(function(w,d,s,l,i){w[l]=w[l]||[];w[l].push({'gtm.start': new Date().getTime(),event:'gtm.js'});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0], j=d.createElement(s),dl=l!='dataLayer'?'&l='+l:'';j.async=true;j.data-privacy-src= 'https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id='+i+dl;f.parentNode.insertBefore(j,f); })(window,document,'script','dataLayer','GTM-PDJPJSW');

Five top tips for achieving consistency

Sue Cowley offers a guide on how to maintain consistency when setting behavioural expectations in the primary school classroom.

We all know that consistency matters – the children need to know what the boundaries are, in order to be able to follow them. All the adults in a school need to apply the boundaries in a fair and consistent way. This gives children a sense of security and certainty – they know what will happen in different scenarios and also what is coming next in terms of daily routines. 

However, consistency is hard to achieve, because educators are human beings and prone to all the stresses and pressures of a complex job. In the drive to ‘get through’ a lesson, it is all too easy to find yourself talking over the children, despite having set a clear boundary with the children of ‘one voice’ or ‘one person speaks at a time’ in your classroom. In order to give yourself and your staff the best chance of achieving consistency:

Involve everyone in developing policies:

People tend to be inconsistent in applying boundaries if the rules they are asked to apply do not fit well within their value system. If you are asking staff to apply a rule that is, in their view, inappropriate or unfair, they are far more likely to ‘let things slip’. By giving everyone a chance to input into your school policies (preferably including the children) you will be far more likely to achieve consistency between classes.

Consistency, Sue Cowley, Primary School

Consistent standard; flexible approach:

Remind staff that consistency is not about using the same approaches with everyone – we would never do that for learning in curriculum subjects. Consistency is about aiming for the same standard – a consistent boundary – but accepting that some children will need more support and scaffolding than others to get there. Just as with adaptive teaching during subject learning, we can adapt our approaches to support everyone to achieve their best. A useful way to think about this is by using the term ‘flexible consistency’.

Consistency, Sue Cowley, Primary School

Acknowledge potential bias to overcome it:

It’s hard for teachers to admit that they might like some children more than they like others, but unless we admit the potential for bias, it’s impossible to overcome. The important thing is not to let your personal feelings change the way you respond to individual children. No matter how much you might subconsciously ‘like’ a child, the same boundary should apply to everyone. You cannot ‘let a child off’ from poor behaviour, just because they were previously always well-behaved. Children are alert to the potential for unfairness and they are not always wrong when they claim that an adult was ‘picking on’ them.

Remind staff that consistency is the collegiate response

Where one member of staff lets children ‘get away’ with poor behaviour, while everyone else picks up on it, this undermines the sense of working as a community. Talk with staff about how, even if children appear to like them more if they are relaxed about poor behaviour, in the long run this undermines their colleagues. Where everyone applies the boundaries equitably, this makes them easier for both children and staff to maintain.

Remember that variety is the ‘spice of life’:

While we should aim to be consistent around our boundaries, this is not the same as saying that everyone’s lessons must run in the same way. Lessons where teachers are asked to use a single format across multiple subjects under estimate the need for variety in teaching different subject areas. They also do not account for the fun and joy involved in coming up with the occasional experimental, off-the-wall idea for a lesson. Teachers need the freedom to be creative, as well as consistent, in their daily lives. This will help boost their sense of wellbeing and in turn to encourage them to stay in the profession.

Consistency, Sue Cowley, Primary School

Find Out More

Sue Cowley has created two brand new modules, ‘The Importance of Consistency in the Primary Classroom – Exploring the Research’ and ‘Practical Approaches to Consistency in the Primary Classroom’ which explores research and practical strategies on how consistency in supporting behaviour for learning in a primary setting. To find out more, view the tasters and click through to view the full module descriptions below.

For privacy reasons YouTube needs your permission to be loaded.
I Accept
For privacy reasons YouTube needs your permission to be loaded.
I Accept
Tamsin Denley

Author: Sue Cowley

Sue Cowley is an experienced teacher, trainer, presenter, and author of over 30 books on education and parenting. She has worked in early years settings, primary and secondary schools in the UK and overseas, and provides training and consultation services to teachers and organizations worldwide.

Share this article

Discover more BlueSky Learning behaviour-focused modules here

Register for our newsletter to receive the latest BlueSky updates

Go to Top