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Freedom & Discipline

'The secret of education is respecting the pupil.' R. W. Emerson

One of the most outstanding features of our school is the excellent behaviour of the children. We very rarely have any disciplinary issues. Why is this?

Fostering Self-Discipline

At the New Forest Small School we focus on creating an environment in which good behaviour becomes natural. You can impose a disciplined order upon pupils through uniforms, enforced respect, a bewilderingly multitude of rules, rewards and punishments  etc… but invariably children will react and rebel if discipline is coercive. We want our pupils to develop in themselves a natural desire to preserve peace. To achieve this deeper level of self-discipline we have developed a supportive environment where –

  • Pupils feel trusted, appreciated and respected

  • Pupils know they will be heard, supported and cared for

  • Teachers are honest, caring and friendly

  • Teachers know they must earn rather than impose respect

  • Rules are enabling rather than controlling

  • Pupils feel secure and happy and therefore wish to maintain order 

'The behaviour of pupils is outstanding. Pupils behave well in and around the school, showing high levels of respect and care for adults and each other.'

Ofsted Report, June 2018

'Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education.'

By creating an authentic and nurturing educational environment many disciplinary issues are no longer triggered. And on those rare occasions that they do occur, the school efficiently and actively addresses their causes and deals with their effects. For example, as stated in our last Ofsted report, ‘The very rare cases of bullying are dealt with extremely effectively. The school promotes highly positive relationships between pupils. Staff seek out every opportunity to help pupils to understand how their actions can affect other people. This leads to a very positive environment where arguments and disagreements are rare.'

Disciplinary Procedures

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.

  • 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 peers. Once again this is highly effective. Beyond this there will be consultations with 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.

Also See

Simplifying the Rules

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 reduced the amount of rules leaving us just with the ones that really matter. So, instead of a maze think of a large wood with a clear and supportive fence around its boundary. Despite only having a few rules and very little in the way of rewards and punishments, in our last Ofsted report the school achieved 'Outstanding' in 'Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare'.

'All I am saying can be summed up in two words: Trust children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.'
John Holt
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