Why be good? Axiological foundations for behaviour management policies in 36 Secondary schools in England


Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Background: In the wake of the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, it was claimed that schools in England were promoting ‘fundamental British values’ through ‘the ethos and culture of the school - within a framework of rules, regulations which are there for the benefit of everyone’ (Trobe 2014). This study aims to explore the values that are written into the behaviour management policies of Secondary schools, as a means of interrogating this claim. There is little previous research into the content of these policies, although exceptions exist (e.g. Smith et al 2008; 2012). Research questions: what values are written into schools’ behaviour management policies? Research methods: Content analysis of a representative sample of 36 school behaviour management policies from the 9 regions of England. A grounded approach enabled the identification of themes, common across two or more policies. Theoretical framework: The axiological foundations of the policies are analysed in the light of concepts drawn from moral philosophy, specifically consequentialism, deontology and Virtue ethics (e.g. Singer 1993). Research findings: The underlying premise found in all policies, was that pro-social behaviour enables learning and academic achievement. Common subsidiary themes include values of personal development, the encouragement of good relationships and the maintenance of safe environments. The major themes are therefore consequentialist in nature, although there is occasional recognition of other discourses. This analysis suggests that these policies promise what cannot be delivered: that pro-social behaviour will lead to learning, academic achievement, personal development, good relationships and individual safety; there is little recognition in these policies that pro-social behaviour is officially valued by schools for its own sake. In the light the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, it is argued that schools should review the axiological foundations for their behaviour management policies. References Singer, Peter (ed.) (1993) A Companion to Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell. Smith, P. K., Smith, C., Osborn, R., & Samara, M. (2008). A content analysis of school anti‐bullying policies: Progress and limitations. Educational Psychology in Practice, 24(1), 1-12 Smith, P. K., Kupferberg, A., Mora-Merchan, J. A., Samara, M., Bosley, S., & Osborn, R. (2012). A content analysis of school anti-bullying policies: a follow-up after six years. Educational Psychology in Practice, 28(1), 47-70. Trobe, M. (2014) Promoting British values in schools. Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27777421
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2015


  • Behaviour Management
  • moral philosophy
  • pro-social behaviour
  • Trojan Horse


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