? St Mary’s School, Blenheim
  • Student leadership and PB4L School-Wide, Marlborough Boys’ College
  • Flashmobs, celebrities and dance battles, Greymouth High School
  • Multi-tiering: PB4LSW Tier Two (and Three), Marlborough Boys’ College
  • Westport South has HEART, Westport South School
  • PB4L and the hairdresser, Reefton Area School
  • Life after Tier 1, Broadgreen Intermediate

Expo feedback

The feedback gathered from school staff at the expo included the following comments:

  • “I learned more about the PB4L system and realised how significant it was and something bigger than what was happening in my school, something that is affecting the wider region.”
  • “It was very good to hear students speak about these ideas.”
  • “It was good to hear individual schools’ stories, their diverse journeys and innovative solutions to behavioural challenges.”
  • “Great to see how one concept can be utilised in so many different ways!”
  • “I liked that schools were honest about how the journey has been for them, the progress made, reflective growth.”
  • “How amazing some schools are! It was great to get new ideas and ideas to take away.”
  • “The presentations affirmed my existing knowledge and skills. Motivated and reassured me that it’s possible to implement these ideas. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel – resources and staff have been there and done that.”

BY Melissa Wastney
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 5:59 pm, 26 April 2016

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts