What’s new

Nurture groups and parental engagement Tackling bullying in schools - part one Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others Managing difficult conversations The art of influence: Creating the best outcome Change management and conflict Managing anxiety at work Interpreting data for 2017 performance Evaluation article: Know your strengths Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Evaluation article: Actively promoting fundamental British values Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Evaluation article: Getting personal  with CPD Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Evaluation article: Parent View — an update Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Nurture groups and parental engagement

Nurture groups are a multi-dimensional group intervention with a whole-school focus, and running them successfully depends on a wide array of different factors. In this third and final article exploring…

Tackling bullying in schools - part one

Bullying is defined as: ‘Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally’. This article looks at the…

Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others

Conflict management is a vital skill for managers. Schools have clear policies on managing aggression in the classroom and playground. In this article Louise Wingrove looks at dealing with it…

Managing difficult conversations

Some conversations are always going to be uncomfortable. In this article, Louise Wingrove looks at managing difficult subjects with care and confidence.

The art of influence: Creating the best outcome

Louise Wingrove looks at how being aware of your impact on others can help everybody get what they need.

Change management and conflict

Nazli Hussein looks at the causes of conflict and the best ways to deal with it, with the best outcomes for those involved.

Managing anxiety at work

With growing awareness about anxiety and the impact it can have on both pupils and members of staff, Louis Wingrove looks at some ways to tackle the problem in the…

Interpreting data for 2017 performance

Tony Powell looks at the three different ways that a school’s academic performance is evaluated.

Evaluation article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: Actively promoting fundamental British values

Tony Powell advises on how schools can demonstrate that they are actively promoting fundamental British values.

Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Evaluation article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Evaluation article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others

Published: Thursday, 22 March 2018

Conflict management is a vital skill for managers. Schools have clear policies on managing aggression in the classroom and playground. In this article Louise Wingrove looks at dealing with it in the staffroom.

When we think of aggression at work we picture someone shouting and throwing his weight around. This is an example of overt aggression: we can see it, hear it and feel it. But just as common is concealed aggression (also called passive aggressive behaviour), which is as manipulative, controlling and damaging to relationships as overt aggression. Here we look at both types of aggression and ways to handle these behaviours constructively.

Every time we communicate we make a choice, usually an unconscious one, about our behaviour. We choose to be:

  • aggressive – to get our needs met, at the expense of others if necessary
  • passive – to meet others’ needs, at the expense of our own if necessary
  • assertive – to meet others’ needs and our own.

In the short term, aggression gets results; aggressive people make things happen. In the longer term, people avoid aggressive colleagues, keep their ideas to themselves, disengage and look for other jobs.

Concealed aggression

When a person slumps down in their chair, makes little eye contact, smiles sarcastically to themselves, rolls their eyes, tuts under their breath, drums their fingers on the table, sighs, shakes their head, uses sarcasm or is cynical about something, this is often concealed aggression.

It is a way of gaining attention and wielding power, and is a type of behaviour used widely in meetings. It can be difficult to tackle this type of aggression because when you ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ the response is likely to be, ‘Nothing’. By using this type of behaviour the person is showing their disapproval or disengagement, or using their power, subversively. Their behaviour can seriously undermine or sidetrack meetings and relationships, especially if the behaviour is allowed to continue.

The best way to tackle concealed aggression is to bring it out into the open or to ‘say what you see’, as Roy Walker used to say on Catchphrase. In other words, to say to the offender, ‘I get the feeling you don’t agree because you’re tutting’ or, ‘I get the sense that you’re unhappy with what I’ve said, because you rolled your eyes.’ Then add, ‘What do you think?’ or ‘What’s your opinion?’. By highlighting the negative behaviour and then asking an open question, you are forcing the person to respond. This will usually prompt them to sit up straight. It is much harder to use concealed aggression when you are sitting up straight!

A word of warning, however: you should always use tentative phrases such as, ‘I get the feeling that’ or, ‘I am sensing that’, rather than a definitive, ‘you clearly disagree’. You are more likely to get an overtly aggressive reaction if you confront the person directly. By being tentative you give them the opportunity to respond constructively and to rectify the situation. When they reply you can identify and deal with their concerns. You are now on a more level playing field.

Overt aggression

So what about overt aggression? You can respond:

  • aggressively – typically resulting in an escalation of aggression on both sides
  • passively – in which case the other person is likely to be increasingly incensed by your low energy and inability to tackle the issue
  • assertively – which will enable you to keep control of your emotions and let the other person see that you are actively looking to resolve the issue.

When dealing with aggression, think about your body language. The body and mind influence each other, so if your body is doing the right thing it is easier to stay assertive. If the other person is standing, then you stand too, and if they are sitting then sit down. You need to ensure that the interaction is on equal terms and that the other person does not feel advantaged or disadvantaged by how you stand or sit. If you are standing, ensure that your feet are hip width apart: if they are too close together you will look and feel vulnerable and defensive; if they are too far apart you may look and feel more aggressive. Make sure you maintain good eye contact but not so much that you stare and become confrontational.

When people are overtly aggressive there are two important things to remember:

  • the feelings of the person – that something has upset them
  • the facts of the issue – people want to be heard and understood.

You need to address both the feelings and facts if you want to deal effectively with aggression. It may be that you cannot resolve whatever the issue is, but if the person feels that they have been heard and understood you are more likely to get a positive outcome. By acknowledging emotions with ‘how frustrating for you’, ‘that must have been annoying’, ‘I can see how upset you are’, you are acknowledging that this is how the person feels. You are not agreeing with them, you are just acknowledging that the issue has affected them. This helps to calm them down. When the feelings have been acknowledged you can move on to the facts. If you only deal with the facts and ignore the feelings, the person will take longer to calm down.

When dealing with the facts of the issue, ask lots of open questions (questions that require answers other than ‘yes’ or ‘no’) to ensure that you really understand. It is tempting to ask closed questions and then jump in with your response, which typically is a defensive one! Interrupt and the aggressive person feels unheard and ignored. So make sure that the person has the opportunity to state their case and that you listen to what they say. When you have ascertained the facts, summarise back to them so that they know you have really heard and understood their points. Then you can put things over from your side. You might start off by saying, for example, ‘From my understanding’ or, ‘How I see it’.

Protect yourself and your team

Some final advice:

  • Never put yourself in a position that is physically dangerous. Make sure that your school has a policy that stipulates how and when to escalate issues.
  • Take time out to relax if you have had a day filled with aggression – dealing with aggressive people can be exhausting, especially when they are your colleagues!

About the author

Louise Wingrove has been a trainer and coach for 21 years and has led training teams in companies in both the public and private sectors. She is director of training consultancy Funky Learning (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Most frequently read