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Engaging with hard to reach learners

There are a whole host of reasons why you might encounter challenging students, and often, the reasons behind their behaviour aren’t entirely clear. Even when you can identify a cause, that on the surface appears to be more obvious, such as recent bereavement, displacement or physical illness, it doesn’t necessarily make challenging behaviour easier to tackle.

We’ve collated some possible reasons for challenging behaviour along with support that you may be able to access.

Communication and de-escalation

Maintaining an exchange of information in the face of challenging behaviour can be difficult, however, being conscious of what you say, your tone of voice and your delivery can help to de-escalate a tense situation.

Leanne Forde-Nassey wrote about the importance of validating your students’ emotions in these situations whilst also giving yourself the space to deal with issue later.

“If a pupil is visibly angered or upset as the lesson starts, rather than quickly addressing them with the school behaviour policy or threatening them with a ‘warning’, it is much more effective to say, ‘I can see you are upset at the moment, but just give me two minutes to get the lesson started and I'll come and check in with you.’."

You can read more tips for de-escalation in Leanne’s article for TES.

Too hungry to learn?

Good nutrition is vital to be able to engage in education and has been proven to have a positive impact on learners’ behaviour and wellbeing. The growing food poverty experienced by families in the UK is resulting in young people going to school without having had a proper meal. Children who regularly go without breakfast have been show to achieve significantly lower GCSE results.

What can you do?

Where appropriate, it’s good to discuss and instil the importance of good nutrition to encourage learners who have perhaps gotten into the poor habit of skipping meals.

For some learners, access to good nutrition may be affected by their personal circumstances at home. Explore services available to you, for example, your school may be eligible for support via the National School Breakfast Programme, funded by the Department for Education. This is delivered by Magic Breakfast in partnership with Family Action. Find out more about how to apply on Family Action’s website.

Networks, advice and support

Tapping into the expertise that surrounds you allows you to engage with a different perspective. It can be comforting to know that your peers have struggled with similar issues and how they’ve dealt with challenging behaviour – even if it’s to rule out an approach that hasn’t worked.

There are also a number of third parties and charities that you might want to engage with, such as Young Minds which has developed a 360° Schools’ Community which you can sign up to and you’ll receive e-newsletters with free teaching resources, videos, tips and examples of good practice.

Find out more about this community on Young Minds’ website.

Engaging with technology

Approaching the classroom with a range of different resources, styles and methods for delivery will help you to appeal to a wider range of learners. Consider reviewing your previous lessons and see if there has been a repetition of similar themes or style and if you can approach some topics in a different way.

Our V Cert qualifications in Health and FitnessBusiness and Enterprise and Child Development and Care are supported by eLearning tools from iAchieve, an online learning platform. It helps schools to successfully implement and deliver high-quality vocational and technical qualifications that contribute to a curriculum that has impact for all learners. This can help you vary your delivery from lesson to lesson and also support you as you prepare learners for their assessment. Find out more about iAchieve on their website.

Consider your own CPD

There’s often a root from which difficult behaviour stems and your grasp of knowledge will ensure you have the confidence to discern when behaviour is ‘challenging’ or when there is something else going on, such as undetected special education needs or a safeguarding issue that needs to be addressed. Our CPD qualifications can ensure you have the knowledge and skills to deal with these issues, including the CACHE qualification in understanding behaviour that challenges which may be eligible for funding.


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