No homework, no rules, but it works

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
'Outstanding' primary finds it is guidance, not strict orders, that produces excellent behaviour
'Outstanding' primary finds it is guidance, not strict orders, that produces excellent behaviour

There are no formal rules, prefects or homework. Yet Broadclyst Primary in Devon has just been rated outstanding by inspectors.

Ofsted found its pupils behaved excellently because of their treatment by staff, rather than because of regulations.

"This is a school without formal rules," its report said. "Pupils are guided by the high expectations that staff have of them and that they are encouraged to have of one another. This results is excellent behaviour, respect, politeness and delightful relationships between pupils, and pupils and adults."

Peter Hicks, the head, said the school had substituted formal rules for guidance. For example, the school prospectus states that there is a school uniform and "it will be appreciated if children wear it".

Asked what he would do if a pupil refused to wear the uniform, Mr Hicks said: "If it's through childishness, good. That's what children are supposed to be."

But the school maintains discipline by making it a clear expectation that pupils should behave well at all times, only rewarding pupils if they behave exceptionally.

"If you behave badly, you don't get rewarded; if you behave well, you don't get rewarded," Mr Hicks said. "What is rewarded is exceptional behaviour. We do have a behaviour management policy, of course, but it is not an imposition."

He added it was important to move on from "rules that say you can't do something because you can't".

The school prospectus offers some suggestions that look suspiciously like formal rules. "Fruit and vegetables, but no other snacks, may be eaten at breaktimes", it states. And "the instructions of dinner ladies must be obeyed".

But the tone is generally one of guidance rather than restriction.

"We do not aim to oppress or suppress children, but we do expect them to do what they are told to do, and to refrain from doing what they are not to do, promptly and politely and without any dramatic exhibitions of protest," it states.

A tenth of the school's 383 pupils have statements of special educational needs, while 23 have been excluded from other primaries.

Yet the school has achieved high results: 97 per cent of pupils reached level 4 in English, maths and science last year.

The key is personalised learning plans. But no homework is set: pupils are themselves expected to choose how to spend their evenings.

Many of the pupils would not even think of breaking the rules, despite their freedom.

Stephanie Hawker, 11, said she would like to wear jeans, but it had never occurred to her to try. "I'm not sure why I don't," she said. "I suppose it's just to make the school more smart-looking."

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