Should Teachers Be Allowed To Use "Reasonable Force" With Their Students?

Recently the UK announced some controversial plans to deal with bad behaviour in schools which include plans to allow teachers to use ‘reasonable force’ when dealing with students.

The leaked plans intend to increase teacher’s pay to 30k by 2022 however, the plan also intends to introduce more stringent rules in a fight against ill-discipline.

Teachers are set to be given further powers when it comes to confiscating phones, detention and suspending disruptive students.

"This government backs headteachers to improve behaviour and will support them to create safe and disciplined school environments," the leaked document is said to state.

"We will back heads to use powers to promote good behaviour including sanctions and rewards; using reasonable force; to search and confiscate items from pupils (including mobile phones); impose same-day detentions; suspend and expel pupils; ban mobile phones."

It is unclear what exactly ‘reasonable force’ would entail, the circumstances in which it would be appropriate to use it if the situations would be up for interpretation. 

Two girls talking in school
What seems reasonable to one teacher may seem unreasonable to another.

The government, I am relieved to see, has been criticised for these proposals that would set a very dangerous precedent. The National Education Union has also criticised the government for not clearly defining what ‘reasonable force’ is and which situations would be acceptable to use such force. 

This really does scare me as a mother of four. I think the word reasonable force is dangerously open to interpretation. What seems reasonable to one teacher may seem unreasonable to another. How can using force against students at all end with a positive result? Haven’t we tried this before? Have we not learned to do better than this?

There is a profuse amount of evidence that proves physical and mental punishment is both harmful and ineffective to a child’s development.

This is backed by scientific evidence. There is no room for interpretation. It is detrimental for a child’s development. 

It may work in the short term as a solution to immediately stop behaviour, but in the long run it will only make the behaviour worse. Studies show that physical punishment in the long term actually makes behaviour worse. 

It also continues a cycle of abuse. Children who have been physically punished go on to use the same to solve problems with their own peers. What are we teaching children by doing this?

Studies have shown that physical punishment can and does have lasting impacts - it increases the likelihood of developing mood disorders, anxiety, alcohol or drug dependence and personality disorders. 

The sole purpose of discipline, which comes from the Latin meaning 'to teach,' is to change behaviour. And physical discipline across a plethora of studies has been proven ineffective at changing behaviour. It only teaches children that physical discipline is an acceptable form of problem-solving, which it absolutely is not. 

Is this what we want for our children? I certainly do not. 

Laura Doyle

Mum of four, Gentle parent living on coffee and trying always to stay positive and motivate in the midst of the madness.

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