Education Quandary

My children's primary school keeps pupils in at lunchtime if they are naughty. Is this right?
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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

This reader's point is that her children are then denied fresh air and exercise, and their afternoon's work suffers. But a lot of schools keep pupils in at breaks and lunchtime as a punishment. After-school detentions are not a practical option for primary schools, where most children have to be picked up on time, there are after-school clubs to be organised and twilight training sessions for teachers to attend.

However, given all we now know about the close links between body and brain, it seems short-sighted to deny children the very things that would almost certainly improve their behaviour and performance - and make teachers' lives easier after lunch.

You should make an appointment to talk this through with the school, and ask them if they have considered alternatives. Some circuits of the playground might be better for everyone. There would be the punishment of not being able to play with friends, and the embarrassment of having to be seen chugging round and round, but it would get the oxygen churning through the body and make for a more settled afternoon. Alternatively, an indoor physical task such as cleaning desks or helping stack store-cupboard boxes could also be more productive than just being pinned to a chair.

But there is another issue here, too. As a parent you need to ask the school - and yourself - why your children are being kept in so often. What is making them act up like this? Is there an underlying problem of motivation or behaviour that everyone needs to take a look at?

Readers' advice

The Education Act 1997 states: "Where a pupil to whom this section applies is required on disciplinary grounds to spend a period of time in detention at his school after the end of any school session", then among other things "the pupil's parent must have been given at least 24 hours' notice in writing that the detention was due to take place". What your children's primary school is doing is in breach of the Act and should be reviewed immediately.

I know this as I successfully challenged this policy in my son's primary school a few years ago.
Joy Wharton, Rochester

If the lady's children are behaving themselves at school they will get all the fresh air they need at lunchtimes. If they are not, she needs to talk to them about it. If they knew they would meet disapproval at home, and perhaps further sanctions, they would not behave badly.
Estelle Foulkes, Grimsby

One of the few options remaining to teachers for dealing with disruption is to operate the "you waste my time, and I'll waste yours" routine. As a primary teacher, I deal every day with children whose parents have obviously taught them that rules are NOT there to be kept, and that school is the correct place for unbridled displays of selfish behaviour.
Joanna Copley, Somerset

Next week's quandary

What should we make of Gordon Brown's pledge of £8.5bn to get more of the world's poorest children into school over the next 10 years? Is it a sensible use of our hard-earned taxes, or just more money poured into the gaping mouth of overseas aid? Or a carefully timed move by a man wanting to paint himself as a compassionate future prime minister?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce by next Monday, 24 April, at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser