The Behaviour Question

14th September 2012 at 01:00

I have been tasked with coming up with a policy of consequences for children repeatedly arriving late to school. Any ideas? In many cases it is the parents who are responsible for lateness, not the children, so we want to find some way to motivate them to get their children to the school gate earlier.

What you said


Get the senior leadership team to man all entrances to school and "book" those who arrive late with a lunchtime detention that day. A second late arrival in a fortnight or a month and the pupil gets an after-school detention of 20 minutes. Another, and it's a 30-minute after-school detention, then 40 minutes, one hour, etc. Even if a pupil is dropped off by a parent, it can still be the child who has delayed the journey by not getting up on time.


Follow up each instance of lateness by contacting parents. Find out exactly why they are late. There could be many reasons and many will involve the child and not the parent. If you are able to dig around you will often unearth lots of pastoral issues (some of those will be school-related) and be able to bring parents onside as they struggle to get their children to school. Punishment: minutes late equals minutes' detention.

The expert view

The best way to ensure that a system works is by making it as streamlined and simple as possible. Parents are, sadly, involved in the lateness, but there are many factors behind the scenes that we don't see, so be careful before making any snap judgements about why pupils are tardy. That said, it is up to parents to make sure their children are there on time.

I wouldn't bother with complicated sanctions of "you were three minutes late so you can serve three minutes' detention" (who cares about three-minute detentions?). Instead, if a child is late put them in for half an hour's detention (or more, but a flat tariff) that day. Make sure that they attend, and if they don't, escalate the sanction. Also, make sure that the person administering the detentions is a bit of a hardass. Detentions must deter, otherwise there is no point doing them. So get the children doing some work in the session - not their homework, or the sanction becomes an opportunity. It should be something dull and boring.

If they don't attend the detention, it would be best for someone to call their parents that day, to inform them and ask why. Then the parents could be called in pronto, and the child would get a shock.

In almost all cases this will work, with some repetition, as parents don't want to be called in every week. It's hard work for you and your team, but you want to fix this, right?

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his blog,, or follow him on Twitter at @tombennett71. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum

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