You’re probably reading the title, and possibly thinking ‘Erm – No..’ – stick with me, and I’ll explain. I got a call from BBC Essex today, they wanted me to go on the radio tomorrow to talk about a method of punishment employed by a local school. I read the news story, and it got me thinking. They were wanting me to go head to head with someone who thought that this punishment was acceptable. I think they wanted me to have an opposing view. I do, to some extent.

So, if you haven’t read the news story, a school in Harlow is employing some ‘unconventional’ punishments to children as young as five. In, now traditional newspaper style an (unnamed) father has ‘slammed’ the school, and is by all accounts FUMMMMMING. One of the punishments is having to don a coloured bib, and clean up the dinner hall for fellow pupils. The head is quoted as saying –

“Our new behaviour policy promotes and rewards good behaviour, but when children have wasted teaching or learning time we ask them to address this by giving back to the school, rather than punishing them. There are lots of ways they can do this – for example, helping tidy up at lunchtime, collecting litter or helping at social events.”

Hmm – so it’s not all about shaming and degrading the children as perhaps the Dad is suggests.

I thought back to how we were punished at school in my day. At primary school, if we misbehaved in class, we’d get shouted at. If we were worse, we’d get sent out of the classroom. If we were SO bad, we’d be sent to the Headmaster. If the naughtiness was during break or lunchtime, we’d be sent to the naughty circle. This was a circle in the middle of the playground. The WHOLE of the primary school would see you, sat there. It did get worse, there was one occasion where someone had kicked fellow pupils. He was made to sit in the naughty circle, with a sign around his neck.

“I’m a Donkey, I kick”

The sign wasn’t from the children – a dinner lady had put it on him. The naughty circle was a public shaming, the signs were humiliating. Perhaps it wasn’t so good in ‘my day’. I have very few memories of primary school, the naughty circle is a very firm one. I can’t remember the names of lots of people I went to school with. I remember the ‘donkey’ – poor old George.

I’m not a ‘mild parent’, I think that it’s acceptable to punish a child when they’ve done wrong. I also think it’s okay for children to be punished at school. They spend a LOT of their time at school, there needs to be some level of discipline. Naughty circles – no. Giving back to the the school – yes possibly.

J is five, and loving school. At his place, they have a sort of traffic light system. Their names are next to traffic light colours – if you’re doing well – it’s green. Playing up, you’re amber – being awful – you’re on red. There is an extra level above green for those who have been brilliant, “Super Gold”. Even this has some level of shaming to it.. Everyone will see the colour of their classroom. Quite often J will come home and tell me who isn’t on Green. I’ve heard other schools adopting similar methods – a happy tree, and a sad tree.

I think the problem is, it’s really HARD to find a punishment at school. All the children have different backgrounds, and upbringings. Some will have parents that scream blue murder when their kid misbehaves. Others will be more gentle and ask why they feel the need to misbehave, and talk it through. One parent will think it’s bloody marvellous that naughty children are set to work, tidying up. Others will find it degrading, and deliberately shaming.

To be honest, J wouldn’t find litter picking a punishment – he bloody loves it. The picture above is how he CHOSE to spend some of his weekend – picking up litter on our road, and our local park.

Thing is, unless you’re a bit of a twat, we ALL have to clean and tidy. It’s part of life. There’s no shame as even WORKING as a cleaner. No, it’s not nice that these children at this particular school have got upset, and even refused to wear the bib. However, I don’t think the idea of giving back to the the school is a bad one. Especially when someone has taken time away from their fellow classmates trying to learn. I suppose time, in return for time is an appropriate punishment. I suppose that’s where detention comes in – it’s the same kind of principle. Although, you can’t really dish out detentions to five-year olds!

However kids are punished at school, it’s not going to be firm enough for some, or too firm for others. Teachers are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. I’m just thankful the days of the ‘naughty circle’ are no more.

BBC Essex aren’t covering this story tomorrow, so it means I get a lie in, and you got a blog post.

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