Behaviour: We must say no to ‘no excuses’

The ‘no excuses’, zero tolerance approach to behaviour and discipline is shown to be a failed model and should now be thrown out by schools – for good – says Matt Ward

There is a growing trend in UK schools towards a “no excuses” style of behaviour management that disturbs me. It is an approach that has been imported from the US’s zero tolerance system.

“Zero tolerance” refers to behaviour management policies that seek to punish all offences severely, no matter how minor. Growing out of the gun violence tragedies in US schools in the early 1990s, any perceived threat-making by students resulted in automatic and permanent expulsions.

Before long, zero tolerance was casting its net further afield, and came to involve severe reactions to minor as well as major incidents, treating both with equal severity so as to “send a message” to any potential violators. But it has proved to be a huge over-reaction.

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