Behaviour and discipline in schools - definition of 'fair', 'reasonable' and 'proportionate'.

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Dear Department for Education,

Your guidelines state, quote (source: Behaviour and discipline in schools: guidance for headteachers and staff , Published 16 July 2013 / Last updated 4 January 2016):
''13. Teachers can discipline pupils whose conduct falls below the standard which
could reasonably be expected of them. This means that if a pupil misbehaves, breaks a
school rule or fails to follow a reasonable instruction the teacher can impose a
punishment on that pupil.''

In the above mentioned context, would you please explain the meaning of the words fair, reasonable and proportionate as REPEATEDLY referred to by you in the same publication, quote:

''14. To be lawful, the punishment (including detentions) must satisfy the following three
conditions: [.....] 3) [.....] and it must be REASONABLE IN ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
15. A punishment must be PROPORTIONATE. In determining whether a punishment is
reasonable, section 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 says the penalty must
be REASONABLE in all the circumstances [.....]
21. Schools should have in place a range of options and rewards to reinforce and
praise good behaviour, and clear sanctions for those who do not comply with the school’s
behaviour policy. These will be PROPORTIONATE and FAIR RESPONSES [.......]''

Would it be fair, reasonable and proportionate to use isolation as a punishment / sanction for EVERY breach of school policy, regardless how minor?

Would it be fair, reasonable and proportionate to use isolation for breaches of school policy that are entirely out of the control of children and which do not affect their behaviour in class, ie does not disrupt lessons / learning or achievement (examples: stationary, such as the colour of pens, haircuts and school uniform. I buy my sons pens and school shoes. I decide and pay for their hair cuts - as minors, they have no say in the matter).

Are schools meant to assume at the words fair, reasonable and proportionate in your guidelines are to be interpreted in line with their respective definitions in the dictionary or can you please send me links to further guidance or even legislation on this matter? I would really appreciate a detailed response in light of increased use of isolation in schools!

Yours faithfully,

Karin Siemund

MINISTERS, Department for Education

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ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

 

Dear Karin Siemund,

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education with your queries
about the Behaviour and discipline in schools guidance and the use of
isolation rooms. As a policy advisor working on behaviour policy I have
been asked to respond to your questions.

Under section 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 [1]here, it
states that schools may only impose a disciplinary penalty if it is
reasonable to do so (s91(3)(b)). In determining for the purposes of
subsection (3)(b) whether the imposition of the penalty is reasonable,
they have to take into account whether it is a proportionate measure in
the circumstances of the case s91(6)(a). Furthermore, the school must take
into account any special circumstances that are relevant to the pupil
before imposing any sanction s91(6)(b). So, such matters like the (i)
pupil’s age, (ii) any special educational needs or (iii) disabilities they
may have and (iv) any religious requirements affecting them are all
relevant factors. Schools should also consider the safety of a pupil when
determining the disciplinary sanction.

An individual school’s approach to enforcing sanctions must be set out in
the behaviour policy, which should be published and accessible. This
policy should set out the behaviour expected of pupils within the school
and any disciplinary sanctions as a consequence of a pupil’s misbehaviour.
If a school chooses to use seclusion or isolation rooms as a disciplinary
penalty, this must be made clear in the behaviour policy. The policy
should outline the circumstances in which a pupil’s behaviour means that
they will be placed in isolation. However, any separate room should only
be used when it is in the best interests of the child, and other pupils.
Any use of the isolation that prevents a child from leaving a room of
their own free will should only be considered in exceptional circumstances
and if it reduces the risk presented by the child to themselves and
others. The school must also ensure the health and safety of pupils and
any requirements in relation to safeguarding and pupil welfare. 

 In addition to the individual school deciding whether to place a child in
isolation, it is also is for individual schools to decide how long a pupil
should be kept in isolation and for the staff member in charge to
determine what pupils may and may not do during the time they are there.
Schools should ensure that pupils are kept in isolation no longer than is
necessary and their time spent there is used as constructively as
possible.

Thank you again for getting in touch.

  

Yours sincerely,

Hannah Sampson

Department for Education

 

 

 

References

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1. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006...

Dear ACCOUNT, Unmonitored,
Dear Hannah Sampson,

Thank you very much for your response to my freedom of information request.
I am sorry to say, but you have not answered my questions at all, please re-read my original freedom of information request carefully!

I am fully aware that schools have to have policies and what those have to contain.

My question was entirely about your (DfE) repeated reassurance (DfE guidelines) that discipline / punishment in schools has to be fair, reasonable and proportionate AT ALL TIMES.

Could you please clarify / explain the meaning of fair, reasonable and proportionate in this context.

Yours sincerely,

Karin Siemund

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. We can confirm that
we have received the Freedom of Information request you submitted.

We will respond to you within 20 working days.

 

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Dear Karin Siemund,

 

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education.

 

As mentioned in my previous response, the use of fair, reasonable and
proportionate in the DfE's behaviour and discipline guidance is based on
section 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. In this section it
states that schools may only impose a disciplinary penalty if it is
reasonable to do so in that context. In determining whether the imposition
of a penalty is reasonable, schools have to take into account whether it
is a proportionate measure in the individual circumstances of the case.
When deciding if a disciplinary penalty is fair, reasonable and
proportionate for an individual, schools must take into account any
special circumstances that are relevant to the pupil before imposing any
sanction. So, such matters like the (i) pupil’s age, (ii) any special
educational needs or (iii) disabilities they may have and (iv) any
religious requirements affecting them are all relevant factors.

 

It is for the school to assess what’s fair, reasonable and proportionate
in the context of any particular issue rather than in the abstract. It is
therefore not possible to define what is meant by fair reasonable and
proportionate as it will depend on the facts of the particular case.

 

If you are concerned with an individual school’s behaviour policy, I
recommend discussing your concerns informally with the school. If you
remain unsatisfied with the outcome of these discussions, you can raise a
formal complaint by following the school’s complaint procedure. The school
must provide parents with a copy of their complaint’s procedure on
request, and you should ensure that any correspondence is marked as a
formal complaint. Following this, if you continue to be dissatisfied with
any investigations conducted by the school, then you can make a complaint
in writing to the Secretary of State.

 

Thank you again for getting in touch.

 

Best wishes,

Hannah