Discipline in schools: what is considered ‘reasonable’





In light of recent legal proceedings lodged against an academy trust for its use of ‘isolation’ or ‘consequence rooms’, schools may feel unsure about which sanctions are considered ‘reasonable’.

Schools have a legal duty to have a behaviour policy in place to promote good behaviour, self-discipline and respect, prevent bullying, ensure that pupils complete their work and generally regulate their conduct. It must be shared with the pupils and parents, and updated at least annually. It will set out examples of behaviour that the school expects, alongside behaviour that is deemed unacceptable for that school, and the sanction pupils can expect if they misbehave.

Although behaviour policies may provide some clarity in relation to the behaviour expected of pupils, they should never be applied without discretion. And any application of the policy must not breach other legislation, for example, the Equality Act 2010.

All punishments must be ‘proportionate’ and reasonable in all the circumstances. In deciding this, account must be taken of the pupil’s age, any special educational needs or disability they may have, and any religious requirements affecting them.

The Department for Education’s Guidance for headteachers and school staff provides examples of a range of disciplinary measures which might, depending upon the circumstances, be considered reasonable.

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