Spielman: Writing lines as punishment is 'entirely appropriate'

Ofsted will focus more on pupil behaviour from next year, and headteachers who make badly behaved pupils write lines or do community service will be given its “full support”, the chief inspector of schools has said.

In her keynote speech to the Festival of Education, Amanda Spielman explained how Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which comes into force next September, will have a “clearer focus on behaviour”. The new regime will “probably” include a separate judgement focusing purely on the “behaviour and attitudes” of pupils.

I think it’s entirely appropriate to use sanctions, such as writing lines, ‘community service’ in the school grounds

“I fundamentally disagree with those who say that taking a tough stance on behaviour is unfair to children. Quite the opposite, there is nothing kind about letting a few pupils spoil school for everyone else,” she said.

“I think it’s entirely appropriate to use sanctions, such as writing lines, community service in the school grounds – such as picking up litter – and school detentions. And where they are part of a school’s behaviour policy they’ll have our full support.”

Spielman also backed the culture secretary Matthew Hancock’s recent call for more schools to ban mobile phones, saying she is “yet to be convinced of the educational benefits of all day access to Snapchat” and the place of mobile phones in the classroom is “dubious is best”.

Schools already have the freedom to ban or curb the use of phones while pupils are on site, and the Department for Education claims 95 per cent of schools in England already exercise that right.

Spielman announced that Ofsted is designing a study to assess whether schools are hiding the worst behaved pupils from inspectors, including through strategically planned school trips.

But Nick Brook, NAHT’s deputy general secretary, said it is “extremely unlikely that a school trip for a group of unruly pupils” could be organised in time for an inspection, as schools get less than a day’s notice that is Ofsted is going to arrive.

“Holding schools to account for the work that they do is an essential part of our publicly funded education system, but the National Audit Office recently concluded that Ofsted cannot show whether its school inspections are having a positive impact on standards,” he said.

“This should be Ofsted’s focus for the coming 12 months, not rumour-driven investigations which could further erode public confidence.

“Whilst behaviour may be a problem in a minority of schools, there’s no evidence that it is a problem everywhere. ‘Taking a firm stance’ is not necessarily the right approach in every case and school leaders need to feel confident that Ofsted will back their approach to behaviour, whatever it may be, so long as it is working.”

Spielman also discussed plans for “more dialogue with a wider range of staff” like trainee teachers and lunchtime supervisors, who may be more exposed to poor behaviour. The possibility of an expert advisory panel of heads and teachers “who have taken an explicit, firm and successful approach to eliminating poor behaviour” was also mooted.

Pupil behaviour is the number one concern that parents raise with Ofsted and a “primary driver of low morale in the profession”. “Low-level disruption” should be looked at “just as hard” as serious behavioural issues.