BADLY-BEHAVED boys at a Cardiff comprehensive face what many will see as the most ignominious punishment of all: they are forced to phone their mothers.
When a pupil (usually a boy) at the Welsh-medium Ysgol Plasmawr starts to disrupt the class the teacher reaches for a telephone to be found in each classroom and summons the head or one of his deputies.
The boy is then taken to the head's office, where he will be asked to phone his mother and explain himself. The school said the scheme had improved behaviour and results.
"Boys don't like to be seen to be taken away," said headteacher Geraint Rees, "and they don't like having to explain it to their mothers." The mother may be asked to take her son home or he may be asked to do some work in the staff workroom before he returns to the class.
And if that is not sufficient to qualify as "cruel and unusual punishment", there is a further, even more terrifying prospect: if the boy persists in his bad behaviour, his moher will be asked to come to school and sit beside him in class. But Mr Rees said he had never needed to resort to this ultimate sanction.
He devised the scheme when Plasmawr opened with 400 pupils and many young staff two-and-a-half years ago. (It now has 600 pupils and will eventually have 950.) The school is in Fairwater, a mixed economic area, and takes about a third of its pupils from the deprived Ely estate.
When the school first opened, Mr Rees or his deputies were being called in to classes almost once a day, he said; now, it's down to once a week.
This and other policies to improve boys' behaviour seem to be having an impact on performance.
Boys at the school do significantly better than would be predicted from their previous key stage scores. At key stage 3, they even buck the national trend by outperforming the girls: 67 per cent of them reach the expected level in all core subjects, compared with 61 per cent of girls.