I moved schools this year, and was told the class I would be teaching were challenging. It is only after eight weeks that I’m beginning to understand their very complex and significant social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) and behavioural needs. I have by no means ‘cracked’ them, and each week is like a rollercoaster. However, I’m here today to report back on some definite dos and don’ts I’ve learned.

Every September, when greeting my new class, I would follow the same pattern for the first two weeks to settle them in. I don’t think there is anything magical or mysterious about how I settle children and classes, so I am going to share it now, so that anyone can pick up the bits they think they would find useful. I should also give props to my mum here, as I learnt about routine, expectations, and consistent boundaries by watching her as a childminder to toddlers!

Some of you will read this and think “Well, she has never taught in a challenging environment if that works”, but I can assure you that, having worked at inner-city London schools, this settle-in routine was a necessity - not a ‘nice-to-have’ - and there were certainly some very challenging cohorts who I thought this would never work for. But I always persevered, and it always came good in the end!

For me, settling a class is about four main things:

  1. Creating an environment conducive to learning for all students.
  2. Building a sense of community and shared, as well as individual, responsibility.
  3. Cutting down low-level disruptive behaviour to near enough 0.
  4. Making time for those who need extra support - behavioural or learning.

Getting this right in September means not having to be strict all year. I was known for having very high behaviour expectations with my classes. But also, anyone visiting my class to observe during the year could not actually pinpoint what I was doing that they would consider ‘strict’. The reason is very simple: I had done all of my settling back when no one was watching! So now there is nothing to see. They know the rules, and I know what they are capable of.

The introduction

The first thing I would do with my new class is a little speech. Here, I explain that I have three jobs. ‘Teacher’ is my job title, but it is actually my third job once I have completed the first two. The first job I have is to keep them safe. At the very least, your parents expect them all in one piece at hometime each day. Being safe is about the safety of everyone. Individual and collective responsibility. Running around in the classroom = unsafe. Holding scissors aloft while chatting = unsafe. And so on. So any behaviour such as that would stop any lesson immediately (anything which stops a lesson causes a sanction).

My second job is to ensure everyone is happy. This is not to be confused with my job being to MAKE people happy. It is not about having fun or being entertained. Happiness is more a contentment - it means that we care about everyone around us, and show everyone respect in their classroom and learning environment. Someone crying due to someone else ruining their drawing = I need to intervene. Someone upset or angry due to being annoyed by someone else in class = I need to intervene. Again, intervention by me means learning time lost, so could result in sanctions.

The other part of happiness looks at my commitment to intervene - and support/help - if a child is unhappy due to circumstances outside of the classroom. No need to labour this point, but it is worth the pupils knowing that, say, if they arrive angry after a fight with siblings, they can sit and calm down in the book corner before register, to get happy for school.

Once my first job (safety) and my second job (happiness) are done, I can then teach. Those conditions mean we can learn loads. We can discover exciting facts. We can learn about interesting places or words. I commit to always making lessons as engaging and interesting as possible, but making sure pupils learn from them is the main objective. Pupils must commit to working hard and listening, and I will then support them as much as a I can to help them succeed.

Once the speech is done, we usually spend that first lesson drawing up a class agreement based on my speech outlining the above. The rules come from them based on the “safe” and “happy” criteria, ie “We need a rule about hurting people, because that could make things unsafe AND make people unhappy.”

Time to get to work

The next two weeks are carefully planned to include lots of independent working. The reasoning is threefold:

  1. To establish my expectations for any time I ask for silent working.
  2. To spend time with each child while the rest of the class are working silently - to hear them read, to talk a bit with them and find out their likes/dislikes, to assess any additional needs.
  3. To figure out the relationships between the students and any clashes or positive working partnerships.

For each of the independent task lessons (at least two a day in the first two weeks) I would, of course, do some teaching up front. After this, I would have various tasks which were very low-challenge or significantly differentiated, so that everyone could access them without support. The tasks quite frankly would be considered, at any other time, to be a total waste of learning time. I make no bones about this. But at this stage in the term, it is vital for me to do this so that for the rest of the year my learning environment allows us to have extremely high expectations.

So during the silent lessons, I will pick up on every single issue of behaviour. I mean every single one. In each case I would never call the child out publicly. While the class works I sit at the desk and work with individuals. I call them over, ask why they think they did the right thing. I will explain my expectations. If it is something a previous teacher allowed but I will not, I explain to the whole class that I understand they were allowed to do that before, but in my class I don’t allow it - and I always explain why, referring to the rules (being careful, of course, not to undermine the previous teacher, but just to say we are different). We set up agreed new routines as a class so that expectations going forward are clear.

Once we have done a few silent lessons the majority of children are now on board and understand that you mean what you say - this is the first turning point. They now start to remind others of the expectations. They start to keep each other on track with other teachers (PPA time) too. Then we can start to spend more time with the more “spirited” children who need a lot more support in settling.

You might even end up spending a lot of time with one or two key characters who seem to be always at your desk during silent working, having been called up for one misdemeanour or another. This time is really key. It gives you a chance to give them attention they clearly need, without it interrupting your main curriculum later down the line. I have had cases where, even right near the end of the two weeks, there is just one or two children I cannot seem to get the right connection with. Some of these go on past the two weeks. But by then, the rest of the class is 100% onboard and actually enjoying how settled and calm their class is. So they do not mind you spending extra time with one.

And this time with the more disenfranchised pupils really works. They eventually realise you mean everything you say. They see you start to loosen up with the rest of the class, and that you really won’t be strict forever if everyone does the right thing. They see you being fair and consistent with everyone. They see you wipe their slate clean and start again every single day. So eventually they trust you, and order is established with everyone. The side effect is also a more cohesive class who work together calmly.

As I said, this may not work for everyone. And in a short article I have had to speed up the explanation, but hopefully the intention is clear and the tips will help some new teachers. Get in touch if you want to find out any more (, or discuss any challenges you are facing when settling your class - I am always happy to help!

Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

Increasingly, we are seeing schools turn to technological methods of teaching, communicating, reporting, monitoring students’ progress and behaviour and, well, pretty much every other aspect of school life too. With students being permitted to use personal devices for educational purposes in many schools, and homework and lesson tasks being set online, technology has become an integral part of the way teachers teach and students learn. Ask a 21st Century student to conduct their homework using only an encyclopaedia, no doubt they’ll look at you confused and aghast.

Class Charts, the UK’s leading seating plan and behaviour management software solution, is helping teachers to quickly create data-rich seating plans that are Ofsted-ready. Schools can spend a great deal of time creating their class seating plans, but creators Edukey believe that this need not be the time consuming chore it once was. Class Charts is proven software that links seamlessly with SIMS, creating instant seating plans for each class.


Class Charts, the innovative seating plan and behaviour management platform from Edukey, is rapidly gaining traction with schools in the UK. Designed by a teacher with 16 years of experience in the classroom, the resource is having a real impact in improving pupil behaviour, linking with SIMS, Integris, CMIS & Progresso and identifying how pupils influence each other in the classroom. The data is presented to teachers in a clear and understandable format.

A student’s behaviour in the classroom can be determined by a whole host of different factors, and their relationship with you as their classroom teacher is fundamentally the most important factor. However, in order to get good behaviour in a classroom with an individual, a lot more is needed than just sanctions and high expectations. This is where positive behaviour for learning comes in to play.

Effective and positive behaviour management is achievable through the combination of a well-designed, robust IT system and properly supported teachers following a clear and fair behaviour policy. Sounds like a simple strategy, but putting a software system in place that enables a school to record, monitor, analyse and manage pupil behaviour can be problematic.

Teaching, learning and behaviour are inseparable issues in school: without good order in the classroom, effective teaching cannot take place and pupils’ learning is inhibited. Even low-level disruption in the classroom is a significant source of stress for teachers. Poor behaviour, whatever its severity, impacts on every aspect of school life, from exam results to teacher and pupil wellbeing. As a result, managing pupil behaviour effectively is at the centre of a school’s core business.

Every classroom I've been in has rules. Some are phrased as a positive statement: "We are good listeners". Others are more clear cut: "Don't rock on your chair". Teachers view these as the backbone of their classroom. Their proverbial rod of iron, so to speak. In one class I went into they had a full display board of rules. Fifteen of them. In my opinion, that's way too many.

As an NQT, my main focus was to be a good teacher by ensuring my teaching 'happened'. I needed rules that allowed me to teach the lessons I'd planned. Nothing unusual about that. But the interesting thing was, one year, I didn't put up my class rules display (I had 7 rules on my display) and the strangest thing happened... The class did as I expected them to, without the big list of rules.

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"