Chapter 15 pupil behaviour and discipline of guide for school governorsThis chapter explains the responsibilities of the Board of Governors and the principal in relation to pupil behaviour and discipline and the procedures for pupil suspensions and expulsions.
In this chapter:
- The statutory framework
- Suspension and expulsion
- The role of the principal in disciplinary matters
- The law
Role of the Board of Governors
The role of the Board of Governors is to promote good behaviour and discipline among pupils attending the school in order to safeguard their welfare and facilitate their educational progress at school. The Board of Governors should
15.1. Good discipline is central to ensuring positive behaviour in the school, creating a climate which fosters effective learning and ensuring the safety of pupils when they are at school and promoting safe travel to and from school. It is essential, therefore that Boards of Governors are clear about their responsibilities in this area.
15.2. The Board of Governors has a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of registered pupils at the school when the pupils are on school premises or in the lawful control or charge of a member of school staff.
15.3. The outworkings of the Entitlement Framework may mean that some schools will have pupils attending from other schools. The Board of Governors must safeguard and promote the welfare of all pupils attending its school, whether registered or not, when they are on the premises of the school or in the lawful control or charge of a member of school.
15.4. The Board of Governors and the principal are also responsible for ensuring that the school has behaviour policies which promote positive behaviour and discipline among registered pupils and that these should cover all pupils attending the school, whether registered or not.
15.5. The Board of Governors must make, and keep under review, a written statement of 'general principles' about pupil behaviour and discipline, which the principal will have regard to in determining school rules and behaviour policies. Before making its statement, the Board of Governors must consult the principal, the registered pupils at the school and their parents. It must also consider any guidance given by the Department of Education (DE) and the education and library board.
15.6. The Board of Governors must also decide, and set out, what aspects of discipline/behaviour should be a matter for the principal and give the principal any guidance on the aspects which it decides is appropriate.
15.7. The principal is responsible for determining measures which the school will take to
- promote self discipline and proper regard for authority among pupils;
- encourage good behaviour, respect for others and prevent all forms of bullying among pupils;
- secure an acceptable standard of pupil behaviour; and
- regulate the conduct of pupils.
In doing so, the principal should act in accordance with the Board of Governors’ statement of general principles and any other guidance provided. A written statement of the measures must be given, free of charge, to the parents of all registered pupils at the school and made available for inspection, at all reasonable times and free of charge, at the school.
15.8. Schools may, on disciplinary grounds, require a registered pupil, who has not attained the age of 18, to spend a period of time in detention at the end of a school session. Consent is not required from the pupil’s parents as long as
- the principal has generally made known within the school, informed all pupils and their parents that detention is one of the measures for regulating pupil conduct;
- the detention is imposed by the principal or by another teacher in the school authorised by the principal;
- the detention is reasonable in all the circumstances; and
- the parents have been given at least 24 hours’ notice in writing, that the detention is due to take place.
15.9. In deciding whether a detention is reasonable, the following should be taken into account
- whether the detention constitutes a proportionate punishment in the circumstances; and
- any relevant special circumstances such as the pupil’s age, any special educational needs the pupil may have, any religious requirements affecting the pupil and where arrangements have to be made for the pupil to travel home, whether suitable alternative travel arrangements can reasonably be made by the parents.
15.10. Pupils over the age of 18 cannot be placed in detention.
15.11. All schools have a pastoral responsibility towards their pupils and should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the welfare of pupils is safeguarded and that their safety is preserved. The need to use reasonable force to restrain or control a pupil should be rare. However, if a pupil’s behaviour threatens the safety of other pupils and staff, a member of staff may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances to prevent the pupil from
- committing an offence;
- causing personal injury to, or damage to the property of, any person (including the pupil him/herself); or
- engaging in any behaviour prejudicial to the maintenance of good order and discipline at the school or among any of its pupils, whether during a teaching session or otherwise.
15.12. These conditions for use of reasonable force apply where a member of staff is on school premises or elsewhere, or has lawful control or charge of the pupil concerned. However, it is emphasised that corporal punishment remains unlawful and staff must not use any degree of physical contact which is deliberately intended to cause pain, injury or humiliation.
15.13. The Board of Governors, in consultation with the principal, should
- ensure that the school has a clear written policy about the use of reasonable force ;
- include a statement in its discipline policy, setting out the policy and guidelines on the use of reasonable force to restrain or control pupils;
- discuss these with staff who may have to apply them;
- issue or make them known to parents and pupils; and
- have regard to any advice issued by DE and the education and library board and, in the case of a Catholic maintained school, the CCMS.
The DE Circular 1999/9 PDF 186 KB and the DE 2005 publication ‘Towards a Model Policy in Schools on the Use of Reasonable Force’ PDF 111 KB provides more detailed guidance for Boards of Governors and for schools.
15.14. The DE Circular 1999/10 publication 'Pastoral Care in Schools: Child Protection' PDF 27 KB defines bullying as 'deliberately hurtful behaviour, repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for the victim to defend him or herself'. It is a contravention of pupils’ rights not to protect them from all forms of physical and mental violence. It also infringes their right to education and to freedom from torture and inhuman treatment under the Human Rights Act 1998.
15.15. Thus, the Board of Governors has a responsibility to be actively involved in encouraging and supporting their school as they endeavour to
- recognise bullying;
- develop an anti-bullying culture consistent with their positive ethos, pastoral care policy and whole-school policy on good behaviour; and
- develop a specific whole school approach to tackling bullying which is owned by all staff, pupils and parents.
15.16. Research published by the Department in June 2007 revealed that 43 percent of primary school children and 29 percent of post-primary perceive that they have been bullied at least once. Boards of Governors should be aware that no school is exempt from bullying behaviour. Bullying in any shape or form, and no matter how minor it might be perceived to be, can be profoundly damaging personally, socially and educationally, to the children experiencing it. When a pupil is bullied at school, parents will normally seek support and expect that the school will take firm and effective action to eliminate the problem. While parents’ expectations may not always be realistic, they should have their concerns dealt with in a respective manner.
15.17. Parents may raise a complaint with the Board of Governors about the way bullying or a specific incident has been handled within the school. The Department expects that Boards of Governors will treat any such complaint seriously and swiftly determine if there is an issue and take appropriate action, including advising the parents of the position. The Department acknowledges that some complaints may be unfounded but it is crucial that parents’ concerns are addressed.
15.18. Cyber-bullying (online social aggression) is the use of electronic information and communication devices such as email, instant messaging, text messages, mobile phones, pagers and defamatory web sites to bully or otherwise harass an individual or group through personal attacks or other means.
15.19. Boards of Governors should be aware that young people have fully embraced the Internet and other technologies (for example, mobile phone) as both an environment and a tool for socialising. They send emails, create their own web sites, post intimate personal news in blogs (in other words, online interactive diaries), send text messages and images via mobile phones, chat in chat rooms, post discussion boards, and seek out new friends in social networking sites. Unfortunately, these technologies are used by some children and young people to post cruel text messages or images, to bully their peers and engage in other aggressive online behaviour; sometimes material is posted online that suggests those posting it are considering violence towards others or themselves.
15.20. Such bullying and harassment can be done anonymously with a pay phone or from an Internet Café. Staff may also be subjected to cyber bullying by pupils. Unacceptable and threatening photographs and videos can be used. Ownership of a mobile phone may also be a cause for bullying, resulting in theft. The Board of Governors should encourage the principal to work cooperatively with the staff, pupils and parents to prevent such behaviour and to devise approaches to dealing with it whenever it occurs.
15.21. Pupils should be aware of
- how to protect themselves from mobile phone theft;
- procedures for the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, hence disabling the phone if it is lost or stolen;
- rules about the possession and use of mobile phones within the school; and
- how to react when threatened whether through a mobile phone, email, chat room or instant messenger services.
Further information is available in DE Circular 2007/01 ‘Acceptable Use of the Internet and digital Technologies in Schools’ and ‘Management Responsibilities in Schools' PDF 155 KB.
15.22. In the most serious cases of pupil indiscipline, the school may have to consider suspension or expulsion after other methods of improving a pupil’s behaviour have been unsuccessful. The DE publication in 2001 ‘Pastoral Care in Schools: Promoting Positive Behaviour’ PDF 507 KB contains guidance on the appropriate use of suspension and expulsion.
15.23. The procedures to be followed in relation to the suspension and expulsion of pupils from controlled schools are set out in a scheme prepared by the education and library board. For all other grant-aided schools the Board of Governors is legally responsible for preparing a scheme for the suspension and expulsion of pupils from the school. Each scheme must include the following provisions:
- a pupil may be suspended from the school only by the principal;
- an initial period of suspension shall not exceed five school days in any one school term;
- a pupil may be suspended from school for not more than 15 school days in any one school term;
- where a pupil has been suspended, the principal shall immediately
- give written notification of the reasons for and the period of suspension to the parent of the pupil, to the education and library board and the chairperson of the Board of Governors;
- invite the parent of the pupil to visit the school to discuss the suspension;
- the principal shall not extend a period of suspension without the prior approval of the chairperson of the Board of Governors and shall, in every case, give written notification of the reasons for the extension and the period of extension to the parent of the pupil and to the education and library board;
- a pupil may be expelled from school only after serving a period of suspension;
- a pupil may be expelled from a school only after consultation about his expulsion has taken place between the principal, the parent of the pupil, the Chief Executive or another authorised officer of the education and library board and the chairperson of the Board of Governors, provided that any neglect or refusal on the part of the parent to take part in such consultations shall not prevent a pupil being expelled from the school. These consultations must include consultations about the future provision of suitable education for the pupil concerned;
- a pupil may be expelled only by the expelling authority. The expelling authority is the education and library board for controlled schools and the Board of Governors for all other grant-aided schools;
- where a pupil is expelled from the school, the expelling authority must immediately give written notification to the parent of his/her right to appeal the decision to expel the pupil, of the time limit set by the education and library board for lodging the appeal and of where the appeal may be lodged.
15.24. It is important that the Board of Governors and the principal follow closely the procedures provided in the scheme which reflects statutory requirements. Also, the school should have regard to the need to make arrangements for the provision of suitable education to a registered pupil of the school during the period when the pupil is suspended from the school.
15.25. The education and library board is required to make arrangements for the parent of a pupil or the pupil if they are aged 18, to appeal against any decision of the expelling authority to expel the pupil from the school. The Board of Governors is legally bound to comply with any direction given by an expulsion appeals tribunal.
15.26. The Board of Governors should be familiar with the school’s discipline policy and procedures. However, the principal is in charge of its day-to-day management and has responsibility for ensuring that all staff are familiar with the school’s policy and that agreed discipline practices are applied consistently. The principal’s role is clearly set out in legislation and in the school’s scheme of Management. The Board of Governors may require the principal to provide oral and written reports in matters relating to discipline. The principal should co-operate with the Board of Governors in all matters relating to school discipline, including bullying, suspension (and the continuing education of suspended pupils) and expulsion (including appeals by parents against such measures).
15.27. Monitoring of pupils’ behaviour and the effectiveness of the current policy on good behaviour and measures to deal with bullying, together with information about suspensions, expulsions and parents’ complaints are often best dealt with by a committee of the Board of Governors.
15.28. It may be helpful to note that statistics on suspensions and expulsions are collected and published each year by the Department. The Board of Governors may wish to keep abreast of the position in their school on the number of suspensions, in particular multiple suspensions, and expulsions, including the reasons for them.
Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986 - Article 49
(Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils)
Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1993 - Article 39
(Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils)
Education (NI) Order 1998 - Article 3
(Responsibility of Board of Governors and principal for discipline)
Education (NI) Order 1998 - Article 4
(Power of member of staff to restrain pupils)
Education (NI) Order 1998 - Article 5
(Detention of pupil outside school hours)
Education (NI) Order 1998 - Article 6
(Duty of education and library board to prepare a plan relating to children with behavioural difficulties)
Education (NI) Order 2003 - Article 17
(Duty on Board of Governors to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils)
Education (NI) Order 2003 - Article 19
(School discipline to prevent bullying)
Schools (Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils) Regulations (NI) 1995 SR No. 99
CCMS and ELB Schemes for the Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils
DE Circular 1998/25 Pupil Behaviour & Discipline
http://www.deni.gov.uk/dc1998-25circular-2.pdf PDF 27 KB
DE Circular 1999/9 Pastoral Care: Guidance on the Use of Reasonable Force to Restrain or Control Pupils
http://www.deni.gov.uk/dc1999-09circular-2.pdf PDF 186 KB
DE Circular 1999/10 publication Pastoral care in Schools
http://www.deni.gov.uk/dc1999-10circular-3.pdf PDF 27 KB
DE Circular 2003/13 Welfare and Protection of Pupils: Education & Libraries (NI) Order 2003
http://www.deni.gov.uk/dc2003-13circular-5.pdf PDF 17 KB
DE Circular 2007/01 Acceptable Use of the Internet and digital Technologies in Schools and Management Responsibilities in Schools
http://www.deni.gov.uk/22-acceptable_use_of_the_internet_de_circular.pdf PDF 155 KB
DE publication in 2001 Pastoral Care in Schools: Promoting Positive Behaviour
http://www.deni.gov.uk/ppbehaviour-4.pdf PDF 507 KB
DE publication (2005) Towards a Model Policy in Schools on the Use of Reasonable Force
http://www.deni.gov.uk/reasonable_force2002-3.pdf PDF 111 KB
Equality Commission guidance on sexual orientation and education
http://www.equalityni.org/archive/pdf/SOEducationguide1(1).pdf PDF 1.6 MB