21st May 2010 at 01:00
The problem: We have a few staff who regularly use whole-class detentions. I think they are ineffective and unfair because they punish the innocent along with the guilty, but can they be a useful sanction?

What you said

"When I was in high school this happened on occasion and all I remember was feeling that it was monumentally unfair. I was a very well-behaved child who would cringe in embarrassment when others acted up for teachers, and then I had to take the punishment, too."


"As a general rule I would avoid class detentions. Even with a truly awful class you don't want to punish the nice kids, otherwise why should they bother being nice next time?"


"If you have a class where a lot of children are hangers-on and encourage the few very poorly behaved ones, whole-class punishments can work to deter this. However, even in the worst classes you still have a few children who are entirely innocent."


The expert view

Detention can be an effective sanction provided it is coupled with social-skills training to help the pupil manage their behaviour.

Sanctions are only effective when used in the context of a positive classroom culture, where there are clear rules and routines as well as the use of rewards to reinforce positive behaviour. They should be used sparingly and should not overburden the person imposing the sanction.

When issuing sanctions because of inappropriate behaviour, they should not be implemented in isolation. They must be paired with more positive responses and skill-teaching. Sanctions need to be timely, specific, logical and fair, with a clear beginning and end. Giving a whole-class detention is not an effective sanction because:

- It is not specific to the pupil'spupils' unacceptable behaviour.

- It will not prevent future unacceptable behaviour.

- It can affect the other pupils' motivation to learn and develop.

- It is not a consistent and sustainable approach.

- It does not create a positive classroom culture.

Effective behaviour management relies heavily on a behavioural policy to provide a well-structured and consistent whole-school approach. This should specify the sanctions and rewards available for staff. The policy must be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure its effectiveness.

Nicola S. Morgan is a behaviour management consultant and author of 'Quick, Easy and Effective Behaviour Management Ideas for the Classroom.'




- Make your sanctions specific to the bad behaviour that you are trying to punish.

- Keep your sanctions fair and consistent.

- Combine sanctions with work to create a positive classroom culture.


- Give whole-class detentions.

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