The SIG Group

November 9, 2006

The SIG Group at Stafford Grove school reflected its importance in its composition. It was lead by the most junior member of SMT, Joyce, the head of the sixth form. Each department was represented by the least important person from each department (providing they were a permanent full-time employee that had been there more than a week). For my department that meant me.

SIG stands for School Improvement Group. I guess this means that calling it the SIG Group is technically inaccurate. However the word “Improvement” in the title is not just technically inaccurate, but better described as screamingly, blatantly, dishonestly, staggeringly, inaccurate. The last thing we were meant to do is improve the school.

Why not? Well the main problem the school had (and OFSTED had confirmed this) was discipline. The main scope for improvement was also therefore discipline. The previous year, before I’d joined it, the SIG group had looked at discipline and concluded that it could be improved by photocopying a sheet called “How to catch them being good” and distributing it to staff. This somehow failed to do the trick against the rising tide of assaults on staff. So we had another look. We looked at detentions.

First it was pointed out that at some schools teachers didn’t have to organise their own detentions – thereby no longer penalising teachers for enforcing the rules.

“The Head won’t allow that”, Joyce pointed out.

Then it was raised that children don’t turn up for detentions. We did a survey of staff and discovered the attendance rate at detentions was under 50%. We suggested there should be some consequence for not turning up.

“The Head won’t allow that” said Joyce.

So now we’d got to the core of the problem. The only punishment we had was a strain on teachers and completely optional for students.

So we came up with something. We photocopied some sheets about how to do detentions and distributed them to the staff. Then we waited to see if that did the trick.

My feeling is that the problems I had in the next two weeks getting students off of the roof were enough to suggest it didn’t actually solve our problems.

At the end of the year our exam results went down by over 10%.

Now that was something the Head did allow to happen.



  1. In my PGCE (PCE) – two years ago now – I analysed an FE college’s Charter For Students as a research project. I concluded that the subject positions described in the charter were rather bad new for teachers.

    Students were customers or consumers of education – this might be partly blamed on the incorporation of FE institutions – with an immense amount of rules to protect them. They had the right to anonymously complain about anything. The standards they were held to were minimal.

    Conversely, teachers went almost unmentioned, except as providers of a service that had to meet every consumer need, otherwise the regulatory systems in place would question and possibly punish them. The standards they were held to were high, and the rights they had were minimal.

    The lack of adequate activity from SMT might be explained by the observation that, currently in education, we often talk of management rather than discipline. There is management of teachers by the managers. There is management of the students by teachers. This means that the job of managing students is now the individual teachers’ concern. If the current system isn’t working, the teachers are at fault – students are seen as perfectly amenable to management, as long as the right skills are employed.

    If you have a group of students utterly unencumbered by the (stereotypically middle-class!) worry of social disapproval, or the threat of an unsuccessful future, they will feel free to mock education. It has little purpose to them. The consequences of failure, educationally and in terms of punishment, become laughable. You don’t inculcate a feeling of self-pride with ‘management’ – and you cannot manage those who do not care.

  2. I had a pupil who arrived from a state school into our private school this Autumn. In our school, pupils have to sign their detention forms to prove that they have received them.

    I gave said pupil a detention for truly obnoxious behaviour. He refused to sign the form saying he didn’t agree with it. I was quite gleeful when I said, “Honey, you’re not in the state system anymore – you are in a private school and must abide by our rules.” I then informed him that failure to sign would be an act of open defiance and was immediately referrable. Failure to show up was similar.

    He signed. He showed up. Support of our SMT is truly valued by us teachers!

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