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?


Elen@'s picture
Elen@ 5 December, 2013 - 14:38

In my school, I think that the rules aren't very strict! If the students play truant a lot of times or they do many things that are against the rules, the headteacher will suspend the child, and very rarely he'll expell him. Usually the teachers tell us off for different things!

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Theodora's picture
Theodora 7 October, 2013 - 18:32

I've never been punished at school!
Some punishments in Greek schools are:
~Lines (Sometimes)
~Absence (When a pupil get 157 absence he/she leave in the same class)

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pouria's picture
pouria 3 October, 2013 - 14:24

hi,i am pouria from iran.i am not lucky,in iran teachers gives hard and long homework,sometimes students donot write homework and teachers hit them.with pen,pencil,key and ... .if we donot do homework teachers gives long home work.yesterday my english teacher gives long homework :i will follow the rules 100times,i most not shout in class 100times.

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justcricketforme's picture
justcricketforme 4 September, 2013 - 14:43

I've never got punished thank godness! Schools here in Pakistan are very strict especially governmant schools. In government schools, terrible things are heard. They get hit by sticks on their knuckles if they do a single spelling mistake. Things aren't that bad in my school. For wearing wrong uniform, you get notices three times and on the fourth time either you stay at home till you wear the write uniform. If your late twice you stay at home till a week. If you don't compelete or do your homework on time, you stay two hours after school and no Physical Education for a week and Arts and Crafts. If boys hair are very long, the teacher just cut the hair and those hair-cuts are aweful people don't come to school because they can't face that much humiliation. If girls don't tie their hair and they are till shoulders, they are lined up and their hair is tied infront of the whole school! If your caught fighting, you're either expelled from the school or suspended for a month and my class mates have faced it! I've heard that children in government are trtured by the teachers on discipline. In my school if in school (except for Urdu period) if you speak any other language other than English you pay ten rupees for one word and my best friend had to give all of here pocket money (five hundred rupees!) for talking in Urdu in recess and we also face detentions if we do our work wrong.

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Ines's picture
Ines 24 July, 2013 - 17:53

I've never been puniched , my school deal with decpline problems only with those student who does not have someone to help them to solve a problem but the princple always say "it's ok" when the student who made a huge problem is one of the teachers' son or daughter . any way , that's not fair at all .

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Toma English's picture
Toma English 3 July, 2013 - 00:49

I don't remember If I have been punished before :D
but there is a list of how punishment are in Egypt
- Suspension for 15 days
- getting lower marks in final exams
- Expulsions when a pupil is very bad
- Parents calling to make them deal with the pupil
those all I can remember right now

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hayaalhams's picture
hayaalhams 19 June, 2013 - 09:56

my school can deal with discipline but not all the time .. when i heard about discipline problem i feel sad ... because i think we shouldn't have adiscipline problems in the school atmospher .. i'v never punished at school ... i hope we won't have any discipline problems in our schools any more

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emitis's picture
emitis 15 May, 2013 - 07:01

Hi everyone. I have never been punished at school. At my school there are some of the ways for puished respectively:
- Warning
-Written notice and obtain commitment
-Parent's share issue
If pupils not punish in each stage, additionall stage are carried out.

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 9 May, 2013 - 18:43

Hi, afiramadhan
I think that microphone could be very useful, because in that way everyone know what happened, so the guilty student will feel ashamed, and won't do that again, but not in every case,of course.
How old are? Could you tell me what subjects you study at school and what's your favourite subject?
Looking forward to your reply:)

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afiramadhan's picture
afiramadhan 5 May, 2013 - 07:52

Hi. Well, here in Indonesian school, we have many kinds of punishments, and that's not too different with in the UK school, but in my school, the major punishment is attention calls. When a pupil have a not-too-serious bad behaviour, education staff in my school will call them with a microphone, so all students can hear it (I think this will make the students scared). But if they have a bad behaviour, headmaster will call their parents (one or both of them!) to meet and talked about the problem. Fortunately, I'd never get a punishment till now, thanks god .

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hadia's picture
hadia 12 April, 2015 - 09:58

wow! it's an excellent way of managing discipline in the school! by using a microphone, which results in improving the behaviour of the students and they will surely not repeat it again in the future!

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 31 March, 2013 - 20:03

I have never been published at school, I like discipline. At my school there are some spoiled kids who think they're awesome if do bad things, like smoking, drinking alcohol, dating and going out late, but I think they have a serious problem, a deep one, which starts at home. They are insecure and it's just their way to get affection. I'd like my school to have bigger punishments for students like this, because only punishments can bring them to the right way. Principal in my school doesn't always see what's happening, so those students are often unpunished, but I think school should increase punishments.
Once a student in my school slapped a teacher and I was so surprised. He was immediately expelled, but this problem will emerge again if school don't increase punishments as soon as possible.

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fatmira n's picture
fatmira n 19 March, 2013 - 16:14

The disiplin in my school is strick.
We have some rules and we implement it.
No i have never punished at school

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ppp's picture
ppp 6 March, 2013 - 11:25

I'm from Belarus, and there are a lot of differenses in punishments of british schools and our schools.
-Exclusion: first of all we have 11 forms. Pupils can't be excluded until they end 9th form, the only thing teachers can do is reccomend parents to change school.
-We don't have such things as suspensions.
-Attention call is the most popular punishment in belarussians school. I just got one today =)
So, this is how we roll :D

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JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 6 March, 2013 - 13:04

Hi ppp,
What's 'Attention call'? Can you explain it to us?
Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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aida's picture
aida 24 February, 2013 - 11:07

I've never been punished at school
but sia of the things that punished here in Albania's schools are:
Serious and offensive behavior towards friends (teenage)
• Contamination of the school environment
• A lack of duties and obligations imposed by the school
• No use of the school uniform dress code.
• Use or possession of other items without permission.
• Failure to participate or delays in learning, courses, seminars, laboratories, workshops and educational excursions without prior permission or without know why.
• Concern that can be brought to others through noise, shouting, use of musical instruments, etc.
• Debates in the school of political and ideological
• Failure time teaching schedule.

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marblo's picture
marblo 5 February, 2013 - 20:20

Hello I'm spanish.In my class people are rude,unpolished and shout during the classes.They also throw pens,pencils,rubbers,pencilcases and even backpacks!They don´t obey to the teachers and they don´t study or do their homework.
I've never been punished and I'm a really good student.I think parents are part of the problem,because they didn't make their sons polished,they sometimes just give them what they want, when they want;and they think their sons are the bests and do everything well.

JoEditor:AdrianMadu was joking!Our teachers don´t hang our thumbs on the roof,but some students unfortunately really deserve that punishment.

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jenniferkim's picture
jenniferkim 25 December, 2012 - 08:24

In my country south Korea, the teachers are not allowed to hit pupils.
I think it's a really great idea for me.
I punished to stand behind the classroom for the whole class because I forgot to bring my books.
It was the most horrible day I remember in school. It's was so amberassing!!!
I don't want to think about it.

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PinkClaudia35's picture
PinkClaudia35 10 December, 2012 - 17:04

I see that in UK the punishments are much more "normal" than in my country. I'll move in uk soon and now I'm really happy with what I found about the schools in uk. I live in Romania, our punishments are not very legal I think. If we don't pay attention in class our teacher doesn't mind at all, when there's a test or something It's your own problem when and what you learn, the teacher only gives you notes on what they teached you. If you didn't learnt properly, you won't get a good grade. If you aren't paying attention and distract other pupils too or talk, the teacher would call on you to the blackboard and give you a problem, if you don't know anything, you'll get a bad grade. Also if you do bad things( hit others with snowballs, wet with water or any other liquid another pupil, hit another pupil), the teacher will punish you in their own way. They may hit you( i don't think this is pretty normal), they may give you a bad grade, they may call your parents, you get -points(everyone has 10 points, if you lose 4 points and remain only with 6, you'll be called to the director, you may get expelled or repeat the year again). The most of the male teachers hit you, it's pretty bad because they are male and that means they are tought, you'll be hurt. There are no restrictions like kissing, swearing or bullying(only swearing, hitting is bad).

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Jerry's picture
Jerry 3 December, 2012 - 15:40

I think that lines (to make pupils write sentences 100s of times) is ineffective and primitive to say the least. Few idiots will change after having written the sentence: "Misbehaviour is bad for you and the community." Copying without thinking is not a kind of punishment or strengthening of morals, but rather training of morons, little "soldiers", and yes-man.

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Etibar98's picture
Etibar98 29 November, 2012 - 13:00

Azerbaijan they say us . leave the room. or yhey call our parents. Sometimes they say your take your hands to your neck.then sit and stand for 150 times

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Anahí's picture
Anahí 28 November, 2012 - 16:57

In my school we have the same rules as in the UK, and pe seems a good way to educate students, I think that the student who did all that in the UK that school greatly exaggerated, and if you do not feel like studying so that Aque not study but do not get in trouble at school, and any parent who puts her children at a school read the rules and if you agree then consider his daughter in this school but does not like to change it, not problems institute.

Thank God I was never punished and do not want to be punished, with the education that my parents give me and I have not caused prblemas discipline in my school. I believe that good education college United Unidoy continue on with their education and their school.

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DachochoDa's picture
DachochoDa 27 November, 2012 - 21:33

In the text i saw spelling of Freya's surname MacDonald, i thought it's spelled McDonald. Is one of them incorrect, or are they just different surnames?

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