Weydon School is under fire after rolling out a strict new behaviour policy this term – with parents speaking out against the changes.
The new policy came into effect in September and was formed with guidance from the Department of Education and inspired by practices used in other schools.
But parents claim their children are getting sent to detention for minor infractions such as forgetting a pencil or being one minute late for class.
Some detentions were issued on the same-day and took place after school with little notice given to parents.
The school has since relaxed its policy to give 24 hours notice of after-school detentions after parents raised concerns about the safety implications for children getting home.
But a raft of parents have contacted the Herald, claiming their children are still receiving detentions for minor infractions and that their mental health and well-being are suffering as a result, and agreed to share their concerns under the promise of anonymity.
The behaviour policy states: “Warnings are given in lessons for any behaviour that either stops a student learning or stops others from learning.”
But parents say in practice, students now receive an immediate detention or get sent to the ‘Reflection Room’ for offences as small as turning up to a lesson one-minute late.
One parent said: “The policy provides a list of infractions that will have warnings provided. Myself and other parents I have spoken to have first-hand experience of this not occurring, rather a detention given the first time.”
“The same punishment for truancy or swearing at teachers is the same for being one minute late to a lesson or forgetting a book,” another parent complained.
And another said: “The school will say that these punishments were introduced in order to address disruptive pupils. This is clearly not the case when pupils are given these punishments for any infraction at all.”
Concerns have also been raised over the ‘Reflection Room’, where students spend the entire day away from regular lessons.
“My daughter has been placed in the Reflection Room on a few occasions for minor infractions,” said one mum. “She is currently completing her GCSEs and should not be removed from face-to-face teaching for 24 hours at a time.”
How students get home safely once they are finished with detention after school is another significant concern. Darker evenings, transport options and prior commitments are some of the points raised by parents.
Mental health is a worry, too, with one parent saying her daughter cries at school, is unhappy and is scared of unjust detention.
“At least three families have removed their children from the school,” another anonymous source said.
Principal Jackie Sharman said: “The most important challenges Weydon and other WMAT schools are facing are safeguarding our students, maintaining the mental health and well-being of staff and students, ensuring they attend regularly and addressing the behaviour of some possibly bought on by the lack of socialisation during the pandemic, as well as improving behaviour for learning more generally.
“We have taken a bold step in creating a wide-ranging behaviour management policy and we know this has bought comment from some parents. We have already changed various parts as a result, for example moving from same-day detentions to next day detentions.
“This policy is designed to ensure that our students can learn without disruption and thrive.
“Our tutors work with the students in the morning to ensure that they have the correct uniform and equipment for the day ahead and our teachers, through a warning system, make sure that the expectations are understood before a sanction is issued.
“We will keep reviewing our policy in the light of feedback and urge all parents to communicate through the appropriate school channels because we do listen. Please contact [email protected] for more information.”
It comes just four months after Weydon was downgraded from ‘outstanding’ to ‘good’ after its first Ofsted inspection in 14 years in July, with inspectors taking issue with the attendance record of students.
By Michelle Monaghan