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Punishments and Awards at School

By: Louise Tobias BA (hons) - Updated: 15 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
Praise Punishment Child School Detention

Schools are in a difficult position with regards to praising and punishing children. During the school day, teachers are in loco parentis but punishment is obviously a tightly ruled topic, and praise too must be equally distributed to avoid upset.

Schools tend to put in place varying levels of punishments and praise schemes, that will usually be set out in some kind of written document that parents and students can peruse.

This ensures a consistent response to varying acts that may take place in a school, and avoids accusations of favouritism or unfairness. Parents should contact their child’s school to ask for a copy of their rules regarding rewards and punishments in the classroom to find out more about individual school policies.

Punishment - Minor Misdemeanours

If a child makes a relatively minor disruption to the classroom, for example he or she does not stop talking when a teacher asks them, there are a range of punishments that can be used. Writing lines is one option: usually students will be asked to repeat a sentence relating to their wrongdoing several times over. This might be something like, “I must not be rude to my teachers” or “I must listen when I am in class.”

A slightly more severe punishment used in some schools is a negative behaviour card, which is often a coloured piece of paper describing the child’s bad behaviour and telling another member of staff, such as the headteacher, to note this down. Usually this will be a cumulative punishment - several cards may result in a note home, or a note on the child’s end of term report, for example.


Detention is another common punishment. It can take place during the school day, for example at lunch, or during break, or after school or during weekends. Since the Education Act of 1997, schools have to give parents at least 24-hours notice if they have organised a detention to take place outside of school hours.

Suspension, Exclusion and Expulsion

These are usually the most serious punishments made by schools. They involve students being told to leave the school premises for varying amounts of time. During a suspension and exclusion, students have to leave the school for a temporary period, usually between a day and a fortnight.

Students may be given work to complete at home during this period, and will usually have a meeting with teachers and parents to discuss the issues leading up to the punishment. Permanent exclusion happens when a student is permanently removed from a school. Some Local Education Authorities have specific pupil referral units for excluded students to attend.


Like punishments, these will also usually be organised into levels at many schools. At the most basic level, many school teachers will give students verbal praise to congratulate them for good work or behaviour. The next 'level' might be a merit slip, a piece of paper informing the head teacher and/or parents of a child’s good work or behaviour. Some schools single out good behaviour in assemblies or newsletters. Others offer prizes such as local cinema or restaurant vouchers to good students.

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