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School's out, but don't let our standards slip

Six weeks without classroom discipline can mean that students are loopy when they return in September. Parents, you can help

Six weeks without classroom discipline can mean that students are loopy when they return in September. Parents, you can help

This should be a happy time. It should be a time when we do not look ahead with fear but instead enjoy the present moment, this precious, school-free moment.

And yet September lingers on the periphery of our thinking. We wince at the thought of that annual offensive when we teachers prepare to school our students, for the umpteenth time, in "the rules".

We see them coming like invading hordes, mischief sparkling wildly in the eyes. Resolutely, we gather in the staffroom to coordinate a defence. The banner of discipline is taken down from the top of the microwave, dusted off and held aloft.

Surely this perennial battle can be avoided? Surely we can do something now to make September easier?

Fear not, for I have the answer. If we recruit and train the brave individuals manning the home front - the parents - then the start of the autumn term needn't be such a battle. Here is a training manual to help parents with this noble task:

Get them up early

One lesson that children enjoy being taught by their parents on a daily basis is the value of routine. Children love routine and, contrary to what they lead parents to believe, they actually relish getting out of bed ridiculously early, especially during the school holidays.

True, a child might express some surprise at being woken at daybreak. Depending on age, they might express this surprise in a vehement way. But deep down, he or she knows it is detrimental to good health to sleep beyond 6.30am. So rouse your child early from Day 1 of the holidays.

Keep uniform standards up

One of the easiest things to convince a child of - and one of the most important to stop them losing sight of - is the value of school uniform. It requires very little effort to school a child in the importance of conforming to a dress code, suppressing any unbecoming outward expressions of individuality.

Ensure that the shirt is crisp, the tie is tight and the creases are razor sharp. The school bag should be filled to capacity. (You will know that this point has been reached when your child's back bends at an angle of no less than 90 degrees and breathing becomes laboured.) Strong signals are vitally important with young people and this routine will signal to your child that he or she is now ready to leave the house.

Keep the routine regular

Clear and strict direction leaves little room for error or objection. Before waving your child off at the doorstep, ignore looks of bemusement or voluble protestations and instead instruct them to wait patiently at the bus stop, board the next bus, proceed one stop and then return home promptly.

On their return, register your child's presence and lead him or her to assembly. Once he or she is seated cross-legged on the floor of the living room, begin your homily: the life of Guru Nanak, Jonah and the Whale, Dan the Donkey. A wide variety of wholesome stories are available to ensure that your child's moral compass remains fully calibrated. If, as may happen, your child's eyes glaze over, do not be concerned - this is perfectly normal during assembly. Do not doubt that your child is hanging on your every word.

Impart life lessons

Once the moral compass has been reset, it is time to begin the main business of the day: teaching and learning. Given the setting, it would be prudent to use the time to instruct your child in some basic home economics. Challenging tasks such as making the beds, dusting the furniture and ironing a huge pile of clothes will enable your child to delight in the value of thoroughness.

However, refrain from viewing this as an opportunity to slack off yourself by turning on the television to enjoy Homes Under the Hammer. If the teacher is slack, the pupil will be too. Pursue your child around the house and check his or her work meticulously. You should also be on hand to block possible escape routes should your child attempt flight.

Enforce the rules

Of course, misdemeanours may arise during the course of the day, which is why the shadow of discipline should loom large. Unless you live in a bungalow, there will be no shortage of naughty steps on which to deposit a miscreant. But should the crime merit a harsher sanction, the loss of a lunchbreak or a detention at the end of the day - however irksome it might seem - is completely warranted.

Breaktimes are key

Remember that you should also allow your son or daughter respite during the day. A short break in the morning can be followed by a leisurely half-hour lunch at midday. During this time, your child can amuse him- or herself in the garden - under your ever-watchful eye, of course.

Do be vigilant in case he or she attempts to scale any fences during periods away from closer supervision. An enthusiastic blow on a whistle should result in a child standing with marble-like stillness, thus enabling you to issue warnings and reprimands or cause enough of a distraction to allow time for a swift and decisive rugby tackle to the ground.

End the day properly

At the end of the day, your child should feel satisfied in mind, body and soul, and be relishing the prospect of a further 29 joyful days of the same. With a smiling face, send him or her off for a repeat of their morning's one-stop bus journey.

As he or she trudges back through the door, sodden from a summer shower, you can feel happy that you have played your part in rescuing your child's teachers from September's cruel agony.

Tobias Fish teaches English in a secondary school in Cambridgeshire

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