Freedom without discipline undermines the group; discipline without freedom undermines the individual. For this reason the children are given a considerable amount of freedom but within a set of fixed rules. Our approach to discipline is to focus rigorously on the causes of behavioural problems rather than endlessly having to deal with the effects. Children need very clear boundaries and they need to know that if they cross these boundaries there will be clearly defined consequences. It is vital that the children always feel there is consistency and fairness in disciplinary matters. Equally they need to know that by breaking the rules they are choosing to suffer the consequences of their actions. Helping the children to see that they are responsible for these choices begins the process whereby we are able to bring the children towards self-discipline.
It is important that the children’s environment is not overloaded with rules. A maze of boundaries will only confuse and frustrate. Consequently at the New Forest Small School we have paired down the amount of rules leaving us just with the ones that really matter. So instead of a maze think of a large wood with strong fences around its boundary.
- As much as possible children are encouraged to resolve any conflicts they have amongst themselves – we find that most problems are sorted out in this way. If the problem persists then the parties involved have a private discussion with the teacher. The children are then made aware of the consequences of their actions, both for themselves and the others affected.
- If necessary the issue will be dealt with during class tutorial time and/or the school meeting under the guidance of peer pressure. Once again this is highly effective. Beyond this there will be consultations with the parents.
- At all times it will be made clear to the child that it is the child’s action that constitutes the problem not the child him/herself.
We have found, however, that when children feel valued and secure, when they have enough freedom in an environment that is both accessible and stimulating, there emerges within each child a natural desire to preserve order and peace in the classroom so that they can continue to enjoy it’s benefits.