The creation of a new behaviour policy is never easy. In my school, we have recently updated and refined our systems of reward and punishment. It took nearly a year to finalise and it was scrutinised at all levels by staff, middle leaders and senior leaders. What we did not do at any point was ask the students to contribute.
I have seen many a debate about how pupils should help to set the rules, or at least offer some advice about what those rules might be. The idea is that if they engage in the creation of the rules, they are more likely to abide by those rules because they have some investment in them.
I am happy to say that this has never been the case in a school I have worked in. The simple reason for this is: they are the kids, we are the adults. If we don’t make the rules then why are we here? And what sort of rules are we expecting the kids to come up with?
Just for fun, I asked some of my students what they thought would happen if students were allowed to contribute to school’s behaviour policies and they came up with gems such as: “no detentions ever”; “no homework ever”; “no essays ever”; “teachers to plan more fun into lessons” and “compulsory pizza for lunch every Wednesday”.
This is exactly why they have not been consulted.
There were, of course, a few sensible members of the pupil community who came up with more adult suggestions but, on the whole, the theme of these was the same.
It all boiled down to one word: fair. Fairness is indeed the backbone of every good behaviour policy. But who knows what fair looks like better than those who are expert practitioners – the teachers?
Katie White is a secondary teacher in the south-west of England