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
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
recognise that supervision and discipline should be
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
(1) List five rules which you and your staff agree as
(2) Give your reason for including each rule.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
(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?
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.