The review

1. What is your overall impression of the book?

When the adults change everything changes is a core read for anyone who works with children. The main message in the book is that by having a whole-team approach to behaviour management – where the behavior of the adults is consistent and sets an example – change really can happen for the best among students.

The book promotes a simplified behaviour policy that reinforces clear behavior expectations that are exemplified by people, rather than just endless rules that nobody knows. It outlines how, as adults, we can shift routines and develop an appreciation for positive behavior using tactics such as ‘recognition boards’ and ‘going above and beyond’.

Dix draws on his own experience as a teacher, leader and trainer who has spent 25 years working in some of the most challenging schools, referral units and colleges. He interweaves ‘real’ case studies alongside tried-and-tested strategies that have been used in a range of schools with a variety of backgrounds, from the most challenging comprehensives to international schools. The book demonstrates how these approaches place the focus back on adults and reiterate the importance of simple human interaction. Most importantly, it provides a clear message about the importance of children knowing who they can trust and who has given up on them. It really is powerful stuff.

2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?

This book is a valuable read for all members of the school community – from head teachers to NQTs and classroom assistants – in all settings (including primaries, secondaries and alternative provisions). It reminds us of the importance of human interaction and the need for empathy and understanding for all children.

Any professional who wants to put children back at the heart of their school and develop a consistent approach to behavior management would benefit from this book. Each chapter has useful themes that always finish with three checklists – ‘testing’, ‘watch out for’ and ‘nuggets’. These are quick and easy to refer to when developing a behavior management plan in your setting.

3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?

When the Adults Change Everything Changes book cover

Dix writes in a personable way that will appeal to readers. His belief in children is paramount to the success of this book and his useful tips, guides and ‘nuggets’ empower readers to develop a positive, purposeful and consistent approach to behavior management.

Dix’s passion for consistency in adults (and how they deal with all forms of behaviour management in school) resonates throughout the book. He always keeps an eye on current educational issues, such as the number of children who have been on roll but leave during years seven to 11, and the ongoing debate around restorative vs punitive punishment. Dix says that having positive relationships with pupils depend on teachers defaulting to a restorative approach. He says that ‘punishment is not a good teacher’. He continues, ‘It is scattergun, random and disproportionate. Restorative approaches teach behavior. Simple.’

Through detailed case studies, Dix offers insight from a range of settings and writes in a way that finds the reader nodding along in agreement or frantically scribbling notes and ideas to support and develop their own practice.

4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?

Whether it be a case study, a reference or a footnote, the text is studded with a vast array of research from a range of sources. The research is widespread, for example Dix cites Hywell Roberts’ Ooops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally when discussing the importance of ‘botheredness’, alongside evidence from Who’s left: the main findings (Education DataLab, 31 Jan 2017).

In his case studies, Dix also cites Twitter links and initiatives such as ‘Hot Chocolate Friday’ from headteacher Chris Dyson from Parklands Primary in Leeds. Every Friday, the children who have gone over and above get to sit with the headteacher for 15 minutes and have a cup of hot chocolate.

5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?

This book reminded me of the importance of human interaction – how children thrive on genuine relationships with adults and the need for a whole-team approach to behavior management.

Dix has given me lots of questions and starting points to think about when planning our behavior management. For example, how do we identify children who go over and above? I will also return to his useful tips, for example the ’30 second script’ – a formal one-to-one intervention for poor behavior in class that lasts no longer than 30 seconds.

I’m excited about introducing my pupils to ‘recognition boards’ too. These are a simple way to advertise the behavior you do want and recognise the children who demonstrate that behavior by simply placing their name on a board. From now I will also be more conscious about reminding myself to thank all members of the school community (children and adults alike) for going over and above. I’m also sure the useful ‘testing’, ‘nuggets’ and ‘watch out for’ section at the end of each chapter will also be regularly referenced.

6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?

‘Some adults simply give up too quickly.’

‘They know in a heartbeat those who talk the talk and those who walk the walk.’

‘Be kind, be humble, be nice.’

‘The most damaged children need the most certainty from you.’

7. Please add any additional comments.

Paul Dix sums it up nicely himself ‘a focus on adult behavior is the only responsible approach….there is no limit to achievement’


Kate Atkin

Kate Atkin is a deputy headteacher at Balby Central Primary Academy