Dear Sir,

We are writing to request the abolishment of the practice of giving children after school detention unless the following conditions have been, or can be, met.

  • 1).  Parents have been given prior warning and have agreed that it is convenient.
  • 2).  The school can guarantee the children's safe delivery home afterwards.

If these conditions cannot be met, we feel it would be preferable to find alternative ways of administering discipline. The reasons for this are as follows...

It is already difficult enough for parents to arrange picking up and dropping off their children in between work and other commitments they may have, and as such, they may also have more than one child to collect from different schools. Children, for reasons of safety and convenience, often have an arrangement whereby they travel home with a friend. If a child's release time is put back it can mean that they may miss the chance of a lift with a friend, or miss the opportunity of being able to travel home with a companion, and therefore have to travel home alone. This is obviously not desirable, especially in the winter, when the evenings are dark, and can expose children to unnecessary risk. If a child's release time is put back without prior warning it can also mean that parents may be waiting outside the school for their children to appear not knowing what is going on. It can also mean that, if children are making their own way home from school and are late, the parents may be unduly worried and concerned not knowing what has happened.

In one instance, the mother of the child concerned had a doctors appointment, which was timed to run subsequently after picking up not one, but two children, from different schools. The first child was picked up with no problem. The second child was kept back on an impromptu detention. This left the mother waiting outside the school not knowing what was happening and worrying about where her son was and also worrying about keeping her doctors appointment. In the end, the mother had to abandon the child without knowing what was happening and rush for her doctor's appointment thinking perhaps that she had missed him and that he was making his way to his dad's. In actual fact, he had been kept in after school and the secretary's office was unaware of the situation and unable to enlighten the child's mother. The child then came out of school with no bus fare and no lift, and no knowledge of where his mother was.

In another instance, a child missed his arranged lift with a friend's parent and had to walk home alone through the woods in the dark. His friend was in a different class and released at the normal time and he was detained spontaneously along with the rest of his class by his teacher. If a parent has made arrangements for their child to be picked up and is under the impression that their child will be returned home safely, it is not appropriate to have these arrangements broken and interfered with, without prior notification, by the administering of spontaneous detention. We cannot expect children to always behave responsibly and in an adult fashion, but we can expect responsible behaviour from our schools and our teachers, whom should be setting an example.

We are all aware of the kind of incidents that can take place nowadays and rather than see children travel home alone, parents often then have to make a special journey, at some inconvenience to themselves, to ensure the safe return of the child in question. This in itself is often difficult when parents are either working, or have other commitments and other children to take care of. It would therefore be better, as far as parents are concerned, if such punishment could take the form of a playground break time or lunchtime detention, thereby, making sure that normal home time arrangements can prevail and enabling parents to organise their lives without having to make rearrangements. After all, it is the child that is supposed to be disciplined and inconvenienced and not parents.

Yours faithfully,

D.J. Tarrant