School Improvement Journey: Nova Education Trust Behaviour Spotlight

School Improvement Journey: Nova Education Trust Behaviour Spotlight

School Improvement Journey: Nova Education Trust Behaviour Spotlight

School Improvement Journey: Nova Education Trust Behaviour Spotlight

School Improvement Journey: Nova Education Trust Behaviour Spotlight

Over the period 2022 to 2024, our National Benchmark data shows that staff perceptions of behaviour have decreased by -10 %. Over that same period, Nova's staff perceptions of behaviour increased by +18%, which is +17% above the Edurio National Secondary benchmark. 

Nova Education Trust is particularly proud of the progress made across its 10 secondary schools, predominantly in areas of social deprivation.

Nova Education Trust

In this case study, we talked to Ryan Hawley from Nova Education Trust. Ryan is the Director of School Improvement (Inclusion), having previously been the Executive Head Teacher of Meden Schol, The Garibaldi School, and Nottingham University Academy of Science & Technology — all three recently rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted. Before this, Ryan was the Headteacher at The Garibaldi School.

Ryan’s portfolio now includes strategically leading Behaviour, Inclusion, and Attendance across the trust, which comprises 10 secondary schools, 5 primary schools, 2 educational partner schools, and a SCITT


The focus of our discussion is pupil behaviour and the improvements Nova has seen in their staff's perceptions of it in the past few survey cycles. From the 2021/2022 academic year, where results were 6% below the Edurio National Benchmark for the question “On a scale from 1-5, how would you describe student behaviour across the school?” to 2023/2024, where the survey results for the same question have improved 18% to be 17% above the Edurio National Secondary School Benchmark. In a time when staff perceptions of pupil behaviour are lower than ever, what was Nova able to do to get these results?

In this spotlight:

  • Beginning the behaviour improvement journey
  • Creating a supportive network
  • Ensuring clarity and consistent criteria
  • Nurturing leaders who understand the "why"
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Developing engagement strategies

Where Nova's Behaviour Journey Began

Like in many trusts and schools, behaviour post-COVID was flagged as an issue. We all know that poor behaviour disrupts good learning and has a profoundly negative effect on teaching staff. Our assessments identified that the approaches and measures used pre-pandemic were not working with our children and young people, and a new holistic behaviour management approach was needed.

Policy Development Process

Toward the end of January 2022, we started developing a brand-new behaviour strategy framework and policy suite for the Trust. This started with initial research to understand behaviour in depth. We set about transforming what we wanted our behaviour and expectations to look like using the GROW model of coaching and mentoring. We used our stakeholder data from staff, governors, pupils, and parents to inform us about the reality and impact on the ground. We also reflected on what we were seeing in our schools in observations, in our data and metrics, and in Ofsted feedback. Using a triangulated assurance framework approach provided us with credible and validated information on which to base our strategic behaviour approach. 

As a trust, our mission is to create transformational schools. We want our classrooms and our school environments to be safe places for everyone to visit, and we want people to be happy in terms of their learning. But we want teachers to teach and children to learn. It is important when embarking on projects that involve multiple and diverse communities and teams that you first define what you want and take the time to consult and onboard everyone in that process of cultural change.

So, we developed a culture statement as a precursor to the behaviour policy work through collaboration with the Headteachers of our 15 schools, defining what we wanted to see and agreeing on what we wanted to work towards.

Improving pupil behaviour at Nova Education Trust

Out of these initial planning and research sessions, the strategy was born. The Nova behaviour strategy is based on the EEF research and has five pillars (four proactive and one reactive): knowing the pupils, setting the right conditions for learning, using the right classroom management strategies, consistency, and, most importantly, ensuring effective communication across all four pillars.

Behaviour worksheet

We felt that improving behaviour was based on improving communication and everyone's understanding of the goal, the point, and how we achieve it. We were mindful of not talking about behaviour in a reactive way. Instead, we have been talking about it through improving behaviour culture. By improving behaviour culture, you improve school culture.

Consistency Across Schools

Getting staff buy-in can be difficult at scale. If you are a senior leader in a single school, it is easier to develop, enact, and drive the change, bringing others on board. Enacting change at scale when you work in a medium-sized to larger MAT is much more complex.

Creating a supportive network

In May 2022, we formed a trust-wide Behaviour Network, which meets monthly. That initial research and planning with Headteachers across the Trust was invaluable to achieving buy-in, as well as understanding what the problem was, and then understanding the actual problems they face.

Clarity and Criteria

Clarity is a priority that runs across all areas of our school improvement strategy. We provided criteria for behaviour, to provide clarity to our schools. This criterion categorises our schools in terms of behaviour into one of four categories: transformational, leading, evolving and reinventing. We built in an alignment to Ofsted in just one of them - evolving. So, if we class a school as "evolving", it means this school is aligned with the Ofsted rating of Good. What we want is for all our schools to be leading and transformational.

Nova behaviour KPIs

We developed this KPI for Behaviour, which was the starting point around what we would work on. We got schools to then work individually using those matrices to develop their own behaviour curriculums and enact the behaviour policy changes (linked to Behaviour Hub resources and Tom Bennett's work).

Getting buy-in

We are a trust about sustainability and developing sustainable leaders. Therefore, we needed our leaders to understand the ‘why.’  We could have done the work for them, produced their behaviour curriculums, and asked them to just follow them. But we know that by going down that route, we are not developing leaders who understand the ‘why’ and are not exposed to that higher-level strategic thinking at scale. 

The same principle applies to working with pupils; you can get to a level of compliance just by insisting on certain behaviours and having a high compliance culture. But at Nova, we want to go much deeper than that because it is about each individual child doing the right thing at every point in every day. It doesn't matter whether they are at school or not because we are trying to set them up to be successful young adults. That is our moral obligation. That is why staff and school leads were so involved in the development of behaviour curricula - so that they could create cultures that promote and encourage pupils to make decisions about what is right and wrong.

Continuous Improvement, Monitoring and Evaluation

Using stakeholder feedback surveys in conjunction with the network meetings with heads across the Trust has allowed us to continuously look to strengthen our provision even more. 

Once our behaviour strategies and policies were in place, we met once every 10 to 12 weeks. We have a cycle in place where leaders look at each other's schools. So, we all look at everyone else's challenges, results from stakeholder surveys, and behaviour curriculums, which create a self-developing model and boost communication amongst the team. This, in turn, has built a support network for school leaders to share challenges and achievements.

We use stakeholder surveys to identify which schools need our attention the most. For example, some schools are still not where we would like them to be regarding stakeholder experience in relation to behaviour; so by identifying these schools, we can improve the support, either through CDP or through increased resources and provision. Comments in our stakeholder surveys also help monitor how staff perceive the Trust's progress in relation to our culture statements and specific goals, such as student behaviour.

Improving pupil behavioru at Nova Education Trust

The behaviour network meetings our behaviour leads attend help school leads and trust central teams to understand the context behind the survey results. For example, we had one school with low results for the behaviour module, but by understanding the context, staffing changes, etc., and looking at the changes over time, you can see improvement and movement towards the outcomes we would all like to see.

Next, for Embedding Behaviour

The next piece of work for us is to look at the difference between compliance and engagement because we set out on the journey to ensure that we reached a level of compliance across the organisation. In most of our schools, we have reached strong levels of compliance. Now, we can focus on how we develop active engagement and the engagement that sits alongside compliance.

We have started to do some work around self-regulation and what that looks like, and we have started to explore what research tells us about how you might develop self-regulation (in children). We would like to build systems where we get our staff to model what we want from our students, so to get there, we must have a whole-person approach.

That, for us, is the next phase of iteration of our behaviour strategy: developing a self-regulatory approach to improving behaviour. At the same time, we cannot lose focus on the critical point of compliance and continuity. That must be the foundation and the bedrock from which everything else is built. We are interested to see how that next piece of work goes. We aspire to grow 24/7 Citizens. We have done a lot of work and had some success, but we still have much to learn if we are truly going to achieve our goal of developing transformational schools.

Want to learn more about how we work with schools and multi-academy trusts? We would love to hear about your school improvement goals and see how we could help — you can also send us an email at hello@edurio.com.

36a Weston Road, London, England, W4 5NJ




All rights reserved © 2024 Edurio