Headmaster's Blog- Discipline in Schools
"Do you like order and discipline? Do you believe in children being obedient every time? Do you believe that allowing children to make excuses is unkind?" So read Michaela Community School's advertisement for a Detention Director, as it appeared in a recent issue of the Times Educational Supplement. I must admit, I raised an eyebrow, and thought it all sounded a bit Dickensian. I'm not the only one; the ad has prompted a flurry of discussion amongst educationalists and media alike.
It goes without saying that a calm and orderly atmosphere is essential for good student development; and rules have an important place in ensuring everyone's safety and wellbeing, particularly in a community setting. However, it is how you achieve those things which sets good schools apart.
Here, we focus on promoting positive behaviour. Naturally, we have sanctions for those who step outside of our rules, but the emphasis is more on conforming to expected standards, than waving a stick when people fall short. More often than not, education is required, to teach students the importance of thinking beyond oneself, and to consider the effect of one's actions on others. For example: I want to be the centre of attention; I can say what I like to others; I will do what I like, regardless of the consequences. The bottom line is that the most important educational tool we can give our youngsters is to think first and act later. That way, I suspect the number of sanctions at Bloxham would be halved overnight and social media would be hailed a wonderful thing!
Bloxham's House structure is at the heart of our pastoral approach. It creates a sense of identity and belonging, which the students cherish. Generally, they want to do the right thing, and know if they don't, they let the House down. Each House follows a vertical structure, drawing together students from across the year groups. This has many advantages, giving younger students positive role models to look up to and allowing older students an opportunity to take on new responsibilities. And whether you're a boarder or a day student, you learn the importance of respect and tolerance in building a harmonious community. Layered on top, is our focus on spiritual and emotional health, which encourages students to invest in their relationships, and to think of others – and themselves - with generosity and kindness. With these ingredients, we teach our students to behave responsibly to their community. This, we find, has a far more powerful and lasting impact than any list of rules.
All schools are different and it would be a foolish headmaster who judged another for how it tackles its problems. Yet I can't help feel relieved, and proud, that such a role is unnecessary at Bloxham...most of the time.