Sunderland headteachers slam Gove over ‘traditional’ punishments for pupils

Education Secretary Michael Gove
Education Secretary Michael Gove
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HEADTEACHERS in Sunderland have dismissed plans to return to old-fashioned classroom punishments as “naive”.

School pupils face a return to the days of writing out 100 times ‘I must not talk in class’ under plans by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

In the new guidance, set to be handed out to teachers this week, Mr Gove recommends “tough but proportionate” punishments such as writing lines.

Bad behaviour could also be punished by introducing community service-style punishments including weeding the school garden and picking up litter in the yard.

But one Sunderland headteacher claims Mr Gove is underestimating what schools in the city are already doing – and succeeding in – when it comes to discipline.

Trish Stoker, headteacher at Southwick Primary School, said: “We already have a whole variety of sanctions in place.

“It seems very naive to think we are not being fair enough or tough enough on children.

“I think teachers are actually a lot more creative than Mr Gove gives them credit for.

“He has missed out talking about how we are already working closely with parents, involving them in making sure their children stick to the rules.

“Even though Southwick is a very challenging area there is a good working relationship here between our staff and parents.

“I think Mr Gove should be more positive.”

Under the new rules, misbehaving pupils could also have to report to school early or lose privileges such as participating in a non-uniform day.

The Department for Education says “tens of thousands” of teachers are too nervous to use their disciplinary powers.

Mr Gove added: “Writing lines is tedious, monotonous, boring – and a perfect punishment for bad behaviour. Children need to learn the importance of strong discipline and to understand that misbehaving at school has consequences.

“We are making crystal clear to teachers that telling pupils to write lines is an entirely appropriate punishment.”

But Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), criticised the plans.

She said: “Michael Gove’s behaviour is becoming increasingly bizarre. While he says he wants to give school leaders and teachers the power to make the right decisions for their schools, he takes every opportunity to tell them what to do.

“Behaviour is good or better in over 90 per cent of schools, according to Ofsted.”