TEACHERS in West Berkshire are using a new way of thinking to deal with badly behaving pupils. 

Therapeutic thinking, introduced in some schools, is looking at the causes of behavioural issues, rather than dealing with the symptoms. 

Ian Pearson, head of education for West Berkshire Council, said: “It picks up on things like adverse childhood experiences, so things that have happened earlier lives may be affecting their behaviour.” 

He made the comments at the schools forum on October 14, when headteachers were considering whether to fund a new therapeutic thinking schools officer. 

More than 120 school staff and council employees have been to engagement days, on how to support schoolchildren in a trauma-informed way. And more than 70 staff also went to three-day ‘train-the-trainer’ courses on delivering training in their schools on therapeutic thinking. 

Dr Michelle Sancho, the council’s principal educational psychologist, said in a report to the schools forum: “Other local authorities which have adopted a similar approach have seen impressive outcomes.

“For example, one local authority found that, in schools where headteachers were trained as trainers, there was a 60 per cent reduction in fixed term exclusions, an 89.5 per cent reduction in exclusion days and no permanent exclusions.”

However, there are some concerns about the new way of thinking. Gary Upton, from the teachers’ union NASUWT, said: “Members have raised some concerns where some of the excesses of this are taking place.

“Members have raised serious concerns where staff have been forced to do things like admit how they’re going to change their behaviour in front of the children and where that on a ribbon on their lanyard. 

“Which has really upset quite a lot of the teaching community, where they feel that sanctions are not applied. We’re almost excusing behaviour, rather than explaining poor behaviour.” 

But David Ramsden, headteacher of Little Heath School in Tilehurst, said that was an ‘absolute misinterpretation’ of what therapeutic thinking is supposed to be.

He said: “Nobody’s telling headteachers how to run their behaviour policy, they’re just suggesting that headteachers might want to look at poor behaviour from the child’s point of view. Every time something is put in place, somebody will misinterpret it.”

Those who attended the training had warm comments about it. One said: “This has the potential to fundamentally change the way we support children in West Berkshire.”

Another said: “I feel very hopeful that this approach could significantly improve the life chances and outcomes of some of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, so that each child gets the opportunity to succeed.”