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Paving the Way

Early intervention for children with learning disabilities whose behaviours challenge

Positive Behavioural Support Service (PBSS)



The PBSS supports children at risk of school placement breakdown. The service works at home and in school, and teaches children skills that reduce challenging behaviours. Programmes are built around each child, to suit their specific needs.

How does it work?

  • The child is at risk of breakdown in their placement. They might have to leave home, or be excluded from school.
  • A Complex Needs Meeting is held. With people from education, social care, schools, NHS specialist services, and the continuing healthcare manager who may refer the child to PBSS.
  • An initial assessment. The PBSS talk to the family and school staff team, as well as observing the child and analysing their behaviour.
  • The intervention programme. Psychologists work with children to teach new skills to replace challenging behaviours. This usually works best when done in the classroom.
  • Training and supervision. Staff and family members are trained and supervised, which means the child can have the same support at school and at home.

Working in partnership with schools, the PBSS helps children and their families move their lives forward positively, by providing the best evidenced interventions, tailored to their individual needs.

Freddy Jackson Brown, Clinical Psychologist

How is it commissioned and funded?

  • The service is commissioned and funded by the Local Authority and Clinical Commissioning Group.
  • Schools buy the PBSS when there is a child that needs it.

What has it achieved?

  • Over 5 years, 12 children have been supported by the PBSS.
  • All of the children learned new skills and developed. Usually, it was their communication skills that developed the most.
  • 10 children have stayed in school, and the other 2 stayed longer than was expected.
  • Over 4 years, the PBSS has saved around £1.8 million.

The work of the PBSS in developing a detailed understanding of the functions of behaviours has been incredibly useful in supporting the pupils and developing meaningful intervention.

Sophie Cobb, Assistant Headteacher

What are the tips to help develop and sustain a service of this type?

  • Staff need to be skilled in Positive Behaviour Support.
  • It is best if Positive Behaviour Support is given consistently both at home and in school.
  • Success takes time! Commissioners and funders shouldn’t expect a ‘quick fix’.
  • It is important for services to measure how well they are doing, and how well children are progressing. They can do this by doing assessments and collecting data.

What are the challenges?

  • Priorities of Senior Managers in schools don’t always line up, which affects the support they can offer.
  • Very little expertise in most schools about challenging behaviour and mental health.