Return of ‘traditional’ punishments for bad behaviour?

Updated DfE guidelines will encourage teachers to impose tough penalties on misbehaving pupils including writing lines and picking up litter.

Although there has been significant progress on improving behaviour since 2010, the DfE said that although existing guidelines make the legal backing for setting punishments clear, they fail to outline potential punishments, leaving heads and teachers uncertain of what action they can take.

The new outlines state that “tough but proportionate” sanctions such as writing lines “are just as crucial to an effective education as praising and rewarding good behaviour”, the BBC reports.

Education Secretary Michael Gove explained that sanctions to tackle bad behaviour range from verbal reprimands to community service. “Our message to teachers is clear – don’t be afraid to get tough on bad behaviour and use these punishments,” he said. “The best schools already ask pupils who are behaving poorly to make it up to their teachers and fellow pupils through community service. I want more schools to follow their example by making badly-behaved pupils pick up litter or help clear up the dining hall after meal times.”

Russell Hobby from the NAHT described the guidance as “a PR exercise” and ATL’s Mary Bousted accused Mr. Gove of “increasingly bizarre” behaviour: “While he says he wants to give school leaders and teachers the power to make the right decisions for their schools, he takes every opportunity to tell them what to do,” she said.

Would you feel comfortable imposing these ‘traditional’ punishments on pupils?

13 thoughts on “Return of ‘traditional’ punishments for bad behaviour?

  1. I find this very patronising. Do they think we just say ” Jonny stop being a naughty boy” well i can tell you our state school has the pupils cleaning up rubbish and have done for years as a punishment. The technology staff get the pupils to clean the food rooms and if the vandalise anything they have to pay for damage and work off a fine.
    Soooooo if you dont work in state schools why have an opinion on how we are not educating pupils to become good citizens? Ohhhh i forgot those that can work in parliment and those that cant teach………

  2. If teachers disrupt the student(s) parents by excluding them then that puts the issue of punishment back where it should be i.e the parents. The parents would soon back the teacher and school so that they can go to work or about their daily business. This would let us do our business “TEACH” not have to put up with unruly students and SMT playing the “nice guy” all the time.
    Think of the students who want to study.

  3. “Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power.” This is a quote from Wikipedia’s definition of bullying. I’d be happy to listen to and consider seriously anyone’s explanation of how school-based punishments differ from bullying in essence. According to my current understanding, forcing consequences of my choice – or the choice of the “behaviour management system” I’ve been given as guidelines for classroom management – against the will of a pupil and reinforced by my position of greater power, constitutes bullying. Also according to my present understanding, the failure of schools to eradicate bullying across the country is due to the systemic bullying characteristic of traditional punishments.

    Punishment, excessive praise and reward all serve to disempower pupils. We need to find a way of empowering children to take responsibility for their behaviour and learning, but this needs to be through meeting their needs for their own sense of security and significance as human beings in their own right. Any measures taken without being underpinned by this concept are likely to perpetuate the problem rather than to lead to a future where the problem abates into insignificance. I envision a future where control will become less and less necessary. Improving education demands that this should be so.

  4. I am Head of an independent school. We do not, and will not, give writing as a punishment – what sort of message is that to children? Nor do we consider it a punishment to keep the school tidy – this is part of their daily routine and a part in which they take pride. We are independent: this makes us neither better nor worse than other schools, but it does mean that we are able to do things in the way we believe to be right.

  5. Of course there should be suitable punishments but I strongly feel writing lines should not be one of them. I want the children I teach to see writing as an enjoyable activity and turning it into a punishment is not beneficial.

  6. “or help clear up the dining hall after meal times”. As a primary school teacher I can only say to Mr Gove does he not realise that the majority of pupils see staying in as a reward? Young children do not want to spend time shivering outside and even the best are capable of ‘misbehaving’ to be allowed to stay in. It was always the case.

    You are talking out of your behind Mr Gove. I learnt within weeks of becoming a teacher that I would have to spend lesson time setting up my next lessons (with consequent reduction in lesson learning time) if my break times were taken up supervising recalcitrant pupils.

    As a teacher of 10 years, I have found the only thing that has ever held back effective behaviour management was the requirement to enforce rigid, whole school behaviour policies.

  7. Ref Peter Brodie…
    “According to my current understanding, forcing consequences of my choice – or the choice of the “behaviour management system” I’ve been given as guidelines for classroom management – against the will of a pupil and reinforced by my position of greater power, constitutes bullying.”:

    If you choose to interpret the guidelines so literally, Peter, then I trust you will severely reprimand on the same grounds the next police officer who prevents a thief, mugger or other assailant from causing you personal harm. Clearly the definition is inaccurate (from Wikipedia? Surely not!) in that bullying involves “the UNSUBSTANTIATED perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power.” (To be fair, I’m sure there’s a better qualification to insert here but it’s Saturday and I can’t be bothered.)

    There’s a world of difference between a teacher imposing a justifiable (and, if the school rules are clearly laid out, freely chosen by the miscreant) punishment and the random, vindictive behaviour of a bully exercising power for no other benefit than his/her own gratification. And if you can’t see this, then you’re part of the problem, pal.

  8. Wouldn’t it be better to deal with the ‘misbehaviour’ in such a way that the child/young person learns something from it and actually begins to take responsibility for their actions? Children are naturally egocentric and seldom think about how what they are doing is affecting others. Using a Restorative Approach to behaviour management not only enables the child/young person to see the consequence of their actions, i.e., what ‘harm’ they have caused ? But also focuses on repairing the harm. Surely this is a much more effective, long-term approach! After all where’s the connection between ‘picking up litter’ and pushing someone over (for example)? What is the child/young person learning by a random, punitive punishment that has nothing whatsoever to do with the behaviour that led to the punishment? Over time, using a whole school Restorative Approach reduces the incidences of misbehaviour and produces a school community of responsible, caring young people who can empathise and who realise that however they choose to behave has an impact on those around them. Surely those are the kind of young people we want to send out into the world!

  9. I was always under impression that schools are institutions where we send our children to gain knowledge, and dealing with bad behaviour, is a every parent duty, or in severe instances police and judicial system can deal with it.
    Alternatively, if the parents wants their children to learn discipline, have an option to send them to military schools.
    Very simple, is it not?

  10. I had never thought about dealing with poor behaviour in my classroom.
    What an idiot. Behaviour sanctions need to be intelligent not old school.

  11. I have given lines before. I was also made to write lines as a student. It never put me off writing. I could tell the difference between a punishment exercise and a piece of creative writing and never associated the punishment of writing lines with the latter (which I loved). I wasn’t stupid and neither are most of the students in our schools today.

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