Better Schools:
Resource Materials for School Heads in Africa
Staff Supervision and Discipline
Schools fulfill their educational responsibilities most effectively when there is a consensus about common goals and all concerned work towards reaching these. This is the ideal that you will be working towards. You will be most successful if your staff respect you as a professional who sets an example of conduct, and who is reasonable and considerate of others. 'Do as you would be done by' is a very good principle to work by. If you do not like to be criticised publicly, neither do others, but most of us are happy to be praised in front of others. We react positively to praise, we feel good about ourselves and the person giving the praise, and most human beings respond by repeating the type of behaviour which earns the reward of praise. School heads occupy a high status in their schools, and there is much research which shows that high status persons are effective sources of reward.

Individual study time: 3 hours

Learning outcomes
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:
• know the purposes of staff supervision and discipline
• understand your role in supervision and discipline of staff
• recognise that supervision and discipline should be positive
• know how to implement effective techniques.

The head's responsibilities as leader
You, as the school head, are the person responsible for the efficient management of the school. You are both the administrative leader and the educational leader, but these leadership roles have one function only. This function is to ensure that successful learning takes place for all the pupils in the school.

You cannot teach all the pupils yourself, nor can you carry out all the educational or administrative tasks. These have to be delegated to teaching or non-teaching staff, depending on the nature of the task. However, the responsibility for everything which takes place in the school remains with you as school head. Therefore, it is necessary for you to ensure that tasks are carried out efficiently, that staff behave in a professional manner towards each other and the pupils, and that there is accountability towards the pupils, the parents, community and wider society.

The need for supervision
Because the learning and all the activities of the school remain your responsibility, you need to ensure that delegated tasks are actually carried out on time, and in a proper manner. Therefore, you need to supervise, to oversee, the work of others in the school. Through meeting your senior management, individually or in groups, you will get feedback on the administrative functioning of the school, including curriculum implementation and development. By being active within the school, by visiting classes, talking to teachers, pupils and parents, you keep yourself informed about the school community, its people and events. Problems can often be prevented, simply because the school head keeps, as they say, his or her 'ear to the ground'. At the same time, you are setting a good example to others of self-discipline.

Activity 5.1
(1) List five rules which you and your staff agree as reasonable.
(2) Give your reason for including each rule.
20 minutes

Discipline is concerned with the establishment and maintenance of order and the harmonious functioning of a society. A school is also a society on a small scale, and discipline within school serves the purpose of ensuring that learning can take place. Within this, the rights of the individual and of all members of the school society are protected. In most schools, a set of rules which act as a code of conduct, is drawn up for pupils to conform to. Such rules should be as few as possible, and should be reasonable. Pupils should be involved in drawing up school rules.

In the case of rules for teaching staff, they should be drawn up and agreed by the staff as far as is possible. In doing this, you will want to involve the teacher unions so that there is full co-operation. Staff meetings can include on the agenda items designed to help teachers find positive ways to deal with school matters. In countries where corporal punishment is banned or is discouraged, such discussions can be helpful to teachers seeking to establish their authority in positive ways.

Exercising responsibility
In an ideal world, you would be able to trust all staff to carry out their designated responsibilities in teaching, administration or in care of the pupils, without supervision. For good teachers who are positively motivated, your trust will be justified. Such teachers arrive in good time before the start of school, they are absent only with good cause, their lessons are well prepared, they treat pupils with respect for them as persons, yet are firm and clear in giving instructions or information. However, not all teachers are as good as this. A few are lazy, some have personal problems, some are weak teachers and a very small number are immoral. Of these, some will improve with encouragement and support, others with sympathy and understanding, but you may need to take disciplinary action with the idle, incompetent or teacher with a bad character. Your reactions will depend on your perception of the teacher and the problem.

Case study
Mrs Sithole has been teaching in your school for five years. She has been punctual, has prepared her lessons well, and there have not been complaints from the parents. Eight months ago, Mrs Sithole had her sixth baby. During the last two months, she has been arriving late and has been absent on several occasions. You have received complaints from parents of pupils in her classes.

You ask Mrs Sithole to come to see you to discuss the problem. You find that she has domestic problems and that her mother who looks after the baby has not been well.

(1) What should be your attitude?
(2) What should Mrs Sithole have done?
(3) Suggest a means of solving the problem.
30 minutes

A sympathetic, supportive attitude towards Mrs Sithole's problem, together with practical suggestions for finding an alternative care-giver for the baby, is likely to solve the problem if Mrs Sithole has not got other hidden problems. Lateness and absenteeism may well disappear. However, you, as school head, have the responsibility to ensure that the pupils are being taught effectively, and that class time is not wasted by lateness or non-arrival. You will thus need to maintain an unobtrusive watch to check that the teacher's professional duties are being carried out properly. If the problem recurs, then you may have to take disciplinary action.

Effective supervision
The most effective form of supervision takes place when the school head is perceived by staff, pupils and parents as a person who knows what is happening within the school. Although you need times when you can work quietly in your office, or close the office door for reasons of confidentiality in an interview, you should try always to be visible when pupils or teachers are arriving at the school and whenever they are moving from one place to another. You should also try to visit each classroom at the start of the morning to greet teachers and pupils.

Visits to classrooms should form part of your everyday activity as educational leader. During visits, you will inevitably observe such indicators of learning as conduct of teachers and pupils towards each other, whether there is a quiet working atmosphere in the classroom and whether there appears to be a positive attitude of 'discipline from within'. In the unit in this module on 'Staff appraisal', suggestions are given for a schedule for observing teaching and learning.

The concept of supervision so far described in this unit has been a positive one, very closely linked with staff appraisal and staff development. Within this spirit, you will want to support weak teachers who find difficulty with discipline or in lesson preparation. You become conscious of such needs if you really know your school. The unobtrusive but visible school head in and around the school not only helps to establish a sense of professional purpose, but actually prevents misconduct by teachers and pupils. Sometimes, however, stronger action is necessary where teachers do not respond to your leadership or fail in their duties. Then disciplinary procedures need to begin.

Disciplinary procedures
Often in a school, a disciplinary problem takes time to become apparent. Once it does, there are three useful procedures for a school head to follow. These procedures should be known to the staff as part of an agreed procedure.

Step 1 - Verbal reprimand
A first step in a disciplinary procedure is to give a verbal reprimand, pleasantly but firmly. This should be stated within the context of the teacher's professional responsibility, and it should be given in the privacy of the school head's office.

Step 2 - Written warning
In cases where the reprimand does not result in improvement, then a written warning can be given. A copy of this would be kept in the file on this staff member.

Step 3 - Report to school board
If there is still no attempt to improve, a third stage of a disciplinary procedure is when further action is taken, for example, a report to the school board. A copy of the report should be given to the teacher concerned. Research needs to be conducted in alternative methods of maintaining classroom discipline.

More serious breaches of a code of professional conduct may require immediate suspension of a teacher. The use of corporal punishment if this is banned under a country's constitution is one example. Another example would be of the teacher who engages in a sexual relationship with a girl pupil. He has abused his position of trust and is unfit to be in charge of pupils. There should be immediate suspension, with a report made to the circuit inspector and to the school board, even if the relationship has not resulted in the girl becoming pregnant. However, suspension is a serious step to take and the school head should first have strong evidence of the teacher's misconduct.

Case study
Jani is aged 14. She shows signs of being pregnant and it is suspected that Mr Hangula, the Science teacher, is responsible because they have been walking together when it is getting dark after school. When asked about this by the head of department who is responsible for girls' welfare, Jani agrees that she is pregnant but refuses to name the father. Mr Hangula denies responsibility. The following week, Jani's friend tells the head of department that Mr Hangula has spoken to Jani's parents and offered marriage if the parents refrain from complaint.

(1) What would you do if you were the head of this school?
(2) Does the offer of marriage, even if genuine, cancel the breach of moral conduct towards a learner?
30 minutes

The head's legal and constitutional responsibilities
The school head is also subject to the laws of his or her country, and must obey its constitution. In delegating responsibilities to members of staff, you often need to arrange for the collection and safe-keeping of money, for example, the school fund. Your administrative arrangements need to ensure that money is kept in a safe place, is banked as soon as possible, and that it is not loaned or borrowed. In cases where there is abuse of responsibility, that is, money cannot be accounted for, you have no choice but to report the matter to the police for investigation and to inform the inspector and school board.

The need to take care of money involves a legal responsibility, but school heads also have a responsibility to uphold the constitution of the country. In democratic societies, preservation of human rights, including equal opportunities in relation to gender, is held dear. Thus the school head needs to ensure that the school is a place where the values and attitudes of society are developed in the pupils through the conduct of all staff and the example which is set.

This unit has shown how the purpose of supervision of staff and the need to have discipline arise from the responsibility of the school head. The main element of this responsibility is to ensure that the school develops pupils as individuals and as members of a society. Everything which takes place in the school is directed towards this aim.