Whole class punishment – a student speaks out – PP153

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Paul Dix
Paul Dix

In an unusual but very engaging episode, Paul and his son, Bertie, interview Netta, a year 9 student and her mother, Penny. Netta tells us about her personal experiences of whole class punishment and her feelings about it. We also discuss many other aspects of school behaviour and it was great to get a student and parent’s point of view on this essential subject!

Netta wrote a letter to her school after receiving a number of whole class punishments. She reads it out on the episode. It’s eloquent and presents a balanced view of her attitude towards group punishments where students like her suffer through no fault of their own.

What do the best teachers do to manage behaviour?

Netta says that the best teachers make sure the students are motivated by and interested in the lesson. Also, they make sure the more able students are suitably challenged so they don’t get bored. Those teachers also have creative ways of dealing with disruptive students like her MFL teacher who has given a boy a set of Spanish words which he is allowed to shout out in class!

“I definitely respect teachers who are more creative with their lessons.”

Does punishment in schools work?

Netta believes some of it does but a lot of it needs improvement. Schools need to check their punishments are working not just follow what they have always done. Different punishments work for different people. Netta likes her school’s behaviour points system – she thinks it’s positive that you can get rewarded for good behaviour not just punished for bad behaviour.

She also like the fact that you start with a fresh slate every year. Some people have received over a hundred points in a month. She points out that most students don’t really care about the points.

Is group punishment fair and what does it teach?

Netta is passionate about group punishment not being fair.

It teaches the well-behaved students that there’s no point in being good because they will be punished no matter what they do.

Paul asks if it helps the group to self-regulate and Netta says that there is an element of peer pressure to behave better in her class but it just causes arguments between students and then the whole class gets kept behind for even longer!

Netta’s mum. Penny,  finds group punishments very frustrating. She points out that there is a difference in how well behaved and poorly behaved children are treated – poorly behaved children are lavished with praise when they do something small which is good but those who are well behaved all the time are ignored. However, rather than accepting the situation, Penny is pro-active. She writes when good things happen and so she has developed a relationship with the school which means she can write when she sees things are not going well. She is respectful but assertive in her communications. She offers help from her own teaching experience or points out relevant training.

What can children do to positively influence behaviour practice in schools?

Netta thinks that if students see something which isn’t working they can talk to the school or get their parents to talk to the school – sometimes the school don’t take the students seriously but they will listen to parents.

There is a student council but they don’t usually talk about behaviour and those types of issues.

Do school behaviour practices reflect many parents’ desire for strict and tough discipline?

Netta thinks they do at her school. They can’t get away with much. Penny reflects that she is impressed that her children are so respectful and well behaved, when she considers how she herself was at school! She doesn’t like extreme ‘military’ style behaviour policies and she says that she thinks this kind of approach often comes from schools’ perceptions of the children they are dealing with rather than from parents.

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