Detention and time-out procedures
Direction and guidance to support NSW public school principals and school staff to understand the department’s position on detention or reflection, and teacher-directed and self-directed time-out.
Audience and applicability
All principals and staff in NSW public schools.
|Description of changes
|Under the 2023 Policy and procedure review program, changed the name to ‘procedures’ and added a roles and responsibilities section. Updated examples to improve clarity; added a definition for ‘behaviour of concern’; removed references to outdated or removed information (Restrictive practices framework, Restrictive practices reduction and elimination policy and Student behaviour procedures). Updated links.
|Executive Director, Inclusion and Wellbeing
About the policy
|Behaviour of concern
A behaviour of concern is challenging, complex or unsafe behaviour that requires more persistent and intensive interventions.
A behaviour of concern does not include low-level, developmentally appropriate behaviour.
Detention and/or reflection is a disciplinary consequence that schools may use to address inappropriate student behaviour. Detention and reflection are applied as close as possible to the breach in behaviour. It allows the school to provide timely support to students to assist them to achieve the desired behaviour, to reflect on their behaviour and make positive choices. The student is always supervised by a staff member.
Teacher-directed time-out is a de-escalation strategy and occurs where a student is directed away from an educational activity or setting when they engage in behaviours of concern. It is used after other de-escalation strategies and teaching practices have been tried.
Self-directed time-out enables a student to remove themselves from a situation or environment causing stress. It is a planned informal behaviour support strategy that may be used as part of a behaviour support response and documented as an agreed strategy.
Public Schools division, including Directors, Educational Leadership:
- provide proactive and responsive specialist advice and support for schools in developing, implementing and monitoring the detention and time-out procedures
- ensure schools have access to quality assured professional learning and resources.
- lead the school community in developing, implementing and monitoring school processes and strategies for using detention and time-out processes, including collecting and retaining information on this
- consult with the school community as appropriate, including school staff, students and parents or carers, in developing, implementing, and reviewing the procedures as part of the School Behaviour Support and Management Plan process.
School executive, teachers, school learning support teams and school support staff:
- contribute to the development, monitoring and review of the school's detention and time-out processes, as appropriate
- implement the school's processes and strategies for detention and time-out.
Parents or carers:
- work in partnership with the school to implement the school's detention and time-out processes and strategies, supporting their child to abide by the Behaviour code for students, resolving issues about their child’s behaviour, and communicating with school staff and the school community respectfully and collaboratively consistent with the School community charter
- be involved in consultation with the school, as appropriate, during the development, monitoring and review of the school's detention and time-out processes.
What needs to be done
To ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students and staff, as well as provide an educational environment where all students can achieve and succeed, it is essential that behaviour is managed appropriately.
Seclusion is the sole confinement of a child or young person in a setting from which they are physically unable to leave, or reasonably believe that they cannot leave, for any length of time and where there is no supervision.
Seclusion is not permitted, except in response to an emergency or crisis where there is an immediate risk of harm to a student, staff or other students. Schools must ensure that detention, teacher-directed time-out and self-directed time-out are used in line with the guidance set out below, to ensure these strategies are not used in a way that may be considered seclusion.
Detention and reflection
At times, it may be necessary to apply fair, reasonable and proportionate disciplinary strategies, such as detention and/or reflection, to address inappropriate student behaviour. Such strategies should enable the school to provide timely support to students to assist them to achieve the desired behaviour, to reflect on their behaviour and make positive choices.
A staff member must always supervise the student. Detention and reflection should never take place in rooms that can be chained, locked or closed in any way that prevents a student from freely leaving the space.
Principals make informed decisions about using detention and/or reflection as a response to student behaviour. This should be reflected in the School behaviour support and management plan by the beginning of Term 1 2025 to align with the Student behaviour policy.
The School behaviour support and management plan should include the following information about detention and reflection processes:
- details of when and how long they will occur
- the maximum length of time appropriate to the student's age or developmental level
- food and toilet breaks
- the teachers authorised by the principal to coordinate them
- how the school will record them.
Examples of using detention or reflection include:
- A student has demonstrated repeated inappropriate behaviours that have been addressed at both the classroom and executive level. The student has been directed to a dedicated space at lunch time to participate in a restorative conversation, reflect on their behaviour and how they could make more positive choices.
- A student disrupts the class and learning by continually calling out, getting out of their chair and refusing to follow directions. The teacher directs the student to spend half of lunch that day to think about their behaviour and the impact on the learning of others, and to complete the work they missed during class.
Detention or reflection does not include:
- teachers keeping a group of students in class for 5-10 minutes at the start of lunch to complete work, or to discuss behaviours of concern.
Schools can use this behaviour management response as part of their suite of strategies outlined in their School behaviour support and management plan.
Before using time-out strategies, school staff should also consider the following:
- Positive and proactive behaviour management strategies must be employed before using time-out in all environments (applying the care continuum).
- Behaviour expectations must be clearly outlined and communicated to students and parents and carers through the Behaviour code for students, School behaviour support and management plan (by Term 1, 2025), existing School Discipline Plan (until replaced by School behaviour support and managment plan and school expectations.
- Use local education supports, such as the Team Around a School which provides an additional layer of support and specialist expertise for students with additional learning or wellbeing needs.
- Time-out strategies are not the same as suspension. The Student behaviour policy, Suspension and expulsion procedures, and related supporting documents outline a range of interventions and alternative actions to support student behaviour. School staff must refer to these documents when addressing any behaviour of concern. The Detention and time-out procedures do not replace these documents and should be read alongside them.
Teacher-directed time-out is a planned behaviour intervention implemented as part of a behaviour support plan. It aims to prevent behaviour escalation and support the teaching of appropriate behaviour and skills, such as self-regulation. A student is directed away from an educational activity or setting when they engage in behaviours of concern to stop those behaviours from being reinforced
Staff should try other de-escalation strategies and teaching practices first, before using teacher-directed time-out.
Teacher-directed time-out, paired with restorative conversations, form part of a student’s behaviour support plan. The plan should include explicit goals, explicit instruction of replacement behaviours, measures to check progress and personalised student feedback to support the development of replacement behaviours.
When directing a student to teacher-directed time-out, ensure:
- the student is directed to a space within the classroom or nearby, where the student can be supported
- the teacher monitors the student
- it is for the shortest possible time.
Teacher-directed time-out should never:
- be used to punish a student
- occur in rooms where doors are chained, locked or closed in any way that prevents a student from leaving the space or where a student reasonably feels they are unable to leave.
Examples of using teacher-directed time-out include:
- A student is told by the teacher to go to the breakout room next to the classroom for 10 minutes to calm down after repeatedly yelling. The teacher ensures
- the breakout room has glass windows on the sides that face the classroom and a door
- the student can move freely between the classroom and breakout room
- this strategy is in the student’s individual planning.
- After using a range of de-escalation strategies, a student is directed by a teacher to go to a buddy class and complete their work to minimise the escalation of inappropriate behaviour. This is a planned strategy that is part of their individual student planning.
Teacher-directed time-out does not include:
- A student is told by the teacher to go to the breakout room next to the classroom for 10 minutes to calm down after repeatedly yelling at another student. The breakout room is not visible to the teacher and the student believes they can’t leave the space.
- A student is escalating non-compliance behaviours, and the teacher directs the student to go to the office to talk to a school executive with their work. This is not teacher-directed time-out because it is not a planned agreed strategy for the individual student. However, schools can choose to use this behaviour management response as part of their response to behaviours of concern outlined in their School behaviour support and management plan.
Self-directed time-out enables a student to remove themselves from a situation or environment that causes stress or may be triggering. It is often used to prevent an escalation of behaviour or provide opportunities for students to regulate emotions and behaviour.
It is sometimes called time away, chill out time or cool down time. It is a planned informal behaviour support strategy that schools may use and document as an agreed strategy. Staff must monitor students while they are having self-directed time-out.
Self-directed time-out occurs when the student:
- recognises a situation may increase stress to them or lead to an escalation in their behaviour
- requests permission to use self-directed time-out from the classroom
- signals and leaves the classroom or educational activity without prompting or support
- goes to a prearranged room or area, for example a garden, quiet space or hallway
- chooses to return to the classroom or educational activity as soon as they feel able to do so and within an agreed timeframe as part of their plan.
Sometimes a student may seek a self-directed time-out as a task avoidance or other function of behaviour. If it is occurring regularly, use informal data to track for patterns and complete a simple ABC (antecedent, behaviour, consequence) record or functional behaviour assessment to determine alternate strategies.
Examples of using self-directed time-out include:
- A primary school student goes to the classroom chill out space, which is a beanbag in the corner of the room, when they feel like they need a break from writing tasks. The teacher ensures
- this is a supervised pre-arranged area used by the student to self-regulate.
- the use of this space is a planned strategy identified in the student’s individual student planning
- the student can move freely and between spaces.
- A high school student leaves the classroom and sits on a chair outside the room when they become anxious following teacher instructions. The teacher ensures
- the teacher can see the student
- it is part of the student’s individual planning to teach appropriate replacement behaviours
- the student can move freely and between spaces.
- A student may need to be directed or ask for time-out when they don’t have a plan. The teacher can use their professional judgement for these one-off instances that may occur.
Self-directed time-out does not include:
- absconding – when a student has hurriedly left the school grounds or a school-approved activity or has otherwise gone missing from the learning space
- truancy – unauthorised absences from school or the classroom, indicating that a child has missed school without permission or appropriate reason
- fight or flight responses – an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. It triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee.
These examples are not self-directed time-out strategies, nor do they form part of a student’s individual behaviour support planning, or other individual plan if one is already in place. Schools must take appropriate action in the event of any of these occurring.
- Schools record their processes for detention and time-out in their School behaviour support and management plan.
Supporting tools, resources and related information
The Director, Behaviour and Student Participation monitors the implementation of this procedure, regularly reviews its contents to ensure relevance and accuracy, and updates it as needed.