School culture and discipline

Taking the lead from our ethos of mutual respect and empowerment, Mariposa Primary School will have a strong culture based on everyone – adults and children - learning the skills to listen, understand, voice their opinions and resolve disputes peacefully.

Essentially, we start from three observations:

  1. That strong and respectful relationships are absolutely critical to a child’s development and educational achievement. Problems with behaviour or disagreements, both with adults and with other children, can endanger these relationships, which then endangers the child’s happiness and progress.

  2. That children are learning and developing, and so will not always have the skills or ability to communicate their thoughts, regulate their emotions or behave appropriately. Learning these skills is an important part of growing up and should be actively nurtured as part of our school culture. We have high expectations of our children’s behaviour, but we realise that it is our job to help them to meet these expectations.

    Rather than simply rewarding good behaviour, which relies on the child being motivated by the thought of getting the reward, we need to support children to be able to behave well because they understand why it is important and empathise with others. Otherwise what happens in the wider world when there is no reward on offer? This is the pro-active part of our approach to culture and discipline – nurturing the skills and strong relationships to avoid problems occurring.

  3. If children get things wrong sometimes, it is to be expected. Punishing a child is not usually a productive solution because it makes the child feel they are a bad person, makes them embarrassed or angry. Furthermore, using set punishments or arbitrary measures can result in children feeling that they have been unfairly treated. These emotions then lead to more negative feelings and behaviour. The child can also feel singled out, which can make it hard for them to re-join their peers.

Restorative Justice is a way of working with all the people involved to explore what went wrong and find opportunities to make things right again. It is important because it emphasises understanding, taking responsibility, learning and creating a positive outcome.

Restorative Justice is a very well respected approach to culture and discipline in schools and has excellent results. Not only are children ‘well behaved’, but they are able to think for themselves, understand different views and resolve difficult situations. We believe these are incredibly important skills for life.

Every teacher, every member of staff and every volunteer will also need to understand our approach so that they can help to form a culture that avoids problems and know, very practically, how to respond should a difficult situation occur. And parents will be invited to come and learn about it too. The more consistent the adults can be, the greater the benefit to the children.

Next page: Working at Mariposa