Does your school have any problems with discipline? What happens when students step out of line?

Is discipline a problem in your school? What do teachers do when pupils behave badly in your country? A Scottish teenager had very strong opinions about discipline at her school. Read on to find out more.

What is bad behaviour?

UK schools are allowed to discipline pupils who behave badly in various ways. But what exactly is bad behaviour? The following is a list of serious and not-so-serious types of bad behaviour seen by a teacher in a London secondary school.

  • Playing truant
  • Smoking, swearing, hitting, kissing, running, stealing
  • Not doing homework
  • Cheating in exams (copying from secret notes or another pupil)
  • Calling a teacher or another pupil bad names (bullying)
  • Not listening or not paying attention in lessons
  • Wearing unsuitable clothes for school.

Punishments in UK schools

It is illegal for schools to use physical punishments like hitting a student. Here are some of the ways that UK school children can be punished.

  • Exclusion: a pupil is excluded from the school and cannot come back. The pupil has to find a new school or a different method of education (home tutor, special centre for difficult pupils).
  • Suspension: when a pupil is suspended they cannot enter the building or attend lessons until the school has a meeting about their case. Suspension can last from 1 to 45 days in a school term. The school usually gives work to do at home with a tutor (special teacher).
  • Detention: a pupil is detained. This means he or she is asked to stay at school at the end of the school day. The pupil must work for 30 minutes or an hour more before they are allowed to leave the school.
  • Lines: a pupil has to write a sentence many times (100 times) on a sheet of paper: An example sentence: I must not shout in class. This punishment is sometimes given during detention too.

Case study

Freya MacDonald, a 15-year-old pupil from Scotland, made the news in the UK when she refused to accept her school’s punishment. Freya’s family say that she was given detention many times for trivial things such as drinking fizzy drinks in class and coming into school through a fire door. After her secondary school gave her detention for the eleventh time, she went to a lawyer and took legal action against the school. The teenager said that it is not legal to keep a pupil in the school building if the student does not want to be there because Scottish law says that it is illegal to detain children against their will.

According to Scottish law every child has the right to an education. Freya says that repeated detentions disrupted her education and made it difficult for her to learn. She refused to return to school until the school respected her civil rights. She wants the headmaster and her teachers to sign a letter to promise they will respect her rights.

Hundreds of schools in Scotland were told not to use detention as a punishment because of Freya’s legal action.


Many schools in the UK now give parents a home/school contract. This is a contract explaining the school discipline and rules. Parents must sign this document and agree that they accept the school’s rules. They are responsible for their child’s behaviour and must respect the discipline methods used in the school.


How does your school deal with discipline problems? Have you ever been punished at school?


donya123's picture
donya123 4 January, 2016 - 19:04

In my school there are also strict rules, like suspension, detenion and lines. Actually my school punishes pupuil for every mistake. There are strict rule, which we have to follow. My school is very serious about rules. I mean rules like forgetting homework, attending late at class, disrespecting your teacher, but if someone is bullying you the teachers do not care. Even if you talk to them. Yes I have been punished once, but at that time I was too young. I had to write ten pages, which included the sentences that I will never eat during a lesson. so far I remember I have not been punished anymore. I think we should follow the rules and recpect the teacher but we want to be respected to. We pupil have the right to speak up our rights.

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LolitaFlores's picture
LolitaFlores 24 July, 2015 - 12:49

Hello, I am from Spain, and in my school the punishments are:

-notes to your parents
-lines (200)
-exclusion for one week or more.

Once I had to write 200 lines saying "I mustn't speak in the class when the teacher is explaining something".


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Tolstaya63's picture
Tolstaya63 24 April, 2015 - 07:03

I'm from Russia.
Some punished in Russian school:
Teacher call perents.
For example:
I've never beer punished at school, thanks good! But my friend was punished. He played traunt. The teacher called his parents :( His parent are very strict. So he was punished by his parents. They didn't allow him to go for a walk in the evening.

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Yuliponomarenko's picture
Yuliponomarenko 23 April, 2015 - 05:16

I'm from Russia. We are not offen punished at our school for bad behaviour Swearing, playing truant or any other bad behaviour aren't punished strictly. The teacher can call your parents or you'll have a talk with the principle. That's all!

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IShchu's picture
IShchu 21 April, 2015 - 16:07

I am from Russia. It was once time when I was punished at school. We broke the school door.
There are some punishments at my school. Most effective of them is a serious talk with the headmaster.

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BruceLee's picture
BruceLee 20 April, 2015 - 09:16

Hello, I'm from Russia. Bad-behaved pupils are usually punished by a talk with a head-master. He talks with a defaulter and decides how to punish that pupil.
I was in the principle's room for a discipline issue. I came to school with my bear through the window:)

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Englishrocksmysocks's picture
Englishrocksmysocks 20 April, 2015 - 08:38

As for my school (in Russia) we haven't got a lot of serious discipline issues. But what a big problem for us is not wearing school uniform. Usually we are punished by a talk with a head master and sometimes teacher can make a call to our parents. I have never been punished at school.

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Ken's picture
Ken 19 April, 2015 - 08:06

To be honest, with a group of friends, I got a serious talk with the principal because of picking pomegranates off the tree in school premise and eating them. My mother was occasionally called by my homeroom teacher whenever we were badly behaved such as sucking on a candy, playing balls in the wrong place, climbing up gym mats leaning against the wall, and for lots of trivial things! Like Freya as an innocent kid, I wasn't really sure why not, but I gradually realized that it mattered not in terms of 'discipline' or 'rules', but rather in terms of 'for our better social life'. We're all connected somewhere in the social life where 'to respect' reduces frictions between people. We made a point to break the 'school rules', but now I'm as meek as a lamb, so are my old friends! Trust me! :-)))

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EarlyBird's picture
EarlyBird 13 April, 2015 - 12:00

I am from Russia. Here we never write lines and detention is not practiced at all. We can get a serious talk with the headmaster. It's not very pleasant!

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mbelqania's picture
mbelqania 15 February, 2015 - 17:47

my school in georgia is public and there is strict area . we don't cross the rule but when pupil done this headmaster conect to pupil's parents and they try to balans situation . in our scool also is special teachers for disable pupils but here is one big problem , we haven't got comportable enviromen school isn't outfit with modern tecnolojy

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Bro's picture
Bro 22 January, 2015 - 19:01

My school in Zimbabwe deals with discipline in the following ways:
1. lines 2. detention 3. manual labour 4. headmaster beats you 5. suspension 6. expulsion
it isn't considered strict here in Zimbabwe

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Little Dragon's picture
Little Dragon 9 December, 2014 - 12:38

Yeah, my school is rather strict. We have CCTVs in every corner of the building (except for the batrooms, of course) and teachers can suddenly appear and catch you red-handed. And almost all the time, their favourite punishments are:
- Making you write some sort of paper saying that you won't do anything mischievous again, then forcing you to get it signed by your parents.
- If you break your "promise" (the very word we use in that paper), depending on how you behave, either you will have to write the paper and ask for your parents' signature once more or the teacher will directly call your parents.
Ironically, my school is notorious for being one of the worst schools in the city. However, that is only a prejudice, for my school is a private school, and it is supposed that only bad students study there. I'm definitely not a bad student, and I've never got punished at school.

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francesca97it's picture
francesca97it 7 December, 2014 - 10:26

In my country (italy) unfortunately the rules don't respect very much. There isn't the detention and the lines are only for primary school. I think the rules should be more strict.

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hanies1904's picture
hanies1904 26 October, 2014 - 03:00

I have been punished at school with a ridiculous problem. That day, I didn't learn by heart the lesson at home so when I went to school I started to learn by heart immediately. When the teacher called my name, I started to read correctly. And then, the teacher said that I didn't learn by heart that. I wondered that I read it right so I said that to her. But she didn't listen to me and I had to stood during that lesson. The other students read like me and they had good mark and I had bad mark. Why?

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Ribana's picture
Ribana 25 October, 2014 - 18:47

In my school in Czech republic we first get warnings, if that doesn't help the teacher writes a letter to our parents, then the headmaster does the same thing, then we are told that we'll be expelled if we make just one small problem and then we are expelled. On primary school it was common that wrote some small notes in books where they write marks and the parents had to sign it. Teachers deal with cheating in the way they can. Some of them don't care about it, some of them give the cheaters worse mark or even the worst one. The discipline is not very good in my class. My classmates often fight, cheat and so on. The teachers usually just don't care. The only thing our teacher hates is coming late. If you come late three times in a month, you get a warning and next time you either come late that month or three times the next mont you get the second punishment etc.

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tintin607's picture
tintin607 11 September, 2014 - 16:43

Hello, I live in Bangkok Thailand. I attend an all girls school (French convent school) I've been punished once when I forgot my homeworks and books at home. The punishment is always like minus your behavior point. (You've got 100 pt. since the start of semester) If your point is less than 80, you must go to a temple and practice the dharma and must pay all the costs (During your holidays) If you do such a bad things (for my school like broke the school rules about hair , uniform, strike, bully) You may get an exclusion, We have Lines too but not many. Some teachers collect your money (When you're noisy in class of shouting bad words) for the class pot too, but I hate this punishment.

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Eark's picture
Eark 11 September, 2014 - 14:26

Hi! My name is Eark. Somebody might tells that my school is a very strict school. In my opinion, I don’t think so. I’ve never been punished at school . . . . I know I’m a good student :) I think the punishment is for a group of student who don’t follow the school’s discipline.

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 16 September, 2014 - 08:19

Hi Eark! Thanks for your comment. I've deleted the name of your school from your message because our house rules say 'Do not share your email address, phone number, home address, school name, messenger ID or passwords with anyone.' This is to protect your identity when you are online. 
Best wishes,
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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Stylesbabe's picture
Stylesbabe 6 April, 2014 - 04:07

Well, I'm 14 and brazilian.
Luckily I've never been punished at school. But that's not such big deal here in Brazil, because the major punishment is exclusion and it's quite easy to find another school. For some people, my school is considered strict and others even compare it to a military school.
Since it's a small place, you're watching and being watched all the time, so bullies are easily identified, but, sometimes, the school doesn't know how to deal with it, and the bully ends up only with a talk with the principal -not much-.
If you come late three times in a quarter, you're automatically suspended. If you come with any clothes which are not the school uniform, depending on the situation, or you're suspended, or you're not allowed to come in. In other school, the students can come with any type of clothes. But, anyway, there are no lines or detention.
If you're caught cheating on a test, the consequence can be a bit worst . If you ever call a teacher any bad name, you're suspended immediately. Basically, they suspend the students for everything.
Three suspensions in a quarter is the same as exclusion.
Last week, the principal had a tough talk with all the students. No more jokes or nicknames. I wouldn't call those bullies, because sometimes, people agree being called that way. Anyone who got unsatisfied could just go talk to him, and the person would change school. That was totally ridiculous.
The school also "prohibits" couples. The rule says: no kissing in the school or anyway around it while wearing the school uniform. I understand, it can be a bit unbecoming, there are younger students too, but around the school? It just makes no sense, forbid people to love.
I think that's it, those are the major rules. I read some other comments talking about Brazil, but I just wanted to show my point of view.
That's such a great text, oh and about the girl, why couldn't she just stop messing around? (not judging, just saying)
That's basically it, thank you for your attention

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erikanlove's picture
erikanlove 31 March, 2014 - 23:46

I see that in the UK, punishments and consequences are slightly more strict than my country. The examples of bad behaviour are pratically the same, but the consequenses are different. Here in Brazil, pupils are not required to write lines over and over again, this is not an occasional punishment here. Detention is another punishment that isn't very "normal" in this country. These is all.

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AnastasiyaMoscow's picture
AnastasiyaMoscow 31 March, 2014 - 13:04

I've never been punished at school, but I think in our school the discipline is absolutely not strict. Some children wear the uniform, some children don't. I think it’s wrong and unfair not to pay attention and to take measures.
About punishments:
If a teacher catch a student behaving badly, likely she/ he will warn him/her. But if a student behaves entirely terrible, of course the teacher may inform the headmaster or the student's parents about the student's behaviour so the student will have to talk to the headmaster or the parents. Then they decide what to do better. Also they can exclude the student, there are no other ways of punishments in our school.

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tintin607's picture
tintin607 11 September, 2014 - 16:45

They don't even get complained when they don't wear the uniform ? This is really strange since I live in Thailand. Every students wear the uniforms

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DKNY's picture
DKNY 30 March, 2014 - 17:34

I've never been punished at school. However, some of the bad behaviours presented constantly happen at my school. Everyday, my classmates call our teachers bad names, but they don't punish them. My school seem strict, but it isn't. They always hangover us but don't do anything. Last year, I was bullyed and cyberbullyed by a guy. He used to call me bad names, but then I decided to tell the principal. After that talk, he stopped bullying me. Luckily now, I don't suffer anymore. He should be excluded from the school, because I'm am not the only one who was bullyed by him.

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JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 30 March, 2014 - 20:31

Thanks for telling us about your school and your experience with bullying. I am pleased to see that you told your teacher about it and that the problem was resolved. Bullying is never acceptable and it's really important to tell a teacher or a parent if it ever happens to you. 
Best wishes, Joanna. 

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dzeni's picture
dzeni 27 March, 2014 - 15:22

Luckily no. My school deal with discipline problems on this way:
-when student make trouble first his teacher write record in the log
-if he continue to make trouble then he gets reprimand from director
-he can also leave class and go to another
-at worst he go to another school

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