What you said
"Hold on to details of all the sanctions that you apply to other pupils so that you can counter any allegations of being racist. You never know how their parents will respond and whether they will pursue the race card with the school."
"It's happened to me twice and on both occasions I have insisted that it is a serious accusation and offered the pupil the chance to go to the SLT (senior leadership team) to make a formal complaint. Both kids backed down with 'I was only joking, Miss' and I gave them the lecture on the seriousness of making false allegations."
"Take them to the head of year and say you are unhappy with their negative attitude and point out to them their tactic of deflecting comments on their behaviour by accusations of racism means they are not accepting responsibility for their own actions."
THE EXPERT VIEW
For me there are two distinct issues. The first is the accusation of racism from these pupils. Deal with this in a calm way between the three of you initially. Remind them that accusing people of racism is incredibly serious and that if they feel so strongly they should make a complaint. Let them know how offended you are and that if you hear it again you will report them to their head of year or a member of the SLT.
Make sure you log this with a senior member of staff, but tell them you are dealing with it. The pupils have accused you of picking on them, so escalating something may force them to make up more stories. This could lead to a very stressful investigation.
The second issue is your relationship with these pupils. I have used positive behaviour reports at my school. This is simply a report with rewards attached to it instead of sanctions. The pupils get scored for attitude, punctuality and work done (three points in total per lesson). At the end of the week they gain rewards depending on how many points they have achieved - for example, merits, certificates or a phone call home. For a perfect week, a letter signed by you, the head of year and a member of SLT is sent home.
If the letter is written on headed paper, you will be surprised how much the pupils, and their parents, value it. I also state that if they do not achieve about 60 per cent of the marks on offer then they will go back on "normal" report.
Chris Wheeler is head of RE and sociology at Helsby High in Cheshire
- Make it clear that any accusation of racism will be taken seriously.
- Make a note of any sanctions that have been applied to them.
- Give them an opportunity to earn rewards for good behaviour to help rebuild the relationship.
- Take it further unless you have to - escalating the incident risks pushing them to make up more stories and could lead to an investigation.