17th June 2011 at 01:00
The Problem - I was subjected to a tirade of swearing by a pupil. Senior management seem to sympathise with him as he often does this, so he will only get a telling off. What should I do?

What you said

In our school we make a distinction between indirect comments at no one in particular and those directed at a member of staff, which will warrant a day's exclusion. An indirect comment would result in a day's isolation.


I've been told to F-off more times than I can remember. They laugh in my face when I tell them off - and there is no reaction from senior management.


The expert view

You don't come to work to be sworn at. The consequences need to be immediate and predictable. If you are not confident of support from senior management, a good head of department will be able to impose a sanction that fits and involves parents. Swearing at staff is out of order. Pupils know they are crossing a line, staff recognise it and even the most unhelpful parents see it. Ideally, the leadership team would hold a clear line and the message would echo through the school. If this line is not obvious, ask for it to be clarified.

Exclusion might seem the obvious response, but is not necessarily the most effective. I understand the urge to have some respite from the pupil. But if the immediate consequence is exclusion, you are giving some pupils an open door to a day of watching TV. Some pupils fear the cliff edge of exclusion; others have learnt that it isn't really that far to fall.

The pupil needs to apologise. Even when behaviour is appalling and the natural response is to back away, it is wise to stay connected to the event. Ask for support, but don't pass responsibility over. The long-term solution lies in your relationship with the pupil. Through this difficult incident, you may find you come to a better understanding of each other.

Pupils decide who they direct poor language at and which lessons they will try to swear openly in. With a consistent line, you will make it hard for him to choose to direct it at you.

Paul Dix is managing director of Pivotal Education. For free behaviour advice go to or follow Paul on Twitter on #PivotalPaul.

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