To the manner born

21st July 1995 at 01:00
Manners, they say, maketh the man. They also make teaching children considerably easier.

It must be rare to find pupils as well-mannered as those at Sherborne House School in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire, where all 170 children are members of the Polite Society.

Children willingly open doors for each other and stand up when a visitor enters the classroom. The queues outside the head's office are never for reprimands.

Sherborne House, an independent preparatory school, has pledged to be polite en masse from the head to the groundsman.

Headteacher Sybil Warner explained: "We were looking for some way in which to recognise children who were courteous. Around the same time, a circular from the Polite Society arrived so we asked the children if they wanted to join. The decision was unanimous."

The society has a l0-point junior code of conduct, which children pledge to follow.

"We are not expecting angelic behaviour, but politeness should be normal behaviour - things like not speaking with your mouth full," said Mrs Warner.

Outstanding politeness is rewarded each week with a courtesy badge. There are also two "service to others" silver cups to be earned.

"I am in favour of rewarding the good, I think it helps reduce poor behaviour," said Mrs Warner.

Emma Howard, aged 11, said: "Everyone is more polite now. We're not angels but we try and remember to say please and thank you a lot."

Danielle Pascoe, six, admitted rule seven was the toughest for her class. "Sometimes people do say rude words. If we do, we have to go and sit on our own. I've never had to do that," she said.

However, being constantly polite does have its drawbacks. Holly Barter, nine, who has won the badge four times, said: "We always stand up when someone comes into class and if we're writing I sometimes forget my sentence."

If someone shouts across the classroom, there are no negative punishments to fear. Minor misdemeanours are dealt with by deducting house points.

Ian Gregory, founder of the Polite Society, wants more schools to join.

He said: "It is a powerful incentive for children to behave in a courteous manner."

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