Schools taking a disciplined stance

By Jessica Elgot, December 29, 2011
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Secondary schools are finding varying methods of maintaining discipline in the classroom and playground.

The Hasmonean schools in north-west London operate a zero-tolerance policy towards violent behaviour, with immediate exclusion, even in instances of "play fighting". Boys' school head Andrew McClusky said the threat of suspension had proved an important deterrent.

In the last academic year, there were 35 suspensions in the boys' school, most for one or two days. Few were repeat offenders.

Mr McClusky said that although the figure might seem quite high for a religious school, "we believe in strong boundaries". Nobody wanted to suspend pupils. "It's a failure on behalf of the school and the student.

We are so strict here but the kids sense it is fair

"Where there is any violence, that is an immediate exclusion. It doesn't help our figures. But it keeps behaviour fantastic. Students know that the only option is to tell a teacher, rather than fight back. Only four boys have been excluded more than once."

There had been some "revolutionary changes" in encouraging good behaviour. "When I arrived, it seemed a little bit, shall we say, lively? There was no emphasis on rewards for behaving well. There was nothing to work for. I introduced termly award assemblies for creativity, achievement, attendance."

At the King Solomon High in Redbridge, discipline has improved markedly under the headship of Spencer Lewis.

There were 65 fixed-term suspensions in 2010/11, as opposed to 177 in 2006/7. "We try to use exclusions as little as possible so that they are a real deterrent, something that students hate to receive," Mr Lewis explained. "The truth is that well-prepared, well-resourced interesting lessons are, for the most part, the key to good student behaviour."

As an alternative to suspensions, King Solomon has an internal exclusion system, where students are kept out of lessons for a day, working in isolation.

Mr Spencer said King Solomon had taken in "a 15-year-old girl who had been permanently excluded from another school for disruption and rudeness. The clear structures and positive atmosphere at our school have helped her settle in and she is doing very well, looking forward to choosing her A-level options after she completes her GCSEs."

Suspensions have also dropped at JFS, with 66 in the past school year. There was also one expulsion, the second in five years. JFS behaviour team co-ordinator Nick Calogirou said that "any student who does not respond to the classroom discipline can be withdrawn from lessons, or they can get a detention referral.

"The most rewarding part of the work is kids coming to us when they are in the sixth form, having been repeat offenders, and saying: 'Sir, if it hadn't been for you, we would not have got this far'. We are so strict here, but the kids sense it is fair - it is in their interests."

At Yavneh College in Hertfordshire, there were just 10 fixed-term exclusions last year and an Ofsted report in March praised behaviour as "outstanding". Head Dena Coleman attributed the "excellent behaviour" to the "clear expectations" of discipline standards.

Figures were also low at the King David High in Manchester, where governors' chair Joshua Rowe said the school had, on average, two or three suspensions per term. "We tend to encourage rather than sanction. There have been no permanent exclusions for at least four years."

    Last updated: 12:53pm, December 29 2011