The Behaviour Question

30th September 2011 at 01:00

When a student throws something at a teacher which results in the need for dry cleaning, who should foot the bill: the teacher, the student (never going to happen) or the school?

What you said


As I cannot imagine any situation where throwing something in a classroom is within the remit of the lesson, the student should pay - no argument. For this situation to have arisen, the student must have done something wrong, thereby breaking the school rules. Taking the position that it's "never going to happen" just sends out all the wrong messages.


I had a student deliberately throw ink at me. The head was pathetic - no action. It was then suggested to the student that they daren't do the same to the head. Student duly did and was excluded.

The expert view

Chasing the pupil and parents for costs might seem appealing. The trouble is that some families can't pay and some won't pay, so you risk making yourself appear ridiculous in front of the ones who might. The problem can very quickly turn away from the child and the throwing and on to you and your dry-cleaning bill. While the adults argue about who will pay, the primary behaviour is forgotten and the child avoids responsibility for the behaviour.

If you choose to wear clothes that are expensive to clean then it ought to be at your own risk. Unless you are becoming daily target practice for your pupils, you must accept that even the most experienced teachers with the best behaviour management skills have to deal with the odd flying object. Teaching is quite simply a risky business. Just talk to teachers in key stage 1 who bat away paint, pens and poo.

Some teachers go to extremes to avoid the expense of buying work clothes. I once worked with a science teacher who had three outfits that were exactly the same. He always appeared in the same clothes. Slightly terrifying, I know, but you can understand his motivation. I am sure that you wouldn't want to go to such extremes, but there is a case for separating work clothes and personal clothes.

Buying easily washable clothes for work might not suit your style barometer, but you won't care when they get dirty. The alternative would be to cover your clothes when you teach. Easy to do if you can wear a lab coattabardsmockoverallapronold tracksuit top; not so practical for classroom-based teaching.

If you are wearing clothes that need to be dry-cleaned because of a strict staff dress code, a discussion must be had with the leadership team. An agreement must be in place for cleaning and repairs of ultra-smart clothes if they are being insisted upon. At least a compromise position must be sought.

The consequences for poor behaviour need to be meaningful, proportionate and restorative, but not financial. If our consequences were financial then it would follow that our rewards should be also. Follow this line of thinking and rewards and sanctions quickly becomes a game of monopoly. I don't want to teach my pupils to game - I want to teach them responsibility for their behaviour.

Paul Dix is managing director of education training consultancy Pivotal Education.

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