Written by: Cally Worden
Not all kids behave well all the time. For this reason, all schools have a written policy that details those standards of behaviour that are required from students. Within that policy are details of the consequences faced by children if those standards are not met. In short – what will happen if your child misbehaves badly during school hours.
The Need for Good Behaviour
School is a bit like a practice for life. Aside with home, it is the environment that can have most influence on a child and how they behave. Kids spend an awful lot of time there after all. Good behaviour is important in school because collectively it creates a safe and secure space in which young people can grow, develop and learn.
Minor deviations from expected standards are completely normal and to be expected – rules are there to be tested and help youngsters learn about the boundaries of acceptability. But if a child’s behaviour begins to affect others in the school, or their own ability to learn and develop, then schools need to able to apply sanctions to deal with this.
Types of Sanction
The days of a clip round the ear, a knuckle-rap from a ruler, and a thrashing with a cane are thankfully a distant memory. In today’s schools the following sanctions are the norm:
- A telling off
- Letter home to parents
- Exclusion from a class or group
- Removal of privileges, such as access to sports or technology facilities out of lesson times
- Confiscation of belongings inappropriate for school – mobile phone, ipod, etc)
These sanctions serve for the most part to keep young people on the straight and narrow during their school-life. A minority of children are unwilling or unable to comply with school guidelines, in these cases stricter sanctions apply.
The least strict of the more formal sanctions, detention is a mild form of containment that punishes a child by taking away their liberty for a short period of time. In some cases the child may be given work to complete during the detention period.
Detentions can take place within school hours, after school, in some cases at weekends. Failure to show-up for a detention without a reasonable excuse may lead a school to impose more serious sanctions.
There are a few things it’s important for parents to know about detention:
- If a detention falls outside school hours you are entitled to 24 hours notice to give you time to make alternative transport or childcare arrangements as necessary
- A notice of detention should detail why it was given and its intended duration
- If your child is unable to attend you need to explain why to the school
- A detention may be reconsidered if it falls on a religious day for your family, you have concerns for your child’s safety returning home after attending the detention, or you have difficulty in arranging collection of your child at an hour that differs from the norm
An altogether more serious proposition, a suspension involves a child being excluded from school for a defined period of time. This is normally considered as a sanction, a child has seriously broken school rules, and/or where remaining in school would be disruptive or harmful to the child or their peers and teachers
A few points to note about suspensions:
- This sanction must come from the Head
- A first suspension should not be more than 5 days in duration
- Suspension periods cannot be extended without the Chair of Governors’ approval
- 45 days is the combined maximum for suspension days in any school year
- The school should provide and mark suitable work for a suspended student – although it is the parent’s responsibility to collect and re-submit any work to the school
- The school should contact you on the day of suspension, and provide notice in writing
This is generally a last resort action for any school. Educators will try their utmost to avoid turning to expulsion as a sanction, working hard to help a student improve their behaviour via other means. If, however, a student has committed a very serious one-off offence, expulsion may still be considered. Only the Education and Library Board (ELB) can confirm the decision to expel students from a state school (note: Catholic, grant-aided and private schools may have a slightly different policy).
Any decision to expel a child from school should involve a discussion about the child’s continuing educational needs and how these can be met. The ELB has an obligation to provide continuing interim education until a longer-term solution is agreed. Parents have a right to challenge a decision to expel, via the Expulsions Appeals Tribunal.