Policy last updated

24 October 2023


  • Schools
  • School councils
  • All Department staff

February 2020


Refer to the Resources tab for new resources on teaching students about face coverings.


This advice assists Victorian government schools to create positive climates for learning and to support student behaviour.


Schools can find information and advice on promoting positive behaviour, prevention and early intervention strategies, a tiered response approach for student behaviour and wellbeing and professional learning opportunities in the Guidance tab.

Schools are expected to consider, explore and implement positive and non-punitive interventions to support student behaviour before considering disciplinary measures such as detention, withdrawal of privileges or withdrawal from class. Information about these consequences are set out in the Guidance tab.

Schools are responsible for ensuring a local school wide Student Engagement Policy is in place and that appropriate mental health and wellbeing supports are available for students. Refer to Student Engagement for policy requirements and guidance.


Refer to definitions in Guidance

Relevant legislation


For information about behaviour support strategies:
Principal Practice Leader-Education
Professional Practice Leadership Division
Schools and Regional Services
Phone: 03 7022 0528

For information about school-wide positive behaviour support framework:
School-wide Positive Behaviour Support Unit
Phone: 03 7022 1383

For information about detention and other consequences:
Regional officesExternal Link may be contacted for queries regarding detention and other consequences


Guidance overview

This guidance provides schools with information about promoting positive behaviour, a tiered response approach for student behaviour, responding to challenging behaviours and professional learning opportunities for school staff. It also includes information about detention, suspension and expulsion.

This guidance contains the following chapters:

  1. How to increase appropriate behaviour
  2. How to decrease inappropriate behaviour
  3. Challenging behaviour influences and triggers
  4. Respond to challenging behaviour
  5. School-wide positive behaviour support (SWPBS) framework
  6. Behaviour support plans
  7. Functional behaviour assessment
  8. Behaviour incidents and emergencies
  9. Work with families on student behaviour
  10. Managing and responding to behaviour – consequences for students
  11. Definitions

1. How to increase appropriate behaviour

1. How to increase appropriate behaviour

Provide students with structure and predictability

  • Make students’ days structured and predictable and limit excessive free time.
  • Transition schedules help students understand where to go and what comes next.
  • Make sure there are consistent and predictable routines throughout the day.
  • Break difficult school routines down into smaller steps (for example: “During lunch, I get my lunch box, line up, walk to the cafeteria, sit at the table, raise my hand for a drink, eat lunch, read a book until the bell rings, clean up my lunch, and line up.”). By identifying each step of the routine, teachers can pinpoint tasks with which the student has difficulty for further instruction.

Provide frequent reinforcement for appropriate behaviour and responses

Notice positive behaviour when it occurs and provide genuine praise. For example, if the student has difficulty sitting in a chair during circle time, observe the student and reinforce appropriate sitting behaviour frequently when the student sits in a chair without an adult directive.

Modify the classroom environment

  • Set up the classroom to prevent problems in advance. Locations for each activity should be clearly defined for the students with visuals and obvious boundaries.
  • Develop transition schedules that correspond with each area of the room, so the student can locate that area when asked to transition.
  • Areas for direct instruction should provide distraction-free environments for students who have difficulty attending.

Use simple language

  • Use simple language and pair it with a visual, if needed.
  • Always tell students 'what to do' rather than 'what not to do'

Provide appropriate learning opportunities at the student’s developmental level

  • Students engage in appropriate behaviour when they’re provided with meaningful tasks and activities.
  • Assess each student’s ability level to be sure the student has the prerequisite skills to meet expectations.
  • Develop materials that are appropriate for each student’s level.

Opportunities for choice-making

  • Allow the student to make choices of specific activities they would like to do and enable them to make choices during the activities as well.
  • Offer choices during the activities that might include their preference for rewards, materials, time, and setting.

Break difficult assignments or activities into smaller steps

When students are engaging in a difficult activity, start by making it short and fun. Over time, slowly increase the activity’s length of time.

Use visuals to support appropriate student behaviour

  • Employ visuals that tell the student “what to do” in advance of the activity or expected behaviour.
  • When providing reinforcement for appropriate behaviour, show the student the visual of the expected behaviour again.

Schedule activities that the student enjoys immediately following less enjoyable activities

Plan a daily schedule in which less enjoyable activities are initially conducted for short periods of time, followed by more enjoyable activities.

Always end a direct instruction session on positive behaviour

If the student is engaged in a less preferable activity in which inappropriate behaviour usually occurs, try ending the activity when the student is exhibiting appropriate behaviour. Over time, extend the length of the session and the amount of appropriate behaviour the student needs to exhibit before the session ends.

Teach students skills that directly compete with inappropriate behaviour

Provide reinforcement for skills the student engages in that are incompatible with their inappropriate behaviour. For example, if a student engages in hand flapping, teach the student to engage in an activity that requires the use of their hands (“playing a fishing game”).

Use a token board system

The token board is an evidence-based practice supported by research.

The Token Board System

    • Money is a token system we all use in our daily life.
    • Students can eventually use the money they 'earn' to purchase items in a store.
    • Some students may respond better to something other than coins. Change the token if needed —for example stickers.
    • Reward correct responses during direct instruction sessions.
    • The token board provides immediate positive feedback to the student.
    • This reward system offers a visual and tactile stimulus to the student for correct responding.
    • Teach the student to wait for a reward.
    • Demonstrate the value of money.
    • Instruct the student to count.
    • Reward appropriate behaviour.
    • Improve fine motor skills.
    1. Have the student choose a reward.
    2. Place the reward on or near the token board.
    3. For higher functioning students, use an icon to represent the reward.
    4. Ask the student a question or give the student a task to complete.
    5. For each appropriate response, give the student a 'coin' or other token.
    6. The student should place the coin on the board if possible.
    7. Once the student has earned all the tokens, give the student their reward.
    8. After a few seconds or minutes —depending on the reward and student, say 'my turn' and start the process over again
    9. Optional:
      • If the student can 'wait' for their reward, have the student take the coins off the token board and hand the to the teacher. The teacher can count the coins.
      • If the student enjoys counting the coins, ask the student to take the coins off the token board, counting the coins as they hand them to the teacher.
      • Do not require the student to 'count the coins' if the student needs more immediate feedback to reinforce correct responding.
  • Teach the student to use the token board by pre-loading the board with 1 or more tokens

    Pre-load the token board with 4 of the 5 tokens. The student only has to earn 1 token to receive their reward.

    If the student is learning new skills and has appropriate behaviour, try increasing the number of tokens the student needs to earn to receive their reward:

    • preload the token board with 3 of the 5 tokens
    • the student now has to earn two tokens to receive their reward
    • continue this process until the student is working for all 5 tokens
  • Use the token board during a variety of activities.

    Teach appropriate behaviour throughout the student’s day using the token system:

    • Use the token board to reward appropriate behaviour during functional routines.
    • 'Catch the student behaving well' during the circle routine, group activity routine, by using the token board to reward appropriate behaviour during those activities.
  • Increase the complexity of the token board system as students are able to wait for longer periods prior to receiving a reward.

    Start with a 5-coin board (10-cent board)

    For students who are responding well to the 5-coin board, introduce the $1 board:

    • have the student earn 5 of the 10-cent coins to add up to 50 cents
    • the student must earn 2 of the 50-cent coins (adding up to $1) to receive their reward

    For students who are responding well to the $1 board, introduce the $2 board:

    • have the student earn 5 of the 10-cent coins to add up to 50 cents
    • have the student earn 2 of the 50 cents to add up to $1
    • the student must earn $2 to receive their reward

2. How to decrease inappropriate behaviour

2. How to decrease inappropriate behaviour

Change the environment, setting or activity

Arrange the classroom environment/activities to decrease inappropriate behaviour and increase independence. For example:

  • If the rolling chair in your classroom invites the student to climb on the chair and roll around the room, remove the chair from the room until he or she has learned to sit in a chair appropriately. These techniques reduce the need of continually needing to tell the student “no” and, instead, focuses instructional time on teaching the student new skills.
  • Vary the difficulty of tasks, presenting an easy task prior to a more difficult task and interspersing easy tasks throughout the academic time period.

Keep calm and move on

  • Stay calm.
  • Reduce talking.
  • Remove items that might be thrown.
  • Redirect (“back to work” first — then “check your schedule” etc).
  • Attend to the appropriate behaviour by creating opportunities for small, positive steps towards desired behaviours.
  • Reinforce movement towards the desired behaviour.

Teach the student alternate behaviours

  • Focus on teaching replacement behaviours and reinforcing desired behaviours.
  • Ask yourself, “What do I want this student to do instead of this?
  • How can I positively reinforce the replacement behaviour?”

Make sure that behaviours of concern do not result in reinforcement

  • When providing consequences for behaviours of concern, respond in a way that will make the behaviours of concern ineffective.
  • Make sure rewards/attention for desired behaviours far exceed any attention/reinforcement the student may receive for behaviours of concern.

Be prepared to deal with escalating behaviour

  • Have a plan that outlines how everyone will respond when a behaviour of concern occurs.
  • Behaviours of concern can create stressful situations.
  • When everyone is on the same page, and knows the “adult expectations,” educational staff are more prepared to respond.
  • Ask for support from your school team, support personnel, or administrators.
  • Having others observe and provide suggestions can be helpful.

Resources to deal with escalating behaviour

If restraint or seclusion of a student is needed, you must follow the Restraint and Seclusion policy and guidance, including reporting the incident to the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC).

3. Challenging behaviour influences and triggers

3. Challenging behaviour influences and triggers

Defining challenging behaviour

Schools have the ability to define their own set of behavioural expectations in their student engagement policy so there is no common set of behaviours that can be universally regarded as challenging.

However, grounds for suspension and expulsion are set and common to government schools.

In most schools and for most teachers, challenging behaviour can generally be understood as something that either interferes with the safety or learning of the student or other students, or interferes with the safety of school staff.

Examples of challenging behaviour include:

  • Withdrawn behaviours such as shyness, rocking, staring, anxiety, school phobia, truancy, social isolation or hand flapping.
  • Disruptive behaviours such as being out-of-seat, calling out in class, tantrums, swearing, screaming or refusing to follow instructions.
  • Violent and/or unsafe behaviours such as head banging, kicking, biting, punching, fighting, running away, smashing equipment or furniture/fixtures.
  • Inappropriate social behaviours such as inappropriate conversations, stealing, being over-affectionate, inappropriate touching or masturbation.

Influences on student behaviour

There are many potential influences on student behaviour, and many factors that can lead to behaviour that is challenging for schools to deal with. These include:

  • biophysical factors such as medical conditions or disabilities
  • psychological factors including emotional trauma or lack of social skills
  • behavioural/social factors including where a student’s problem behaviour has been learned through reinforcement, consequences or adaptation to social practices (a student with a learning difficulty repeatedly misbehaves knowing that he/she will be removed from the class and this will avoid his/her learning difficulty being exposed)
  • historical community factors including for Koorie students whose family member/s had difficult, sometimes traumatic, experiences of school and government agencies
  • cultural factors such as Koorie community ‘Sorry Business’
  • student group dynamics such as bullying and teasing, cliques or student apathy or hostility
  • environmental factors such as the level of classroom noise or classroom seating arrangements
  • classroom organisation issues such as inconsistent routines, inadequate materials or obliviousness to cultural differences
  • teacher behaviour for example boring or disorganised lessons, over-reaction to misbehaviour or over-reliance on punishment.

In many cases, there is no single “cause” of challenging behaviour, but it is the result of several factors operating in combination.

Behavioural triggers

When seeking to understand challenging behaviour, it is important to understand the role of behavioural triggers.

Triggers are actions or events that play a role in prompting particular behaviours. Triggers can be used deliberately by teachers to prompt correct student behaviour. For example, if a teacher wants students to listen, he or she will generally call for their attention (sometimes using a signal) and wait for them to be quiet, thereby triggering the desired attentive behaviour.

Sometimes actions or events in the classroom may be a trigger for some students to exhibit challenging behaviour. For instance, a teacher’s instruction to students such as: 'put your books away and take out a piece of paper so we can start writing' might act as a trigger for a student with learning difficulties, who may exhibit challenging behaviour in order to avoid completing the work, which could potentially reveal that they are struggling.

Whether or not a particular action or event is a trigger for challenging behaviour will depend on the individual student and the environment or setting in which it takes place. The instruction above might produce very different behaviour if it is shouted in a large, noisy classroom rather than made in calm voice to a small, attentive and quiet group of students.

A crucial element of any response to a student's challenging behaviours is identifying the triggers for that particular student. When triggers are identified, teachers and other school staff are then able to more easily avoid these and also can start to develop and use other triggers to elicit positive behaviour.

Learn how to manage challenging behaviourExternal Link .

4. Respond to challenging behaviour

4. Respond to challenging behaviour

The following information outlines strategies for addressing behaviour concerns or if a student has a chronic pattern of challenging behaviour.

If student behaviour is posing a risk to their safety, or the safety of others, follow the guidance on behaviour incidents and emergencies.

Successful interventions

Successful interventions require:

  • strong staff-student relationships
  • an understanding of the underlying factors influencing behaviour
  • an understanding of the immediate triggers for its occurrence.

For example, issuing a detention might be an appropriate response to a student who is being highly disruptive in a class. The teacher or staff member should also identify the reasons and triggers for the behaviour and address these where possible to reduce future problems.

The type of disciplinary measure used for challenging behaviour will depend on the nature and severity of the incident.

Any decisions made about addressing challenging behaviours should be clearly documented and discussed with the student’s parent or carer.

Intervention strategies

Where students repeatedly demonstrate challenging behaviour, schools should implement more structured intervention strategies as part of a staged response to address the behaviour. Strategies can include:

  • Assess the behaviour, focus on its influences, triggers and function (such as what purpose it serves). This should involve observation and talking with the student, their family and relevant wellbeing professionals.
  • Develop a behaviour support plan and/or individual education plan.
  • Consider if any environmental changes need to be made, for example changing the classroom set up.
  • Explicit teaching of replacement behaviours (recognise students will need time to practice these before they become habit).
  • Engage appropriate support services, such as a student welfare coordinator, student support services or community agencies to undertake assessments and/or provide specialist support.
  • Establish a student support group to establish the student’s needs and supports required.
  • Implement appropriate disciplinary measures that are proportionate to problem behaviours.
  • Consider alternative learning or behaviour management options such as student development centres or re-engagement programs.

For available supports and programs from the department, refer to:

Schools must also comply with the Student Engagement policy.

Responding to challenging behaviour

Teachers spend the most time with students, therefore support and discipline responses should always involve the classroom teacher.

Where there are ongoing behaviour issues, teachers should work with school leadership and/or school wellbeing staff to get specialist support for the student. For serious behavioural issues where suspension or expulsion is being considered, the principal must be directly involved in decision-making.

For students who are engaging in biting or spitting behaviours, schools can refer to the following resources in the Resources tab:

Challenging behaviour training

The department’s Prevent, Teach, Reinforce trainingExternal Link is an optional online course for educators.

The course will:

  • enhance understanding of the factors influencing behaviour
  • build skills in promoting positive behaviour
  • build skills in responding to challenging behaviour.

Record keeping

Schools should keep detailed records of instances of challenging behaviour and management responses reported by students, teachers, non-school based staff and the school community.

Records of behaviour incidents should focus on the facts of a situation and not include vague or unsubstantiated claims or value judgements.

CASES21 has a section to record disciplinary action taken and sanctions imposed on a student involved in a behavioural incident.

In addition, the Student Online Case System (SOCS) is a referral and data system for case management of students referred to student support services.

More serious situations involving violent or dangerous student behaviours may constitute a critical incident and need to be reported to the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC), refer to Reporting and Managing School Incidents (including emergencies).

The purpose of good record keeping practice is to:

  • allow staff to monitor the behaviour and wellbeing of individual students
  • ensure student behaviour is being responded to in a consistent and staged manner
  • monitor the effectiveness of strategies used
  • support principals in their decision-making process concerning suspensions and expulsions.

5. School-wide positive behaviour support framework

5. School-wide positive behaviour support framework

School-wide positive behaviour support (SWPBS) is a framework that brings together school communities to develop positive, safe, supportive learning cultures.

SWPBS assists schools to improve social, emotional, behavioural and academic outcomes for children and young people.

When SWPBS is implemented well, teachers and students have more time to focus on relationships and classroom instruction. Students and staff benefit from:

  • increased respectful and positive behaviour
  • increased time focused on instruction
  • improved social-emotional wellbeing
  • positive and respectful relationships among students and staff
  • increased adoption of evidence-based instructional practices
  • a predictable learning environment with improved perceptions of safety and increased attendance.

SWPBS can be implemented in any school setting to support students from Foundation through to Year 12. The framework supports schools to identify and successfully implement evidence-based whole-school practices to enhance learning outcomes for children and young people.

Key features of SWPBS

Implementation of SWPBS requires commitment by the whole school community, particularly from the principal and leadership group. All SWPBS schools implement 8 essential features. They will:

  • Establish a common philosophy and purpose: Staff and students use a common language to discuss behaviour. School philosophy emphasises the need to teach appropriate behaviour much like academic learning.
  • Establish leadership and school-wide support: School leaders publicly endorse and support SWPBS. A team at the school leads implementation by creating, reviewing and monitoring an action plan. The work is done in collaboration by the whole staff with input from parents, students and the community.
  • Clearly define a set of expected behaviours: The school identifies 3 to 5 behavioural expectations that apply at all times. Clear, positively stated examples are identified and displayed in different school settings.
  • Establish procedures for teaching and practising expected behaviours: A school-wide plan is developed to ensure behavioural expectations are taught to all students by all staff.
  • Implement a continuum of procedures to encourage expected behaviours: School-wide systems are developed to acknowledge expected behaviour and promote commitment from all members of the school community.
  • Develop a continuum of procedures to discourage inappropriate behaviour: Schools clearly define problem behaviours and identify specific strategies and responses to minor and major behavioural infractions.
  • Use procedures for record-keeping, decision making and ongoing monitoring: Schools review data on repeated behaviour issues, the settings in which they occur, and the consequences most likely to be applied for inappropriate behaviours. They correlate these with other sources of data such as academic progress, and analyse this data to make necessary adjustments to school operations in an effort to reduce inappropriate behaviour.
  • Support staff to use effective classroom practices: Schools establish systems to support staff to adopt evidence-based instructional practices associated with reductions in inappropriate behaviour.

Multi-tiered systems of support

SWPBS uses a tiered intervention framework which invests in:

  • primary prevention (tier 1): supports for all students, staff and settings
  • secondary prevention (tier 2): additional specialised group systems for students with at-risk behaviour
  • tertiary prevention (tier 3): specialised, individualised systems for students with high-risk behaviour, provided in addition to primary and secondary prevention.

SWPBS in Victoria

Since 2018 the department has supported a common approach to SWPBS based on international best practice through 17 area based SWPBS coaches. Coaches work with school teams to clarify a school's needs and provide the necessary professional learning, supported by coaching, for teams to embed essential SWPBS features.

Apply to join SWPBS

Applications to join SWPBS in 2024 have now closed. The application process to join in 2025 will be confirmed.

For further information or support please contact:

School-wide Positive Behaviour Support Unit
Phone: 03 7022 1383

6. Behaviour support plans

6. Behaviour support plans

A behaviour support plan (BSP) is a document that addresses inappropriate behaviour of a student, and outlines strategies to improve their behaviour.

Who they're for

Targeted plans can be developed for students who:

  • have been diagnosed with severe behaviour disorders
  • have bullied others
  • have been bullied
  • require additional assistance because they display difficult, challenging or disruptive behaviours
  • can benefit from additional wellbeing support

What to include

BSPs may include:

  • known triggers of the behaviour (noise, touch, language used)
  • situations that make the behaviour more likely or cause the behaviour to occur (hunger, tiredness, pain)
  • strategies to reduce or remove triggers
  • strategies to address situations that may trigger the behaviour
  • strategies to teach the young person how to meet their needs without using the behaviour of concern
  • how the behaviour is reinforced
  • if the behaviour, or warning signs to the behaviour, occurs how people should respond without reinforcing the behaviour
  • when the plan will be reviewed
  • how the plan will be evaluated

If the student has particularly challenging behaviour, it may be useful to conduct a functional behavioural assessment first.

Responsibility for BSPs

One person at the school should be responsible for making, monitoring and reviewing all BSPs. For example, in:

  • primary schools and special schools it may be the assistant principal
  • secondary schools it may be the student welfare coordinator, year level co-coordinator or assistant principal

This BSP coordinator initiates and coordinates the steps below. They will also typically lead any student support group meetings held under the BSP.

Write an effective plan

The most effective BSPs are developed when these eight steps are followed:

  1. Gather relevant information about the student
  2. Convene a meeting of relevant school staff and the student's parents
  3. Convene a meeting of relevant school staff to draft the BSP
  4. Refine the BSP
  5. Sign the BSP
  6. Provide a copy to staff
  7. Review the BSP
  8. Conclude the BSP

Templates, guidelines, a student questionnaire and support plan can be found in Resources tab.

Work with other professionals

The effectiveness of a BSP relies on identifying the underlying causes of the student's problem behaviours.

You should consult student support services, the student's parents or guardians, psychologist or other appropriate professional involved with the student.

If you don't identify the underlying issue it can lead to problem behaviours continuing, escalating or being replaced by other problem behaviours.

Use a functional behavioural assessment to find the underlying issues.


A student's behaviour will often deteriorate before it improves when a BSP is introduced.

Rewards and reinforcements used to promote pro social behaviour must be immediate and at a high frequency in the early stages of a BSP for maximum success, especially with younger students.

Benefits of BSPs

Students and schools can benefit from an effective BSP in these ways:

  • Clearly stating expectations and planned support for a student in writing, demonstrates the commitment of the school to the student's wellbeing needs.
  • Behaviour change in the student occurs more readily when the focus is on support, building the skills needed for pro social behaviour and increasing the student's wellbeing.
  • Problem behaviours are gradually reduced as triggers and cues preceding the unwanted behaviours are identified and addressed.
  • Previously unknown causes or triggers of problem behaviour may be identified while gathering information and writing the plan, issues can then be effectively addressed.
  • Specialised guidance indicating how to respond to a student's challenging behaviour, helps to provide boundaries, consistency and consequences for the student, reducing the need for punishment and in turn reducing stress for teachers.
  • A sense of harmony and safety to a classroom and school may be restored.

7. Functional behaviour assessment

7. Functional behaviour assessment

A functional behaviour assessment (FBA) identifies where, when and the likely reasons why a behaviour of concern happens. In schools this is called the ‘function’ of the behaviour.

The information is then used to inform a behaviour support plan that includes strategies to address the reasons why the behaviour is occurring.

When to conduct an assessment

An FBA may be run when a young person’s behaviour gets in the way of their learning, the learning of other students or it causes harm to self or others.

An assessment can be conducted as often as needed. This is particularly the case when the behaviour of the student changes, there's a new behaviour of concern or a change in how often behaviour is occurring.

The assessment process

FBAs are conducted by skilled professionals with an understanding of why behaviours are occurring. This can include teachers, school leaders, allied health staff and regional staff.

An FBA is not necessarily a clinical process and does not need specific qualifications. However, if the behaviour poses a serious risk or previous strategies have not worked, it may be useful to engage a psychologist, behavioural specialist, or behaviour analyst.

The steps are:

  1. Identify the problem and defining the behaviour.
  2. Gather information about the antecedents and consequences that are triggering and maintaining the behaviour.
  3. Form a hypothesis by analysing the data to determine why the young person is demonstrating the behaviour.

After the assessment

After the assessment, you should:

  1. Plan interventions to identify the modifications that are needed to change the behaviour. You may need to create a behaviour support plan for the student.
  2. Implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the behaviour support plan.

Sources of information for the assessment

An FBA generally relies on multiple sources of information such as:

  • a review of the student’s school records
  • interviews with school staff and caregivers
  • structured ratings scales
  • collection of direct observation data
  • identification of any health and wellbeing concerns or issues
  • consideration of environmental conditions that may impact behaviours of concern

Indirect assessments involve an interview, questionnaire and/or rating scale. They may provide the situations and specific times that the behaviour is most likely to occur.

Direct assessments involve observing the behaviour under naturally occurring conditions. This is without changing or manipulating the environment in any way. They can be useful in identifying environmental factors, classroom activities or times of the day that contribute to the behaviour.

Specific methods of collecting data include:

Data collection options

  • Antecedent (A), behaviour (B), and consequence (C) data — often referred to as the ABCs of behaviour — help school teams and behaviour analysts identify patterns of behaviour.

    Triggers or antecedents to behaviours of concern may include common situations such as being asked to complete a difficult or less-preferred academic task or school routine, having preferred items or activities restricted (e.g. asking a student to put his iPad® away), and during times of the day when adult or peer interaction is limited (e.g. independent work).

    Knowing the elements (antecedents) that trigger a student’s reaction (behaviour) and how peers and school teams respond to the behaviour (consequences) can provide useful information as to why the behaviours continue.

    When combined, this information can ultimately guide teams in developing effective interventions. Assisting teams in changing the environment and adapting the ways in which they respond to behaviours of concern may prevent or reduce the future likelihood of these behaviours.

    ABC data collection

    ABC data is collected by one or more staff members who frequently work or interact with the student.

    This type of data can be collected for as few as two or three days or as many as several weeks, depending on how often the student attends school and how often behaviours of concern are observed.

    Data may be collected throughout the day or for specified periods of time in which the behaviours are more likely to occur. The goal is to gather enough information to develop a firm hypothesis regarding the student’s behaviours that will assist with the development of effective strategies or interventions.

    Tips for collecting ABC data

    1. Identify who will be responsible for collecting the data.
    2. Identify one or two behaviours of concern that your team will prioritise.
    3. Define the behaviours in very specific terms so that everyone collecting the data will know exactly what behaviours to include and when a specific behaviour occurred. A good definition is one that could be given to someone who does not know the student but would be able to identify the behaviour(s).
    4. Decide when and how often data will be collected.
    5. When collecting data, try to capture what is happening in as few words as possible (see examples below)
    6. Limit your data to what you observe the student or staff doing. Avoid making assumptions about what the student or staff are thinking or feeling.
    7. Antecedent data: should include information on what occurred directly before the behaviour was observed. Consider situations like the following:
      1. student working alone
      2. adult gives a direction (for example “do your math”; “You need to walk”; “wait your turn”)
      3. teacher tells student to put his phone away
      4. student loses a turn during game with peer
    8. Behaviour data: should describe the student’s behaviours of concern. Examples include:
      • “threw book”
      • “ripped school materials off wall”
      • “punched a student”
      • “stood on the table”
      • “knocked the desk over”
      • “ran out of the classroom”
      • “spat at teacher”
    9. Consequence data: should describe how other adults or peers responded to the student’s behaviours. Some examples:
      • teacher told the student to stop and discussed behaviour
      • peers laughed
      • sent to office to talk to principal
      • removed writing task and redirected to another activity
      • walked away and ignored student
  • A scatter plot provides information about the details of the behaviours of concern: when and during what activities they occur. It also can help teams identify when the student does well or the activities in which no behaviours of concern are observed.

    This information can help teams identify specific factors surrounding school routines that may increase or decrease behaviours of concern (for example noisy or less structured routines, academic routines, routines that occur earlier in the day or later, etc.)

    Scatter plot data collection

    Scatter plot data is collected by one or more staff who frequently work or interact with the student.

    This data is typically collected for one or two weeks across the student’s entire school day.

    Tips for collecting scatter plot data

    1. Make a list or schedule of the student’s weekly activities and a timetable of when the activities occur (see attached example).
    2. Identify and define one or two behaviours of concern that your team will collect data on
    3. Identify who will be responsible for collecting data throughout the day.
    4. If a behaviour of concern is observed during an activity. Indicate this by placing an “X” in the timetable that corresponds to that activity or time of day. If no behaviours occur, leave that area blank.
    5. If data is not collected during an activity, use a different code to indicate this.
  • Schools can download the template to print out blank forms and complete samples in the Resources tab.

    Refer to:

Relationship with behaviour support plans

An FBA is one source of information that informs a behaviour support plan.

You can develop a behaviour support plan without an FBA and in many circumstances this would be appropriate.

However, for particularly challenging behaviours of concern, a behaviour support plan may be more effective where it is informed by an FBA. Without an understanding of the function of the behaviour the plan may be less successful.

Many teachers develop behaviour support plans for students based on their own observations, understanding and knowledge of students’ behaviours, triggers and environmental factors.

FBAs conducted by the department do not need explicit parent consent, however it's best practice to consult with parents or carers.

This is so they understand why an FBA is needed. You should involve parents and carers where possible to understand why the behaviour is occurring and what the triggers are.

Parents and carers should also be involved in creating the student's behaviour support plan through a student support group.

FBAs conducted by external consultants must have explicit parent consent. You should make sure the parents understand the consultant will be sharing information with the department (for example, to create the behaviour support plan).

8. Behaviour incidents and emergencies

8. Behaviour incidents and emergencies

If there's a risk to safety

If a student's behaviour poses a risk to others or themselves:

  • focus on protecting the safety of all students (including the student at risk of causing physical harm or danger to self or others), themselves and other staff
  • follow response procedures set out in your school's emergency management plan
  • call emergency services on 000 if necessary
  • you must report the incident to Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) – refer to Reporting and Managing School Incidents (including emergencies).
  • refer to the Work-Related Violence in Schools Policy and Procedure to prevent, manage and respond to staff safety risks from student behaviours that are violent or aggressive.

If restraint or seclusion of a student is needed, you must follow the Restraint and Seclusion policy and guidance, including reporting to ISOC.

Security and response services

ISOC is available 24 hours by calling 1800 126 126.

They can assist with coordinating a response to emergencies and critical incidents.

Guidance officers, psychologists and social workers for emergency support are available through your closest regional officeExternal Link .

Sexual assault by students

Learn how to report and respond to allegations of student sexual assault.

Online incidents

The following resources can assist in managing an online incident.

9. Work with families on student behaviour

9. Work with families on student behaviour


When working with parents and carers, it's important to recognise that families come from a diverse range of backgrounds. These differences can leave them feeling alienated from the school and its operations.

The willingness and ability of parents and carers to be involved can be impacted by how they are approached and engaged by the school.

It's important that you are mindful and respectful of diversity. Implement engagement strategies that help everyone feel empowered to advocate for the student and be confident that their concerns will be heard.

Things to consider

For information on things to consider when meeting or engaging with parents and carers, refer to: Working with families of children with additional needsExternal Link

Suspensions and expulsions

Refer to: Suspensions and Expulsions for the full process and requirements.

10. Managing and responding to behaviour – consequences for students

10. Managing and responding to behaviour – consequences for students

When discipline can be used

Schools can discipline students for behaviour incidents:

  • occurring at school
  • at a school activity away from the school grounds
  • while travelling to or from school or a school activity.

Disciplinary measures should be consistent with a whole-school approach to behaviour support. Schools are responsible for ensuring that a local Student Engagement Policy is in place to provide positive supports for students.

A student wellbeing and engagement policy templateExternal Link is available on the School Policy Templates PortalExternal Link (staff login required). Schools can modify this to suit their local circumstances.

Consider other strategies first

Before moving to a disciplinary response, schools should consider whether more effective and appropriate strategies can be put in place for the student, such as wellbeing, engagement and mental health supports.

Consequences for behaviour should always be proportionate to the nature of the behaviour and are most effective when they identify and address the causes and triggers of the behaviour.

The Education Training and Reform Act 2006 (Vic)External Link prohibits the use of corporal punishment in any Victorian Government school and this must be explicitly stated in relevant school policies that address discipline (for example Student Engagement Policy). (See the Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy template on the School Policy Templates Portal - staff login required).

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)External Link prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected attributes, including:

  • race
  • religion
  • disability
  • sex
  • age
  • gender identity
  • sexual orientation.

Schools must ensure any disciplinary action does not breach this legislation.

Making the decision to discipline a student

Schools must follow the Basic Principles of Administrative Decision MakingExternal Link when deciding if it's appropriate to discipline a student. This includes:

  • staff members knowing which discipline measures they have the authority to use
  • checking they have the legal authority to make the decision, where suspension or expulsion is being considered. Only a principal has the legal authority to decide to suspend or expel a student
  • maintaining accurate, comprehensive and accessible records
  • guarding against assumptions, generalisations or asserted facts
  • making decisions in a timely manner
  • ensuring procedural fairness and an unbiased approach to making the decision by making sure:
    • any student who engages in behaviour or actions that are deemed to be unacceptable or inappropriate, and which may warrant disciplinary action, is notified that their behaviour is unacceptable and why and given an opportunity to respond, and
    • the student’s response and rights are taken into account when deciding on any disciplinary action
  • exercising reasonable discretion
  • giving meaningful and accurate reasons for the decision being made.

In-school discipline

In instances where schools believe disciplinary actions are the most appropriate response to a student’s behaviour, staged in-school disciplinary measures can be used. Schools may modify these as needed. Whilst these measures take place on school premises, they may occur outside school hours.

As with all forms of discipline, staged in-school disciplinary measures should be clearly set out in, and aligned with the school’s Student Engagement Policy and expectations around behaviour. Schools should ensure they are used in a way that is proportionate to the behaviour being addressed.

Withdrawal of privileges

Schools can withdraw student privileges as a consequence of breaching classroom or school behavioural standards. The specific privileges withdrawn will vary between schools and even students at the same school; however, they may include things such as representing the school at inter-school sports or attendance at a school event.

When withdrawing privileges as a disciplinary measure, schools should ensure that:

  • the withdrawal is time-limited
  • the reasons for and period of the withdrawal is clearly communicated to the student
  • the student is made aware of the behaviour standards expected in order for the privileges to be reinstated
  • consideration is given to the impact on the student's engagement and ability to achieve learning outcomes
    • For example, where the withdrawal of a privilege may contribute to a student’s risk of disengaging from school, strategies are put in place to maintain student engagement during the withdrawal
  • consideration is given to any disability to ensure that any withdrawal of privileges does not amount to unlawful discrimination. For example, a student with a disability may require an iPad with a communication application as a reasonable adjustment to enable that student to communicate/participate in class activities. In this circumstance removal of the iPad as a disciplinary measure is not appropriate
  • consideration is given to race, religious belief or activity or other special circumstances to ensure that any withdrawal of privileges does not amount to unlawful discrimination. This includes considering circumstances where the withdrawal of privileges would restrict a student’s participation in any cultural activities at the school.

Withdrawal from class

A student may be temporarily removed from regular classroom activities if their behaviour significantly interferes with the rights of other students to learn, the capacity of a teacher to teach, or where it creates a risk of harm to themselves or others.

Schools have a duty of care to ensure that students are supervised at all times, including when they are removed from a class. Unless the student is a mature minor parents and carers should be informed of such withdrawals.

Withdrawal from class does not constitute formal school exclusion such as suspension (including in-school suspension) or expulsion.


Detention may be an appropriate response for a wide range of less serious classroom and school behaviour breaches. Detention can effectively reinforce to students the importance of maintaining appropriate behaviour standards.

Schools are permitted to require students to attend before or after school detention but are encouraged to take into account family circumstances and negotiate with parents and carers as appropriate.

During detention teachers may instruct a student to finish schoolwork which has not been completed in regular classroom time as a result of the behaviour, new work or other duties.

Schools must:

  • consider local circumstances when determining what a reasonable time and place for detention entails
  • make sure any special conditions relating to the imposition of detention are specified in the school's student engagement policy
  • consider any other special circumstances, including whether a student has a disability. For example, a student with a disability may not understand that the detention is a consequence of their behaviour.

It is recommended that schools ensure:

  • no more than half the time allocated for any recess may be used for detention
  • students undertake detention at a reasonable time and place
  • where students are requested to undertake detention outside of school hours:
    • parents or carers are informed at least the day before the detention
    • the length of the detention should not exceed forty-five minutes
  • where the detention would create undue hardship (for example, where students regularly supervise younger siblings in the absence of parents, or where limited travel alternatives for students are available), that alternative measures are negotiated with parents.

11. Definitions

11. Definitions

Behaviour is the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others.

Behaviours of concern
Behaviours of concern are ones that can cause physical harm to the person or any other person.

Challenging behaviour
Challenging behaviour (in a school context) is understood to mean behaviour that either interferes with the safety or learning of the student or other students, or interferes with the safety of school staff.

Replacement behaviour
A replacement behaviour is one that is more acceptable to, more in line with the expectations of others, or causes less harm to self or others but still meets the needs of the person.

Restraint is the restriction of one’s rights or freedom of movement and includes chemical restraint, mechanical restraint and seclusion.

Seclusion is the solitary confinement of a person in a room or area (for example, a garden) from which their exit is prevented by a barrier or another person. When used by a staff member in immediate response to behaviours of concern, seclusion may also include situations where a student is left alone in a room or area and reasonably believes they cannot leave that room or area even if they would physically be able to (it is not locked).



Challenging behaviour influences and triggers

Learn how to manage challenging behavioursExternal Link – online learning modules to support school staff manage behaviours of concern (or challenging behaviours)

Respond to challenging behaviour

Behaviour Support Plan

Behaviour Support Plan (DOCX)External Link

Functional behaviour assessment and gathering information

Behaviour incidents and emergencies

Identifying students with behavioural and emotional support needs

The student check-in resource is a screening tool teachers can use to efficiently identify students who may be at risk of social, emotional, and academic behaviours which interfere with their learning. This research-validated tool supplements other processes schools have in place to identify students who may require support:

Detailed information and instructions for use are provided in the following resources:

School Wide Positive Behaviour Support – apply to join

Applications to join SWPBS in 2024 have now closed. The application process to join in 2025 will be confirmed.

For further information or support please contact:

School-wide Positive Behaviour Support Unit
Phone: 03 7022 1383

Professional development

Professional learning portalExternal Link

Education for All (department program)

Education for allExternal Link

Reviewed 26 May 2023