A Guardian piece on “unconditional positive regard”, at a school for children who have suffered abuse, neglect or poverty and cannot study in the mainstream.
At Springwell, Whitaker says, “it means rewarding children for the smallest things – like being kind to fellow pupils – and not punishing bad behaviour. “I could have a kid that spits in my face today and tomorrow I’ll be OK with them,” he says. And if a pupils throws over a table and swears at the teacher? “The teacher would be really nice to them, talk nicely. It would be dealt with by the care team and that child would be looked after, taken out of the room for a calming period and then welcomed back into the classroom.”
Depressingly the government behaviour tsar Tom Bennett responds to being asked about the success of unconditional positive regard by claiming that zero tolerance policies, such as those famously used at Michaela and other academies, are the same thing. “The way Michaela uses unconditional positive regard, he adds, is by being “absolutely on the pupils for micro-behaviours”. “I think unconditional positive regard can be understood in lots of different ways.”
The head of Springwell, Whitaker, believes differently.
“Some of the indiscretions that go unpunished at Springwell might merit isolation or worse elsewhere, he says, describing the zero-tolerance approach as “barbaric”. “Those systems of rigid consistency, with no flexibility, I think it is verging on bullying.”