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Teachers warn zero tolerance discipline in schools is feeding mental health crisis

The growing popularity of “zero tolerance” policies towards bad behaviour in schools is “feeding a mental health crisis” among pupils, teachers have complained. 

Headteachers are taking an “increasingly punitive” approach to discipline including the use of detention, isolation and exclusion for students who break rules, delegates at the National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) annual conference were told.

Jonathan Reddiford, a delegate from North Somerset, said that in some cases, imposing a “zero tolerance” behavioural policy is “nothing short of child abuse”.

He told of a female pupil who was “kicked out” of school for speaking on her mobile phone, which was against the rules.

“She was speaking to her mum who was in the military and had been deployed to Iraq,” Mr Reddiford.

“It was the first time she had spoken to her mum for 30 days and she gets kicked out because of it.

Teachers have attacked zero tolerance policies

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Barry Diomede / Alamy Stock Photo

“Where is the humanity in that? This is not going to help us build strong, confident, resilient young people.”

Michael Holland, a teacher form Lambeth in south London, said that “zero tolerance” behaviour policies are “cruel, Victorian, Dickensian”.

He added that they “punish working class children the most”, and black and minority ethnic (BME) pupils are more likely to be excluded.

He said that children should not be sent home “because they have a sharp haircut or their shoes aren’t totally black.”

Teachers have attacked zero tolerance policies

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Clio Media Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Earlier this year, the headmaster of Charter Academy in Great Yarmouth wrote to parents to explain that the “Meet Me at McDonald’s” haircut, among others, is banned at the school.

Barry Smith, who was drafted in to turn the previously failing school around,  threatened to send home or put in isolation pupils who fail to change their hairstyle. 

Parents criticised the ban, but Ofsted backed Mr Smith and praised improvements at the academy following his introduction of a strict behaviour policy.

Mr Smith instigated a raft of new rules at the school, including a ban on chewing gum.

If any pupils are found chewing up in school, they would be placed in isolation, he told parents.

Merchants Academy in Bristol also has strict policies which parents said have seen children punished for having shoes which are too shiny, tapping tables and looking at the clock.

Parents claimed that pupils who flout rules have been forced to wear lanyards stating “I have 24 hours to sort out my uniform”.

Headteacher Mr Short said that the strict behaviour code allows for “higher levels of engagement and more progress to be made by all students”.

Ros McNeil, the NUT’s assistant general secretary, said that teachers are being “pressurised” use “rigid sanctions and penalise students where there can be complex reasons for misbehaviour, including hunger, tiredness and anxiety”. 

He said that “zero tolerance” policies “miss the point” and can be counter-productive. 

“Teachers are worried about the levels of anxiety, self-harm and disaffection they’re witnessing,” Mr McNeil said. “Behaviour sanctions often aren’t the answer – we need smaller classes, flexible engaging curricula and pastoral support.”

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/31/teachers-warn-zero-tolerance-discipline-schools-feeding-mental/

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