Secret Teacher: my school’s behaviour policy makes me feel powerless

 When I started at my new school in September, I believed it would be easy compared to my previous experiences. And on the face of it, the behaviour policy appeared similar to those I’ve worked with before: students are given three “chances” in a lesson, after which they can be removed from class and given a 30-minute detention at the end of the day. But problems come after this point. The Secret Teacher writes  in The Guardian. 

Teachers must contact the pupils’ parents to inform them of the detention, be the ones to staff the detention and – the tricky bit – make sure students actually turn up. If a pupil fails to attend (which happens more often than not) they’re given a one-hour detention the next day, with the same teacher. If they miss it again, it’s up to the teacher to chase them down and make them come back the day after.

Every week since term began, I’ve been in detentions after school four days in every five, often with abusive students who know that any further punishment I try to give them will be far harder for me than them. Some have even commented that they think it’s funny that I have to give up my time for them. The result is that myself and other new staff are exhausted and demoralised, and more than one of us is already considering leaving.

I know first-hand what a difference a good behaviour policy can make. My previous school was in special measures when I started, but improved rapidly to achieve a “good” Ofsted rating thanks to effective leadership, the robust behaviour system and the quality of the teachers. The process of giving a detention took a few clicks of a computer mouse. Students would be picked up at the end of the school day and taken to a centralised detention. If they refused to go they were put into a two-hour detention with the principal, or isolated from lessons until they had completed their detention. All of this would happen with no further action from the teacher.

Centralised detention systems are not a new idea, and are used in many schools around the country. There are a lot of voices celebrating the good sense of this approach – Tom Bennett, for example, notes that it’s one of the most effective strategies on behaviour he’s seen.

One free school head wrote earlier this year that, “teachers need to be more vocal in calling for their leadership teams to move towards a centralised detention system”. I agree. In my opinion, every teacher and school leader should be asking themselves a simple question: “Is our behaviour system punishing teachers or students?” If the answer is teachers, then there are plenty of examples out there of how we can bring about change.

Read more Secret Teacher: my school’s behaviour policy makes me feel powerless

Does a centralised detention system work in your school? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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