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.

Total votes: 601


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


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)

77 users have voted.
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

72 users have voted.
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.

72 users have voted.
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.

69 users have voted.
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

53 users have voted.
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.

45 users have voted.
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. 

54 users have voted.
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

32 users have voted.
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!

14 users have voted.
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)

13 users have voted.
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.

12 users have voted.
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.

19 users have voted.
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 .

17 users have voted.
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

13 users have voted.
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

14 users have voted.
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.

14 users have voted.
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:)

16 users have voted.
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 .

14 users have voted.
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!

16 users have voted.
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.

15 users have voted.
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

18 users have voted.
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

22 users have voted.
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)

14 users have voted.
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.

23 users have voted.