Featured High School
Gaining Traction for SW-PBIS
An Australian HS Perspective
Yeppoon State High School
is a government secondary school (Years 7 to 12) situated on the beautiful Capricorn Coast, gateway to the southern Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia. Despite the idyllic setting, the school faces many challenges, typical of secondary settings world-wide. Back in 2016, although we had been trying to implement SW-PBIS for several years, we had failed to get traction and were not seeing the improvements in student learning outcomes and reductions in problem behaviours that we knew we should be achieving. Fast forward to 2019 when we are seeing significant improvements in student attendance and behaviour through a whole-school focus on proactive classroom practices. We’d like to share what we have learned with other high schools – it may take more time to implement SW-PBIS with fidelity in secondary settings, but the effort is definitely worth it!
SW-PBIS implementation takes time
It’s important to take the time to prepare for implementation and ensure that all staff have the opportunity to become involved. In the beginning our team tried to forge ahead with only a few enthusiastic team members driving the process. They soon became burned out and implementation stalled.
SW-PBIS is more than posters and rewards
Don’t make the mistake of putting your energy into signage and reward systems before staff truly understand that SW-PBIS is really about changing school culture. Thinking it’s all about developing rules and rewards will lead to staff quickly becoming disenchanted when nothing changes.
Build the team that fits your context
Like many larger high schools, we have layers of leadership. In our school we have a Principal, Deputy Principals, Deans, Heads of Department, Year Level Coordinators, Teachers and Teacher Aides. We decided that our SW-PBIS team would become advisors to our leadership team so the team undertook a refresher on the ‘why’ behind SW-PBIS to establish their foundational understanding. Team meetings were intentionally timetabled into the day’s work rather than at the start or end of the day. Being a SW-PBIS Team member became part of the role, not an add-on. We developed a unified approach to how we work and the delivery of our core messages.
Work with curriculum leaders
Our data showed that inconsistency in classroom practices was leading to high rates of student referrals. We realised that our curriculum Heads of Department were the missing link between leadership and teachers so we created a classroom SW-PBIS trial starting in one learning area. With support and coaching from the Head of Department, classroom teachers began to focus strategically on building positive relationships and proactively teaching classroom routines for behaviour and learning. Teachers began to see how SW-PBIS could be used in their classroom to engage students and get an increase in instructional time.
Provide ongoing support to staff
Our team created a ‘How to Guide’ to provide staff with a simple set of steps that could be used to de-escalate potential conflict, maintain positive relationships and focus on positive acknowledgement with redirection to learning. Leadership team members act as ‘rovers’ to support whole school processes, resulting in more students in class and staff feeling supported in the implementation of common routines. Ultimately, clarity and consistency have led to colleagues supporting each other. This has given impetus to achieving staff buy in. While we still have a long way to go, we are confident that we are now well on the way to high school implementation of SW-PBIS with fidelity