29th May 1998 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

Q: Now that we shall have to draw up guidelines on school discipline, do you think it appropriate to include statements of the kinds of punishment we should not condone? I accept that we are not prescribing how teachers should deal with every kind of misbehaviour, the form punishment should take, or precisely who should make decisions, but I do feel we should use this statement to protect children against some forms of cruelty and indignity which teachers go in for. The head, needless to say, is challenging this.


The statement should incorporate what you as governors want for children, starting of course with the rights of the majority to work without disruption and to play without harassment or cruelty. I think it is also our duty to set down what is necessary to protect even misbehaving children from unfairness, inconsistency, cruelty or indignity, and that is why we have these guidelines.

I see no reason at all why you should not include a reference to forms of punishment which you would consider unacceptable if it seems necessary in your school. I have seen many policies which rule out punishment of whole-age groups, for instance, and a few which have referred to sarcasm, taunting or any form of humiliation. (The classic case of the latter was one which got into the newspapers and involved making a reception-class boy wear girls' clothes for peeping into the girls' toilets. Wearing labels was also fairly common at one time.) What you feel worth recording as unacceptable will depend on the school: I would hope there were many where cruel or humiliating punishments would not be mentioned because they would never conceivably occur. What you must not do is try to prescribe what a Year 9 teacher on a Wednesday would do to Jane who had come without anything to write with three days in succession. But the general framework of acceptable response which you lay down is very important.

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