You are here:

Last reviewed on 1 September 2021
Ref: 6461
School types: All · School phases: All

Get an overview of the steps you need to take to put support in place for a pupil with challenging behaviour, so you can address their underlying needs and help improve the behaviour.

Identify the root cause of the behaviour

If a pupil is consistently displaying challenging behaviour, it will usually be the result of an underlying need (or needs), such as:

  • Special educational needs (SEN)
  • Learning difficulties 
  • Difficulties with communication 
  • Mental health issues
  • Housing, family or other domestic circumstances

This is explained in the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice (see paragraph 6.21) and by an adviser at the SEN charity, nasen.

To identify this need, the pupil will need to be assessed - see the section below for more detail on this. 

Carry out assessments to identify unmet needs  

Health and social care professionals will carry out the necessary assessments below. The information in this section comes from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

1. Initial assessment 

The pupil's abilities and needs The support

More from The Key


Bitesize training with a big impact

Our on-demand training has your whole board covered and lets them learn at a time and pace that suits them.

Help your new governors hit the ground running with our expertly-designed induction training, and our role-specific courses support your link governors develop key skills and confidence in their role.


New eLearning: DSL refresher training

Your DSL’s training should be refreshed at least once every 2 years. 

Designed in collaboration with safeguarding experts, our 2.5 hour online refresher training course reminds DSLs how to put their knowledge into practice, with in-depth, real-world scenarios.


The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.