• turbulentschool

5. Rules and Sanctions

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

“We are changemakers, not lawnmowers,” I told the Eydon Vale staff on the first morning of the Spring Term. By then, the teachers had read their Guided Discipline Manuals and were ready for their second training day. “We need to rethink our jobs in ways which many would find hard to imagine. The more methodical we are, the more deep rooted the transformation.”

Death Stare

The teachers, teaching assistants and office staff were divided into five groups. Each had representatives from all the subject departments and Pastoral teams. The first looked at the list of reinforcers the school council had agreed; the second, classroom rules; the third, corridor rules; the fourth, sanctions and the last record keeping.

“You will have seen examples of rules and the menus of rewards and sanctions in the Guided Discipline Manual. We need to keep ours simple and enforceable. After coffee, we’ll look at the video of the lesson I taught here last term of a Year 9 bottom set. As you will see, there were just two rules up on the board: ‘Keep negative comments to yourself’ and ‘Listen to staff and follow directions’.

“As frontline professionals in a turbulent school, we need to teach the children how to behave. We cannot expect 100 per cent attention automatically. We cannot even expect them to pass each other in the corridor without hitting each other. Wherever we see pupils showing appropriate behaviour, commitment and concentration, we should reinforce, praise and reward. We don’t go for the most extreme sanction every time.

“Everyone needs to know the tariff in advance. There needs to be a clear hierarchy of offences, and this needs to be matched to a clear hierarchy of responses. As you will have seen from the training manual, some sanctions would be mild, like a death stare. Others will be tough. Miss Starr and the Trustees have agreed that whenever a pupil breaks the law, the police will be involved. You need to tell me which offences merit fixed term suspensions and permanent exclusions. Once both the definitions of misbehaviour and the tariff of sanctions are settled, everybody has to stick to it. Consistency is the key.

“It is particularly important that no malefactor is let off the hook because the Duty Tutor is feeling merciful that day. Guided Discipline can be wrecked by senior staff who think they are above the rules. One person's inconsistency lets everyone else down. At my last school, we decided that the priority was to ensure a quick start to work. So, we simply began the main section of the lesson by saying, ‘My instruction is that you start work quickly’. Then we would go over to all those who are wasting time and say politely but assertively, ‘Davie, my instruction was to start work quickly.’ Back off for a second, allow a little ambiguity, and we will all be out of a job.”

“Together, these Rules, Reinforcements and Sanctions you decide today will add up to the Eydon Vale Discipline Policy. They need to be spelt out in words of one syllable. I’ve told the Trustees they will be ready in time for their special meeting this evening. There will be a staggered start for the children’s return to school, with only the Year 11s in tomorrow morning. The Year 7s will start on Wednesday, 10s on Thursday and the rest on Friday. While Rhiannon and I are taking their assemblies on Guided Discipline, there should be enough time for you to put the copies that the office has prepared in each of your classrooms. The sooner we get ourselves organised, the sooner we get Ofsted off our backs!”

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This is a fictional, interactive blog. My illustrators and I will be creating a new instalment twice a month over the next year. Email and I will edit my text.