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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Sent to Coventry: putting kids outside your class

In every school, up and down the country, any visitor will see the same thing eventually: kids out on the corridors, kicking their heels, scowling and trying to hide their furtive mobile phone activities. (That is, unless, Ofsted are roaming the corridors, in which case most of the likely candidates will be on ‘special leave’ somewhere else, and peace will reign. Anyway.) Sending kids out of your room is a perennial favourite strategy for many teachers, and who can blame them? Having a shrieking kid sent outside is often an immediate release from having a shrieking kid kept captive two feet away from your nose, and the class usually breathes as much a sigh of relief as the teacher does. Here are some things to think about as you perform this much needed reboot:

  1. Why are you sending them out? Putting a child into a corridor is meant to serve a purpose, so ask what the purpose is when you do it. I’ve seen teachers end a child outside for not having a pen. What on earth is that going to do for them? Will they magic a pen from their buttocks? I suspect not (unless you teach in a prison, in which case, anything’s possible). Similarly, don’t send a child out if you don’t mean them to come back- in that case, pursue another strategy, such as sending for another teacher to remove the pupil. If you mean it, do it- don’t HALF send a kid out.
  2. Don’t send them out for too long: as above, if you need them to be away from your lesson in order to teach properly (and it happens) then they should be removed in a professional way, and taken to somewhere they can be supervised properly, not stranded in a tiled desert. Five, ten minutes tops.
  3. Make sending-out a positive action, not one of desperation. The main reason they should be there is in order for THEM to calm down and reconsider their actions. It’s best served on kids who have lost their tempers, been annoyed by another pupil, or have got locked into a battle of will and face. It gives them an opportunity to let the steam off outside, wise up, and think again. That’s it. What it ISN’T is a punishment (unless the kids are very amenable, and never receive sanctions normally) because for many, being sent out is a nice break from lessons, and also a chance to catch up with some of their chums from OTHER lessons. Many time their sendings out to coincide with their mates, believe me.

So: don’t use it as a punishment (because it isn’t) and don’t leave them out there for a whole lesson (because you’re paid to do something with them, even if they don’t want you to). When you DO eventually summon them back, try to take thirty seconds to check their attitudes and readiness to reintegrate. Don’t go out there with a head of steam yourself; you might have needed a five minute break to calm down too. So don’t reignite the argument by being angry- just neutral and assertive: ‘Do you understand why you were sent out? Do you have anything to say to me?’ etc. Then you can make the call; if they’re still not playing ball, then they need to be taken somewhere else, and you need to follow up after the lesson in the normal ways: calls, detentions, meetings, all the usual games.

Good luck

Tom

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