Supporting pupils with EBD

Pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) present a number of challenges to staff in school. Such pupils can be disruptive, aggressive and consequently difficult to support. A few of the issues are outlined below, along with suggestions on how you can help.

Pinpointing problems

Often, disruptive pupils are not diagnosed as having a specific problem. Some pupils may have all the symptoms of EBD, but only receive sporadic support. Whilst this support may help in the short-term, it may not address the long-term effects of the barriers to learning and the problem of constant disruption.

While it is important to remember that pupils can display the following behaviours without necessarily having EBD, EBD pupils tend to be:

  • persistently disruptive (eg calling out in class, refusing to work, annoying other pupils, etc)
  • emotionally immature (eg being tearful, withdrawing from normal social situations or throwing tantrums)
  • physically and verbally aggressive and unable to form positive social relationships.

Some characteristics of pupils with EBD include:

  • behaviour which constantly violates social rules and the rights of others
  • physical aggression, usually initiated by the pupil, that can take the form of bullying or cruelty to animals
  • destruction of property, such as arson or vandalism
  • stealing – ranging from ‘borrowing’ other pupils’ possessions to shoplifting, car theft and burglary
  • truanting from school
  • cheating in school work
  • early use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco
  • sexual experience at an early age.

Monitoring pupils

It is important to identify EBD as early as possible so that support can be provided. A pupil with suspected EBD should have their behaviour monitored closely so that experts can assess the pupil’s needs. For example, you could think of a pupil (or group of pupils) and check their behaviour against the following typical incidents. If several of the descriptions below apply to the pupil(s) you had in mind, they need support to modify their behaviour.

The pupil might have:

  • stolen on more than one occasion
  • run away from school or from parents/carers at least twice without returning voluntarily
  • often lied to avoid the consequences of their actions
  • often truanted from school
  • broken into someone’s house, office or car
  • deliberately vandalised property
  • been physically cruel to animals
  • initiated physical fights
  • used a weapon in a fight
  • acted as a bully
  • stolen with physical confrontation, eg mugging, purse-snatching, etc
  • threatened teachers or other adults in school
  • physically confronted teachers or other adults in school
  • verbally abused teachers or other adults in school
  • made sexually suggestive remarks to other pupils, teachers or other adults in school
  • touched other pupils, teachers or other adults in school in a sexual way
  • abused other pupils racially, either verbally or physically.

In addition, you could write down the name(s) of the disruptive pupil(s) and a brief description of problematic incidents that occur involving them. If three or more incidents occur during a term, there should be serious concern. The more frequent the number of incidents, or the greater the variety, the bigger the problem.

Preventing inappropriate behaviour

Many pupils with EBD (and indeed many other disruptive pupils) do not know how to behave and do not understand how their behaviour affects other people. Often no one at home provides a model of good and appropriate behaviour. It is important to show them alternative ways to behave and to insist on good behaviour.

Most inappropriate behaviour has a trigger point. Identifying this can help you to intervene and prevent the behaviour. Common trigger points when pupils are working in groups or in classes include:

  • moving around the room (eg to collect material or resources)
  • sitting with a particular pupil or group
  • being unclear about what is required
  • not having support for the task they have been set
  • sharing resources.

Both bad behaviour and good behaviour are learned and you can model the kind of good behaviour that all pupils (and especially those with EBD) need in order to function effectively in school.

NAPTA, 10 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 1JP — tel 01223 224930 — email