No Bad Kids
Children with behavioural problems are a horizontal group at risk of not graduating from the level of education that fits their general abilities. Teachers often find it difficult to work with them, and it is quite common that they only apply a symptomatic approach, without looking into the roots of disturbing behaviour. This training and mentoring programme offers a solution by working with the children (and their family that is usually the root of the problems) as well as school staff.
Narrative, origins and objectives of the initiative
What kind of project is this? Please give a short description (summary) of it.
It is a complex institutional development programme aiming at implementing a holistic behaviour-changing educational model. The model is based on the Re-ED philosophy (Re-EDucation of Emotionally Disturbed Children). It consists of a set of 12 principles that provide guidance on institutional evaluation, basic training to change mindsets, in-depth training in the programme methodology, mentoring, supervision, refreshment training and peer support, as well as working with the children and their families directly. The main components of the model are the principles and attitudes, the methodology toolkit, the individualization of services and methods based on the child’s needs, the institutional framework, and the supporting broader environment.
Please tell us why, in general, this project is considered a successful one?
Disturbing behaviour has not been considered a special education need, it is seen differently by different professions, so there has been little to no multi-professional team support or training for teachers. Schools that have been part of the programme reported that teachers lack both theoretical and practical knowledge to cope with these challenges in the classroom on a daily basis. After implementing the programme for 2-3 school years, both students and teachers reported clearly positive effects.
And why would you consider it a grass-roots initiative?
The programme was developed and implemented by an NGO in reaction to disturbing behaviour being an increasing problem at schools and a lack of intervention or support from policy level. Schools implementing the programme also do so on their own initiative, recognising that they are over-challenged by student behaviour and commit themselves to change the situation.
What challenges needed to be solved in this project?
The main challenge is for schools to have a long-term, 4-5 year-long commitment to the programme, because this needs the full commitment of their leadership. It is becoming a challenge in the country context to establish and maintain NGO-school cooperation. Teacher work overload also needs to be addressed when organising activities.
Is this initiative based on any particular theoretical framework? Which one?
The model is based on the Re-ED philosophy (Re-EDucation of Emotionally Disturbed Children) by Dr. Nicholas Hobbs. In addition, it builds on the programmatic elements developed by Pressley Ridge in the USA.
(Appendix) Is your intervention standing on its own or is it a part of a bigger and more holistic approach?
Although it is a holistic programme itself, it depends on the participating school if they use the model on its own or implement other inclusion practices locally too.
Please describe the group(s) intended as beneficiaries of this initiative
Why has this group (have these groups) been chosen?
‘Bad’ or disturbing behaviour in the classroom context has always been a challenge for teachers, and it is a growing phenomenon. While different labels related to special education needs are becoming more and more part of daily work, many of these children have no formal diagnosis, and thus there is no special support available either for them or for the teachers working with them. On the other hand, an increasing number of children have too many different diagnosis. This often results in their teachers not being able to discover the roots of the behaviour and be able to fulfill the child’s needs. Teachers report that they feel the lack of both theoretical and practical knowledge to cope with the issue, and their reacting from instinct often makes the situation worse. Thus these children are a major challenge for teachers.
As a result these children often have a low level of attainment, they are at a high risk of early school leaving, of achieving lower than their abilities and of becoming subject/victim of punitive measures. They are a target group that has been neglected, and they often fall through protective nets.
Could you please tell us something about the relative size of the (of each) target group, within the school/university population, region and/or country?
The percentage of children with behavioural problems vary from area to area. Schools that have realised that these children need help, mostly as a last resort, often have a high percentage of the school population showing disturbing behaviour. So far, the foundation has reached out to about 10-12 thousand children and the ratio of affected children is about 30% in this population.
Which social characteristics are taken into account and what is the geographical area covered?
Most of the challenging students in schools implementing the programme fall in at least one of these categories:
- has an imprisoned parent
- there is a history of drug abuse or alcoholism in the family
- there is bullying and physical abuse in the family
- they are in foster care
- their family situation is unclear for some reason
- one of their parents died
- generational unemployment in the family
- low socio-economic status or extreme poverty
- families struggling with multiple problems of the above
The programme has been implemented by different schools, mostly primary and in deprived areas of larger towns.
On which level is the project implemented?
Please describe the political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative
Did the initiative have political support?
Local municipality support was present in some cases.
How did it fit with local, regional or national policies?
Tackling disturbing behaviour is not part of policies, and inclusion is mostly present only at the level of rhetoric, so it does not really fit.
Who are the stakeholders supporting the initiative?
For successful implementation a strong commitment by the school leaders is absolutely necessary. It is also part of success that the majority of teachers also commit themselves. Implementation is supported by a small group of external trainers provided by the foundation. The role of volunteers is also a key to working with the children directly.
Are there particular demographic changes present that are influencing the project?
School segregation has increased in Hungary in the last 8 years in an already segregated and non-equitable school system. Thus, there is a growing number of schools where the percentage of challenging children has reached a threshold that makes it impossible for teachers to handle. Another element is that the teaching force is in a more and more difficult situation with staff shortages, burnout and lack of funding.
What is the institutional strategy and culture of the (educational) organization?
The most important element is that the school should have reached a stage where they identify the problem and realise that they need external support to tackle it. It also needs a long-term commitment coming from this realisation. Successful implementation is based on a value-driven, strength-based institutional culture, and the teaching staff needs to be committed to their own lifelong learning. Success is based on cooperating with the parents as part of the school culture.
To what extent does the initiative have an influence on institutional policy (or potential influence) of the (educational) organization?
The programme increases collaborative work of teachers that needs to become part of the institutional policy. Another policy change is to change from a hostile family-school relationship to a collaborative one.
(Appendix) Is there public support for your initiative and the issue it addresses?
Disturbing school behaviour has been an issue most parents have been interested in. It is easy to win local public support as other children experience a better educational environment at school. The general public has little to no information about the programme.
(Appendix) What other factors do you think have been important for the success of this initiative?
Strong theoretical basis, tried and tested methodology modified to the local context, and collaboration of main school stakeholders.
Please describe the overall initiative design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals
Please describe the specific activities carried out.
- Initial phase: school visit, initial planning with the school head, information session for the teachers
- Basic training to change mindsets – knowledge about trauma and basics of Re-EDucation
- Developing a local behaviour management system – training, development by the school team, introduction to the whole school
- Implementation and regular coaching and supervision from the first school year
- Learning in groups and team building training
- Crisis intervention training
- Refresher training
- Creating supportive institutional structures and processes
- Visiting other schools implementing the programme; exchange of experiences
- Training family liaison staff
- Experiential education training
- Youth leadership training
What were the key roles (teacher, student, management team etc.) within the project?
Management: commitment to implementation, ensuring time and resources
Teachers: participating in training, becoming local trainers and supervisors, implementing the programme on classroom and individual student level
NGO staff: training staff, offering methodology, support, coaching and supervision
What ideas, tools, theories, models, methodology (etc.) have been used to reach the goals?
Programming and Model of Care of Pressley Ridge USA
Experiential Education, Group Process, Crisis Intervention methodologies
What are the final revenues of the project?
Higher school attainments, better academic results, increased continuation of studies in secondary education, decreasing percentage of early school leaving, less punitive measures for students.
Teachers experience an increase of their professional position acquiring tools to tackle behavioural problems and not being afraid of aggressive behaviour.
The school involves its immediate environment (i.e. parents active or influential in their own community) and broader community in the school work. As a result, the community acknowledges both the problem and the efforts to tackle it.
Please describe if your project ensured its sustainability
If so, how did you ensure the short-term impact of the project?
Commitment of the school’s leadership is the basis of success. Short-term impact is ensured by professional delivery of training, close coaching and supervision in the first period and making support available when necessary.
And how did you ensure the long-term impact of the project?
Having implemented the whole programme, it becomes part of school methodology, and the system becomes self-sustaining.
Has your project been replicated elsewhere?
Yes, it has been implemented in a growing number of schools.
Please tell us about the resources used in this initiative
What was the budget for the initiative?
The budget is difficult to define. The programme largely builds on time investment by the implementing school. In the case of the foundation offering the framework, it is on the one hand part of the daily work of their regular staff, and on the other hand it also builds on volunteer work. The estimated budget for implementation is 17,000 – 24,000 EUR / school year for 3 – 5 years.
How much did the initiative depend on volunteers?
Introduction of the model in institutions does not require volunteers. However, auxiliary and support activities such as thematic and hobby groups, after-school and holiday activities for students largely depend on volunteer support.
How were the costs perceived by the public/the sector/other stakeholders?
In the beginning there were debates about the worth of the investment. After successful implementation, the costs are generally perceived as totally acceptable.
To what extent did the initiative achieve its objectives?
Please describe the evidence to support the success of your initiative.
Student careers were followed to show that there are better academic results and lower drop-out rates. Students are also increasingly likely to go on to higher levels of education than expected, punitive measures within the school significantly as well as truancy decrease.
There is also an increase in teacher well-being at the workplace as well as their esteem in the community.
Parents‘ positive and supportive presence in the school increases and the typical negative attitude towards school changes. Partner agencies and institutions such as Family Support and Child Protection Services, Police, Sports Clubs, etc. appreciate results and value the school’s work.
Did the intervention lead to any unintended (positive) outcomes?
The structured framework also makes work easier for those teachers who do not fully commit themselves to the programme.
What indicators (quantitative and qualitative) have you measured to demonstrate success?
- academic results
- enrolment at higher levels of education
- number of unjustified non-attendance
- number of punitive processes and measures
(Appendix) How did you evaluate/monitor this intervention?
The programme has a strong built-in monitoring and evaluation element as part of the behaviour management system. Supervision is another monitoring and evaluation tool built into the system. Outcomes are then also evaluated against regular school success indicators listed above.