The Education and Inspections Act 2006 sets out clear rules as to who can give a detention, when it can take place, what notice must be given and whether parents can opt out.
The law is supplemented by guidance: Behaviour and discipline in schools: a guide for teachers and school staff (via Department for Education website).
Schools should publish clear policies on school discipline and pupil behaviour, making clear when and how detention may be imposed.
Maintained schools are entitled to impose detentions, even without parental consent. They have to observe four statutory requirements, however:
detention must be an established sanction, made known generally both within the school and to parents
the punishment must be imposed by the head or another authorised teacher
the detention must be reasonable
parent(s) must have been given at least 24 hours' notice in writing.
In assessing reasonableness, the act highlights a number of relevant issues: the pupil's age, any special educational needs she/he may have, any religious requirements applicable, whether suitable alternative travel arrangements can reasonably be made by the parent, and whether the detention constitutes a 'proportionate punishment in the circumstances of the case'.
Even a casually imposed instruction to 'stay behind after school for five minutes' must satisfy the rules as to reasonableness and notice to parents. Above all, teachers must be careful that the detention can be justified as appropriate to the offence.
Need further advice?
Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.