The problem

We have just found out that our son's school uses detentions as a sanction from Year 4 (P5) upwards and my husband is vehemently against it. I agree that detentions don't always curb bad behaviour, but there are few other sanctions available. What other disincentives are there? When I was at school, it was lines, extra work or: "Write about the sex life of a Rice Krispie."

What you said

If your son is naughty, you will be hard pushed to find a school that won't use detention. Rather than your husband protesting at the school's policy, he would be better off teaching him not to misbehave. Children need to learn about accepted societal rules some time between infancy and the workplace. I wish parents would back up the disciplinary system at home - a day without a PlayStation for every detention would mean fewer detentions.


If you don't like the school's policies, find another school. The last thing a teacher needs is an awkward parent who doesn't support them - the brats soon learn that they can wreck the education of others, go home and claim they're being picked on and get Mummy to give their teacher a mouthful - so behaviour gets worse, students learn less, teacher leaves your son alone. Try teaching him right from wrong and support the school.


The expert view

Schools need detentions. They need a range of sanctions to act as a deterrent against future misbehaviour, and as a punishment for the act itself. Without this and other sanctions available, what do they do when children hurt each othertell the teacher to "fuck off"run awayendanger themselves? At the same time, there needs to be a reward system for those who behave well. You can't run any society without agreed codes of conduct, and such codes must have something to reinforce them.

Reprimands need to be uncomfortable - or no deterrent is obtained. There are many sanctions, but they all revolve around a student's displeasure. And if the parents don't support the school, the child's education and well-being are jeopardised because they don't learn to control themselves.

Tom Bennett's latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.

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