Confiscation of student property - getting it right!

Paul Raynor

Saturday, 25 August 2018

At times when disruptive behaviour occurs in the classroom, it is necessary to confiscate student property.

However, it should be respected, undamaged, not tampered with and securely stored until it is later returned to that student.

Students will inevitably argue against handing over property causing tension in this particular situation. If such an instance is not dealt with carefully then it could well escalate and disrupt your teaching and the other students in the room.

One particular item that is commonly confiscated within schools are mobile phones.

Unsuprisingly, students argue strongly against handing over their phones, giving many a reason to why they shoudn't:

  • Family illness and their need to be contacted
  • They remind you of another instance when another student handed over a phone which then went missing. They will then display their mistrust in you by refusing to comply with your requests.
  • Fearful that either you or another member of staff will examine the content on their phone
  • That their parents would object and feel it was an injust sanction of their behaviour


The list goes on! Yet deep-down, both you and the student know the reason is simply that they feel the need to be with their phone.

French edcuation systems have made it illegal to have mobile phones in schools, which is proving to have a significant positive impact on behaviour management.

The British education system still allow its students to have a mobile phone on them within the school gates.

"...There is however, a common recognition that the use of mobiles is disrupting at the least."


It is also a catalyst for “keyboard warrior” type bullying and intimidation, resulting in most schools imposing a ban on school premises.

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You will encounter the use of phones during your time teaching so it's imperative to know the school policy. Most schools do suggest that the caught phone is confiscated but be sure to remember that the whole class will be watching you and how you deal with the situation.

To prevent escalation, build a reputation amongst the students that you handle their property with respect.

That means that whatever item you confiscate is later returned undamaged, untampered with and stored securely. 
This reputation is another step in building a respectful and professional relationship with your students.

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My top tip regarding the confiscation of property is to use the “power” of the A5 envelope and be prepared to take firm but fair action when you attend any school. Here is an example of what can be written on an envelope containing the confiscated item:

“Prepared”                         “Example” - to be filled in

Student name:                     Paul Raynor                                

Staff name:                          Miss J Teasdale

Date:                                    13/8/2018

Description:                         Mobile in good condition / mobile with cracked screen

Where stored:                     Reception

Instruction regarding         As per school policy (you can be more detailed for your particular school)
returning:                  

 

Rather than holding out your hand and demanding the phone (a method I have seen fail too many times) be prepared! Approach the student calmly, get low and talk quietly and have your envelope with you.

“Paul you know you need to hand me your phone, you know I need to follow policy. Please give me a moment to explain how I will handle your property respectfully, ensuring it is not damaged or tampered with and securely stored”

Explain to them they can turn off the phone and place it in the envelope. You will fill in the details together and once done you will both sign across the seals. The seals with then be sellotaped as well.

Explain they will get the item back in the same sealed envelope. If the student still refuses then do not engage in a long discussion, simply “get out” and carry on teaching after informing the student:

“I will give you a couple of minutes to think this over. I do not want to move this up, but you know I have to deal with it”

When you return, hopefully you will get the phone and fill in the details as above. You still may not get the phone so again do not drawn into an argument. Inform the student you will be calling for a higher up (whatever the school system is) and again “get out” of the situation by continuing to teaching.

Regardless of whether you get the phone or not you have been professional throughout and the whole class has watched you deal with the situation. You will have gained respect from the class.

Eventually they will know you will deal phone issues by getting other colleagues involved, so hopefully they will comply and hand over their phone. If they do try it on, you have increased your chances of confiscating the phone without escalation.

I have focussed on the mobile phone but would urge you to use the system when handling any type of property you confiscate.

Build that reputation of being respectful with property – avoid any false allegation surrounding property that we know is not true, but can still causes stress during any investigation.

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About our Community Expert

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Paul Raynor

Community Expert

Community expert and former Detective Inspector, Paul Raynor has direct experience in teaching educators how to better manage behaviour within secondary education.

Paul has experience with safeguarding, and has supported schools with writing behaviour policies in conjunction with senior leaders. He is an expert in his field.

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