New guidance on behaviour and discipline in schools hit the headlines during Easter 2007 – largely because of its suggestions on the importance of rewarding good behaviour as well as punishing bad

The guidance observes that it has long been established that rewards are more effective than punishment in motivating pupils and that praising and rewarding positive behaviour encourages others to act similarly. It says, therefore, that the school behaviour policy should not only specify what sanctions are available to staff but also how positive behaviour will be reinforced through praise and rewards.

It goes on to point out that the Elton Report noted that a rewards/sanctions ratio of at least 5:1 is an indication of a school with an effective rewards and sanctions system. Some critics interpreted this as a literal instruction for teachers to issue rewards and punishments in a five to one ratio, among them Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who told the BBC that: ‘Crude guidelines which say praise in proportion to punishment of five to one simply aren’t helpful.’
The new document brings guidance on behaviour and discipline into line with the new provisions in the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which came into force at the beginning of April. These include powers to restrain pupils and confiscate items, such as mobile phones, being used inappropriately.

Although some of the provisions in the Act re-enact or replace existing legal provisions, others, such as the statutory power to discipline, are new and schools are being advised to review their existing policies to take account of them.

The detailed guidance for headteachers and other school staff on developing and implementing behaviour policy is non-statutory, although schools are ‘strongly advised’ to follow it. The guidance for governors, however, is statutory as the responsibilities of governing bodies set out in the Education and Inspections Act include that they must have regard to any guidance given by the Secretary of State if they are in England, or by the Assembly in the case of Welsh schools.

The governing body is responsible for drawing up a set of principles which will guide the head in preparing and implementing a detailed behaviour policy. A section of the guidance suggests the expectations that schools, pupils and parents might have of each other and that could make up such a set of principles. Advice is given on the qualities the final statements should have (see below).

The Act introduced a wider duty for governors to consult on the principles of the behaviour policy, including now with pupils, and the guidance gives advice on how this duty can be carried out. There are also reminders of other legal duties that should be borne in mind, including those contained in equality legislation, such as the Disability Discrimination Act, and the governors’ duty of care for the health and welfare of staff.

Governors are advised to draw up a timetable for reviewing and updating their school’s statement of principles and the DfES suggests that it would be good practice to carry out this process every two years.

School Discipline and Pupil Behaviour Policies can be downloaded from

The legal requirements for governors and heads

Responsibility of governing body for discipline (1) The governing body of a relevant school must ensure that policies designed to promote good behaviour and discipline on the part of its pupils are pursued at the school. (2) In particular, the governing body – (a) must make, and from time to time review, a written statement of general principles to which the head teacher is to have regard in determining any measures under section 89(1), [see below] and (b) where they consider it desirable that any particular measures should be so determined by the head teacher or that he should have regard to any particular matters – (i) shall notify him of those measures or matters, and (ii) may give him such guidance as they consider appropriate.

Education and Inspections Act 2006, Section 88.

Determination by head teacher of behaviour policy (1) The head teacher of a relevant school must determine measures to be taken with a view to – (a) promoting, among pupils, self-discipline and proper regard for authority, (b) encouraging good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils, (c) securing that the standard of behaviour of pupils is acceptable, (d) securing that pupils complete any tasks reasonably assigned to them in connection with their education, and (e) otherwise regulating the conduct of pupils.

Education and Inspections Act 2006, Section 89.

Guidelines for a statement of principles
A statement of principles will be used by the headteacher to determine the more detailed measures that make up the overall school behaviour policy. Principles that most assist the headteacher in doing this:

  • are based on the school’s values
  • can be explained to pupils of any age or ability
  • represent widespread agreement about standards amongst pupils, staff (including union representatives) and parents
  • encourage a healthy balance between rewards and sanctions to encourage positive behaviour
  • promote behaviour improvement as a means of improving learning and teaching
  • are challenging but realistic and appropriate for development as the school builds on its successes