Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Wednesday Wonderings - Does Detention Work?

Posted by Rosie

At the boys' collège (secondary school) they have a system of crosses for bad behaviour and and when a certain number of crosses have been given it leads to a detention .  So far Tom and Ben have received crosses for forgetting to do all or some of their homework, forgetting to take in a text book or suchlike and not handing in a form.  Hardly huge errors in the great scheme of things but errors that are enough to get them a cross, although so far, luckily, not enough to receive a detention.   I am assuming other transgressions will also merit a cross and I do know that for worst behaviour and for repeatedly forgetting something an immediate detention can be given.

So far so good.  I do not have a problem with a school that expects it's pupils to do their homework, to behave and to not forget things.  It builds good routines and organised students which are excellent life skills.  Teachers need to teach and so if there is a disruptive pupil presumably it is hoped that a detention will help them to mend their ways.  The trouble is I do not think this system works.  The boys tell me that the disruptive and least organised pupils get detentions and then continue to be disruptive or to forget things.  Why is this and what do I dislike detention?

Detention takes place on a Friday.  Pupils are kept back for an hour after school and have to do a series of exercises set for them - academic exercises.  

Dislike One

For pupils who take a bus home (remember this school is in a rural area with a large catchment so many pupils rely on the bus) this means their parents will have to come and collect them later whilst those pupils who live in Condé can still walk home.  The boys are actually more worried about how cross we will be if we have to come and collect them late than the actual detention which I suppose is a deterrent in itself but not quite as the school maybe envisaged it!

Dislike Two

Pupils already have a very long day.  Lessons start at 7.50am and home time is not until 4.35pm and there will then be homework to do.  Perhaps a child is being naughty, not doing their homework and forgetting things because they are overly tired.  Adding another hour of school in the form of detention is hardly going to be helpful.

Dislike Three

Tom got a sort of mini detention last year for some minor and long forgotten about misdemeanour.  He was given a series of verbs to conjugate which he was able to do in a free period.  He said it was actually no bother as he had no homework and it gave him something to do. However, what about the child who struggles academically?  It will be harder for them so the punishment is hardly a level playing ground.  For detention it is exactly the same.  Sitting in a room after school and doing academic exercises will be much harder for some pupils than others.  More than that though, I strongly believe that as a school is there to teach pupils you should never use academic exercises as a punishment.  It is counter-productive.

That said,  for all my dislikes I respect that this is the system and that there is a simple solution - do not get crosses!  In theory, yes and we work hard with the boys to help them and hope that in time they will be organised enough to do this themselves.  This is not the case for all families and children.  I also wonder how detention could be better applied.  I think it should be within school time and not academic based but I am not sure exactly what.  Maybe some sort of community based work - clearing litter or raking leaves?  I did know a head at a primary school in England who used to make disruptive pupils jog round the playground and he went with them.  This was aimed at pupils who had too  much energy to sit still and he felt fresh air and exercise was what they needed to help them to concentrate.  Tom, our athlete, rather liked the sound of this for a punishment, so again - not a level playing ground.  

What do you think about detention?  Does your school use it, do you think it works or do you have any better ideas?  Please do let us know in a comment.


  1. Individualised consequences (sounds like a board game) designed to look at the problem (for want of a better word) and provide guidance or solution. I would offer an example but it is far too early. x see you tommorrow

    1. Yes, I agree but I suppose in a school with hundreds of pupils and hundreds of problems this is not always practical. I await with interest your example tomorrow. x

  2. This is a really interesting topic! One that I have battled with as a mother and teacher. As a single parent and full time teacher, I used to try and avoid giving out detentions, because it meant I got home later to my two kids. I would try and solve the problem in class, or keep them back at break or lunchtime. My partner Andy, still does supply teaching in the UK and often says that it is really difficult to get some kids to turn up for detention and that a lot of the parents are not bothered. Obviously it depends on the school, catchment area,parents support etc etc. If I kept a child in detention, it was usually to finish work they had not completed.
    I am going to share this blog on Blackhen Education facebook page and our group for parents, to see what they have to say.

    1. Thank you Sue, for both sharing and for your comments. I do not think there is a one scenario fits all solution but I do believe that this current system of after school detention with academic work as the punishment is not the best that could be given.

  3. My daughter has just started secondary school and they appear to be pretty harsh with detention. If you don't hand in homework on the day it's due you get an automatic detention (albeit at lunchtime, not after school). You're allowed 3 kit marks eg forgotten football boots, but after that you also get detention. She hasn't had one yet so I don't know what happens, although if you've forgotten homework you need to re-do in detention.

    1. At least they do detention in school time which is one step better than here in France and I would be interested to know what form it takes ... but I hope your daughter does not have to find out!


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