Alternative work during “Time Out”

Students who find themselves out of the regular classroom or teaching group due to their behaviour are provided with work and activities in a variety of provisions. How effective is the work in making a positive change to their problem behaviour?
Short periods of time out from the general classroom environment are usually spent by the student taking some time to review, consider and perhaps write about their behaviour, whilst also being provided with the work they would have been engaged in had they remained in the classroom. On a short term basis, this seems perfectly acceptable,  and the “thinking time” this style of time out provides will often help the student to reconsider his or her behaviour and return to the classroom prepared to comply and undertake what is required of them.

Over a longer period of time out, such as time spent in:

Inclusion rooms
Working with a senior member of staff
Learning Support Centres/Units
Alternative Provisions

providing the work the student would have been engaged in if still in the regular classroom, can provide problems not only for the student, but also for the supervising staff, specialist subject staff and indeed also the student.
Supervisory staff may well be spending excessive time chasing other teachers for appropriate work, resources and activities. Any work produced must then also be collected, passed on to teaching staff, marked and returned to the student. This leaves very little time to address the underlying causes of the students‘ problem behaviour.

If the period of time out is simply the provision of a quieter or “stricter” environment, with less distractions than the regular classroom, the behaviour of the student may well be helped in the short term i.e. whilst they are in the “time out” provision, but such arrangements are unlikely to have any positive, long lasting changes in the long term.

The challenge for teaching staff is therefore, how can the period of time out be used more profitably? How can we provide an opportunity or an environment that is quiet and free from distraction whilst also not disadvantaging the student by missing out on work? How can do all of this and still make positive changes to the students behaviour?

Practical Tips

Students who are required to spend some, or all of their time (for short periods), out of their normal teaching groups must have the opportunity to continue with the work set for the whole group. This requires the school to have clear and workable systems in place which do not require support staff spending unacceptable time trying to locate teaching staff, appropriate resources and equipment.
Time out areas (operating under various titles) should have sufficient resources to meet the needs of the year groups using the area and should consider how best to affect changes in the students‘ unacceptable behaviour.

When time out provision is staffed by a range of adults including:

Senior Staff
Support staff
A rota system using staff on “no contact time”
Unwilling staff!

it will be very difficult to provide anything other than an opportunity for student to continue their work in a different environment.

Time out provision, run by specialist teaching or support staff can make significant changes to the behaviour patterns of students attending the units or provision. Whilst providing appropriate academic work, the period of time out is an excellent opportunity for students to undertake a range of activities all aimed at making positive changes to their behaviour.

Typical activities may include:

Problem Solving Activities
Managing Emotions (anger, frustration)
Self Help
Group Work
Active listening skills
Organisational skills
Independent work
Social Skills

In order for time out provisions and units to offer any of the above there will need to be availability of appropriate resources and trained staff to use them. There should be a recognition of the students’ difficulties and an understanding that Time out may be used not simply as a sanction for problem behaviour, but also as an opportunity to address these issues and start to make positive changes.
Changes that don’t just take place over the short term, whilst the student is “in time out,” but changes that can be seen over the long term and in all teaching and learning environments.
Top tips are therefore:

Workable systems for teaching staff to provide appropriate work
Dedicated and trained staff in time out provision
Appropriate additional resources to address behavioural needs
An established ethos that “Time Out” is used as an opportunity to make positive changes to student behaviour and is not just used as a sanction.

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