School discipline has been in the news recently as the Government struggles to get to grips with standards in education and a perceived lack of proper discipline in British schools.
In fact the Department for Education issued new guidance to schools and head teachers in February 2014. The guidance reaffirms that teachers do have power to discipline pupils for misbehaviour in school and occasionally for misbehaviour outside of school.
Who can discipline my child?
The Department for Education guidelines advise that any paid member of staff with responsibility for pupils has the right to discipline children. This therefore applies not only to teachers but also to their classroom and teaching assistants.
Teachers at maintained schools have the power to discipline pupils even when the child is not at school and even if the child is not at that time under the charge of a member of staff.
The power to discipline a child is contained in sections 90 and 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. The Act permits the discipline of children whose behaviour is unacceptable, who break school rules or who fail to follow reasonable instruction.
By what standards can my child be disciplined?
The latest Department for Education guidelines state that every school should have a written policy to promote good behaviour among pupils. The requirement for each school varies depending upon its status. Maintained schools have more detailed requirements, whilst Academies have fewer national requirements.
A key difference between maintained and Academy schools is that whilst maintained schools must, by law, publish their disciplinary policy every year to staff, parents and pupils, Academy schools are merely advised to publish their policies as a matter of good practice.
How can a school discipline my child?
A teacher or any other paid member of staff with responsibility for children has the right to discipline pupils. They are permitted to discipline a child in school or elsewhere, including when on school visits. Teachers have the power to impose detention outside of school hours, and have the ability to confiscate pupils’ property.
A punishment is legal when the decision to punish is made by a paid member of staff, when the decision is made on school property or if outside of school property by a member of staff with a charge over the pupil. The punishment is also only legal if it does not breach disability or equality legislation, and is reasonable and proportionate.
Examples of punishments recommended by the Department for Education include verbal warnings, extra work, the setting of tasks such as writing lines or completing an essay, and the loss of privileges such as denying an opportunity to participate in a non-uniform day.
Other punishments recommended by the Department for Education include missing breaks, after school or lunchtime detentions and detentions on weekends. The guidelines recommend community activities as well, including weeding school grounds, tidying school property, removing graffiti or clearing the dining hall after meal times.
The guideline also recommends placing problem pupils ‘on report’. This is a type of behavioural monitoring that includes requiring the pupil to report first thing in the morning for a uniform check, then at break times and after lessons.
In the most extreme circumstances the guideline recommends temporary or permanent exclusion.