Sometimes, the urge to do something bad overcomes us, or we do not think about the consequences of our actions. Either way, whenever our behaviour is deemed undesirable, we are punished. Punishments keep us in line and are supposed to make us reflect on our actions. The place where punishments are common is in schools; from nursery all the way through to university. Punishments in schools is a large area of dispute and has been for decades. However, the majority of punishments and main aim of them have remained the same in 2023.
Fortunately, corporal punishment is illegal, so you do not need to be worried about a cane or whip! However, that does not mean that you will not get punished for behaviour that is out of line.
Everyone is familiar with the typical punishments of detentions, suspensions, and expulsions but in this article, I seek to help you an understand 15 types of punishment used in schools. Hopefully, you can avoid them or at least have some idea of what to expect. Let’s jump into it!
We all know this type of punishment. Detentions are probably the most common punishment, especially in secondary schools. Detentions typically consist of giving up your own time, whether that be during a breaktime or afterschool. They can last anywhere between five minutes to an hour, maybe even more, depending on what you did to land yourself in detention. Sometimes, in more extreme cases, a few schools have detention sessions over the weekend.
How often and why detentions are given out varies from school to school and teacher to teacher. However, a common reason as to why they are given is because a student has had three chances (sometimes called a strike or warning system) which they have used up due to bad behaviour. This means that the teacher(s) must now “step up” to the next level, which is a detention, because the strike/warning system did not work.
Another instance of where the strike/warning system is used is when a student is late. For example, unless there is a situation that the school is aware about (roadworks, family issues), being late three times in a week gets you a detention.
Other common ways students get detentions are breaking the uniform code, being disruptive during lessons, breaking school property, forgetting supplies/stationery and going on your phone when it is prohibited. So, as you can see, there are many ways that can land you a detention.
What you do during a detention depends on your teacher supervising you, what you did and how long your detention is. Some of the punishments listed below are used during detentions, however, the classic sit-in-silence is still an option used by teachers. Another common one is repeatedly writing a sentence for a set amount of times or during your allocated detention time.
Another well-known punishment are suspensions. Suspensions are a lot more serious than detentions because they go on your permanent record and future schools will be able to see.
However, do not fret because a one-off, short suspension should not affect you too much. Suspensions are essentially the next level up from detentions and you have to do something pretty serious to get one.
Sometimes, suspensions are given due to repeated detentions being handed to a student, however, that student is usually referred to a counsellor, as mentioned later in this list. Typically, seriously injuring someone or extreme cases or malicious bullying are the main reasons why suspensions are given. However, those two are not the only examples.
Suspensions can last anywhere from one to five days (the maximum amount of days you can be initially suspended for). That being said, the suspension can be extended if the headteacher gets approval from the Chair of the Board of Governors.
A method of collecting and giving in schoolwork will be arranged – you have to do the work your peers are doing in class at home, suspensions are not just a few days off school! Additionally, it is not uncommon for suspended student to be asked to write a reflection or apology of a set amount of words or pages, ready for when they go back to lessons.
Depending on your school, expulsions can be called varying names, such as a: dismissal, (permanent) exclusion or withdrawal. However, no matter which name is used, exclusions cause all ties to be severed between the school and you.
Your education at the school where you have been excluded is terminated and you are forced to attend another school or educational unit. However, exclusions are only allowed after the school has truly tried everything to help a student – it is the last resort.
The main reason that students are expelled is for extremely breaching a school’s policies or rules and putting themselves or others in harm’s way due to this.
Another reason for expulsion is poor attendance. When unauthorised attendance is so low, the Board of Governors have the right to exclude you, but only after a meeting has been held, read more about this here on the gov website. To avoid this, read this article on how many unauthorised absences are allowed.
Wklaw.com discuss the many consequences of expelling students – you can see this here. A discussion about this damage to students can be also be found here. Thankfully lots of schools do now realise this and take a more caring and constructive approach to discipline. However, expulsions are necessary when people’s safety is at risk.
Sometimes, expulsions can be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps the school was not right for you, so being forced to transfer may not be such a bad thing. This article states multiple reasons why transferring to another school is not all bad.
4. Loss of breaktimes
This can be used a single student or class punishment. When a lesson is before a break, the students who are receiving this punishment must stay behind for, on average, ten minutes. During those ten minutes, you usually have to explain your actions and apologise. The main reason students have to stay behind is due to disruptions and disengagement.
When the whole class is involved, it is due to disruptions resulting in less learning time because time is wasted. The lesson carries on into a break, so that the teacher can finish their lesson plan.
This less severe punishment is essentially a warning as the “next level up” is a detention.
However, there can be detentions during breaktimes too. Usually, you will have to go to a teacher’s office or classroom.
Breaktime detentions are shorter and therefore, less severe actions get punished during them. An example is breaking the no jewellery rule by wearing a small necklace. Due to its size and minimal safety breaches, a full hour detention is inappropriate, so perhaps a fifteen minute one will be given.
During that time, you may have to copy out your school’s uniform policy or write repeated lines – both of which are mentioned as a separate later on in the article.
5. Staying afterschool
Once again, this can be a punishment for a singular student or the whole class. It is very similar to the loss of breaktimes but usually applies to afterschool detentions.
Afterschool detentions are given out for quite serious events, such as constant rule breaking. However, you could be forced to attend a club or a society afterschool, rather than a detention as a different approach to correcting behaviour.
This is because detentions do not always work, so the unconventional approach of “punishing” someone by forcing them to go to a club that they would not go to otherwise could create a positive experience for the punished student.
When a whole class is held back, is it the same as being held back during breaktimes. However, of course, if there is a serious episode, the class could stay back for a whole hour.
For singular students, being told to stay behind afterschool could be an invite to a private study session with a teacher. If disengagement is high with a student, teachers may want to try to help the student themselves first.
In most cases, the extra attention and help really benefits the student, so this “punishment” – and other alternatives – are much more common these days, due to their success at improving student behaviour. Scholars.org discuss this success here.
Isolation, sometimes known as in school suspension (ISS), can be sitting by yourself in the classroom or doing work in solidarity in a designated “isolation room”. Both consist of being alone and doing work independently and in silence. Isolations are mainly given out due to disruptive behaviour in the classroom.
The least extreme, sitting on your own table in the classroom, is a quick fix for disruptions. The disruptive student(s) is moved to their own table – typically in front of the teacher or at the back, behind everyone else. They are made to work without discussion nor interaction. The next lesson, the isolated student goes back to their normal seat.
The most extreme version of isolation is when you are forced to sit in a room alone or in a designated “isolation room” with dividers between students. For one to five days, you will have to do independent learning and without the aid of anyone else. Sometimes, you will have to spend your breaks in the room as well.
However, discussions about the flaws of isolation booths are beginning to increasing surface, so perhaps in a few decades, extreme isolation in schools (sitting in a room alone) may not be a thing. Further discussions on this can be found here.
7. Helping a teacher
Sitting in silence during detentions has been a typical choice for teachers. However, they are now branching out to different ways to fill detention time. Helping the teacher is an increasingly common choice and can be done during a detention or as a punishment in itself. This can also be adapted to fit any length of the detention time you have – you could do one small task in ten minutes or multiple in an hour.
This less severe punishment consists of effectively being the teacher’s assistant for however long you are being punished for. Common activities done usually fall under the umbrella of simple organisation which includes moving stacks of books, sorting out papers or books etc, or tidying a classroom.
This type of punishment is usually given out to students who mildly misbehave in class or slightly break the dress code.
Sometimes, if you finish all that you are asked to do early and to a good standard, you may be allowed to leave early!
This is one of the milder punishments out there, especially if the teacher is nice/likes you.
8. Seating rearrangement
This punishment is one the less severe ones and can be applied to one person, a group or the whole class. This is done to quickly stop disruptions in lessons without the teacher having to pause teaching to write up a detention form.
Sometimes, only one person is moved, but sometimes, the teacher can rearrange the whole class.
For a singular disruptive student, they are moved next to someone quieter or to a table alone. This is not the best way to stop the student from being troublesome because they can continue to cause disturbance in their new seat.
Similarly, for a group that are not focusing due to talking too much, they are all separated away from each other. Once again, they may talk to their new desk neighbours, but the chatter will be less and quieter.
If the whole class is continually disruptive and not paying attention to the teacher, a new seating plan will be put into place. Teachers purposely place students in specific seats to decrease the unwanted chatter. However, not many teachers allow students to pick their seats, especially in higher years, so a whole class rearrangement is quite rare.
Usually done during detentions or suspensions, writing is probably the most despised punishment among students. This is because, most commonly, you have to write the same line over and over again, copy a sheet or booklet or write an essay/apology letter on what you did and why it was wrong and sometime what you will do to better yourself.
Sometimes, you may have to write out your school’s policy, so for example, if you break your schools uniform rules, you may have to copy out your school’s uniform policy for the time you are being detained for.
During your suspension, you may be asked to write an essay, which needs to be handed in the day you come back to school. Similarly, outside of a detention, you may have to write an essay in your own time.
Writing tasks are usually given out to those who have hurt someone else or damaged something, such as school property. They also help teachers understand why the student behaved in that way so they can prevent it in the future.
10. Parental/Guardian involvement
This is usually done in conjunction with other more serious punishments, such as suspensions and expulsions. Teachers can call parents without the permission of people in higher positions. Letters and emails can also be sent to inform parents/guardians of actions their child has done.
To notify parents of a suspension or exclusion, parents or guardians are called. This is in case the letter or email was not received by them. Parents/guardian are also called to notify them of their child’s behaviour, so the punishment or talk can be given at home if a punishment by school would be deemed inappropriate or too harsh.
Calling parents is usually done if some undesirable behaviour has suddenly started or come up as an anomaly. The harsher punishments are held back on in case there is something personal or at home going on.
However, not all punishments are accompanied with calls to parents. Most of the punishments on this list are used alone, without calling parents, for milder behavioural blips. So, your parents are not necessarily made aware of your detentions, but perhaps they will be for the longer, one hour or weekend detention sessions.
11. Extra homework
This punishment is almost always given to students who are disruptive in class, rather than those who are violent or break the dress code, for example. Due to the student being disruptive to the class, they also disrupt their own learning. Therefore, it is imperative that they do not fall behind.
Sometimes, the student will also be made to attend some one-to-one or group study sessions, as well as being given extra homework. This is because, sometimes, the disruptive student does not have the grades that they are capable of having, so extra tutoring is beneficial and having homework from the sessions helps them understand and practice concepts more.
However, experienced teachers are usually good at judging a student, so they may not feel the need to send the student to study sessions because they think that they are capable enough and just need a slight push. Therefore, the extra homework on is used its own.
Just because the homework is extra, it does not mean that teachers will forget about it. Not doing the work will lead to another form of punishment on this list, additionally, you will still have to finish the homework you were given.
With extra homework, you may be struggling to do the work or you may not want to do the work at all, so check out this Think Student article to help stay motivated.
12. Loss of “privileges”
This type of punishment is practically almost always used in primary schools. However, depending on your school or teachers, you may have a reward system or something similar, despite your school not being a primary school. Sometimes, with these systems, you may get awarded for good behaviour, so it makes sense to take away something for bad behaviour.
A common “privilege” for primary school students is time on Friday afternoons to play. For misbehaving children, they get the “privilege” of this free time taken away. This is to teach them that actions have consequences in a way that is understandable, and the punishment affects them. This reflects in detentions and punishments used in school full of older students – they are all consequences to actions.
Sometimes, in a handful of schools, when you are in a position, there may be “privileges” that come along with it. For example, if you are in the school council, you may be able to skip the lunch queue. However, if you behave badly but not in a severe way, this “privilege” of skipping the queue will be taken away. If the action done was serve, your whole position can be taken, which is a punishment in itself, which is detailed below.
Taking away a privilege is a repercussion for a small, anomalous behaviour blip. Giving a serve punishment like an hour detention when the student had a small anomaly in their good behaviour would be a disproportionate punishment and taking away their privileges as a warning could be more effective.
13. Loss of position
Depending on how severe the action which caused the loss of position was, loss of a position can be temporary or permanent. The position in question could be anything, from a society leader to a sports captain to even head boy or girl.
For milder bad behaviour or as a warning, temporary suspensions from a position are used. If a student is in a position of “power”, such as the ones listed above, they obviously care about their position, taking it away could be more effective than a detention. During temporary suspensions, students usually try harder to improve their behaviour, so, in fear of losing their position again, they do not act out of line again.
For more severe behaviour, a permanent loss of position is used. This is also used as a punishment for repeated bad behaviour, so you will have some chances, unless the action was extreme. Usually, the extreme action done shows that the student does not have the responsibility to keep their position.
Permanently losing your position does not look great to other schools or employers and could overshadow other aspects and good qualities that you have, so try to take all on all the responsibilities and take being in a high position seriously.
If you are interested in positions of responsibility in your school, check out this article about applying for head girl/boy. Even if you are not planning on going for that position, the tips given can help for other roles, such as a team captain.
14. Litter picking
Similar to helping a teacher, litter picking can sometimes be assigned during a detention session or as a punishment in itself. It is designed to be as boring as possible, so it is done afterschool, with a teacher supervising.
A grabber (little picking device) will be provided and so will a bin bag. The job is pretty self-explanatory, but due to its brainlessness, it is one most students despise.
Sometimes, you may be asked to go around the school, however, usually, the litter picking area where you will be is within close proximity to the teacher supervising or where they can see you. This is because it is easier for them and it actually makes its easier for you because you have less ground to cover.
If you have picked up all the obvious bits of litter, you may be able to leave. However, if the litter picking is part of a detention, you could be asked to go back inside and do something else.
Most litter pickings only last 10 to 30 minutes simply because there should not be too much litter, so despite the boring factor, the punishment is usually over quite quickly.
Litter pickings can be given out as a punishment for any mild behaviour mishaps, depending on the teacher’s choice.
Sometimes, there is an uncovered root to someone’s repeated unacceptable behaviour. This is where counselling comes in. Technically, it is not a form of punishment, but some students who are sent to a counsellor are apprehensive about it.
It is difficult to say when counselling is “assigned” to students and what happens within those sessions. Some schools refer students to counselling quite early after showing undesirable behavioural tendencies.
However, the most common possibility is that more time will be taken before a decision is made. Counselling sessions are tailored to the student attending them, so while the methods may be the same at the core, they are essentially moulded to fit the student’s needs, depending how they respond to questions. The counselling sessions can be one-to-one or held as a group. Some aids may be used to help a student open up to the counsellor or crack down on the root of the problem.
Actually receiving a counselling invite is quite rare in most schools. You would have to frequently get in trouble across a long period of time and receive multiple detentions. However, sudden changes in behaviour can also get you sent to a counsellor. Graders and reports are also taken into account – more thought and analysis go into this punishment because the need for counselling can be a combination of multiple factors interacting.
Counselling is becoming an increasingly popular “punishment” or a way to deal with students, because it is effective and works to fully eradicate or improve the problem, rather than just scratching at the surface.
Hopefully you wont familiarise yourself with the punishments mentioned above. School is often talked about the “best years of your life” so make sure you enjoy school, but most importantly make sure you behave!