Parents furious over school’s ‘ridiculously strict’ rules likened to ‘military camp’

Schools: Williamson on attendance in Scotland and England

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St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy, in Bedlington, Northumberland, has received backlash from parents who have likened the school to a “military camp”, and claim the strict rules are impacting children’s mental health.

The school’s “positive and negative” behaviour chart, which has been in place for several years, explains that students will receive points for positive and negative behaviour, but has recently been updated so that pupils will need fewer negative points to get a half-an-hour detention.

Negative behaviour includes drinking carbonated drinks, spraying aerosol, chewing gum, wearing makeup, being late to class or school, forgetting a PE kit or ruler, shouting in the corridors, inappropriate trousers, rolling up blazer sleeves, eating in class, poor quality homework and eye rolling/huffing.

Students will receive a warning for negative behaviour, followed by a detention if they repeat the offence.

Melanie Burns, whose three children attend the school, believes the rules do not consider each child’s needs and do more harm than good.

She told ChronicleLive: “Both of my children in Year 11 have additional needs including Autism, ADHD and one also has a learning disability. It’s scary sending my children into that school and not knowing if they will be punished for things which they can’t help doing.

“I feel really disappointed on how quickly they are giving out detentions to pupils for minor things.

“It’s like the school has become a military camp with these ridiculously strict rules and harsh punishments for not following them.”

Ms Burns, whose youngest child started in Year 7 at St Benet Biscop this term, said her children are “petrified” to go into school some days.

She added: “My youngest does great in all her classes and is really willing to learn. But she’s been near tears before over getting a detention for apparently not having the right school shoes, which isn’t her fault, it’s mine. 

“In my opinion, after the year the children have had dealing with the pandemic and school closures, they should be eased back into education, as many will have struggled with the change.”

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Another parent, Carman Straughan, said she has spent over £800 on school uniforms in total, including buying several pairs of trousers as her daughter would receive a detention if her trousers were not loose enough.

She said: “I have a friend who works in Durham Prison and he told me that place has less rules than St Benet Biscop does.

“The fear of getting a detention hangs over my children, and it’s destroying their mental health.”

St Benet Biscop said girls’ uniform should not be tight-fitting, and that this rule has always been made clear to parents.

The school told ChronicleLive that it has various schemes in place to offer support to families who are struggling financially to buy school uniforms for pupils.

The school also said it supports all children on an individual basis, and that reasonable adjustments are made to the detention system as and when are necessary, depending on the circumstance.

A spokesperson added that parents were made aware of the school’s expectations for the new school year in July.

Headteacher Kevin Shepherd said the school has the “highest expectations” for every individual pupil and that its strict practises and routines were in place to nurture a sense of moral purpose and, personal responsibility, integrity and respect for others.

He said: “In order to achieve our mission, our parents understand that our practice is embedded in the St Benet Biscop Way and in the core values of integrity and respect.

“It is expected that all members of our community follow the St Benet Biscop way. We accept no excuses.

“As a school community whose purpose is learning, staff time should be spent planning high quality lessons, guiding students and giving them feedback and communicating with parents regarding their child’s achievements, not discussing incidents where students have not followed our learning habits. 

“Students are supported through our strong pastoral structure and by having clear expectations. We have a shared belief that everyone is equal, everyone matters, and that learning should be engaging and enjoyable.”

Additional reporting by Georgia Meadows.

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