The Breakfast Club

Reading time: 3
the breakfast-club detention film


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How do you manage behaviour beyond the standard classroom detention?

In most schools, a serious breach in behaviour may lead to a fixed-term exclusion. Alternatives to exclusion where appropriate, include community service and detentions (including before and after school and sometimes on a Saturday. Note, DfE guidance says;

“Schools don’t have to give parents notice of after-school detentions or tell them why a detention has been given.” (Source)


The times outside normal school hours when detention can be given (the ‘permitted day of detention’) include:

  1. any school day where the pupil does not have permission to be absent;
  2. weekends – except the weekend preceding or following the half term break; and
  3. non-teaching days – usually referred to as ‘training days’, ‘INSET days’ or ‘non-contact days’. (Source)

Setting the Tone:

Today at the school where I work, it was my turn to lead senior detentions for students. There were double figures on the register and I arrived to school for 8am. I met them all at the school gates at 8.30-9.00am; a relatively late start in comparison to a typical school day. However, what we did together as a sanction was like no other school day.

I started out by reminding the students why they were here and what the purpose of the sanction was for. It was a bit of an opportunity to provide students with a moment of reflection rather than for me to get up on my ‘soap box’. I allowed students to know, that Saturdays are the days when I can spend precious time with my son, and how their behaviour and choices in school were denying me from this opportunity.

Whether the reader disagrees with me here or not, my personal anecdote set the tone for the day. There was no play. There was silence, followed by a choice to be made;

  • sit in silence and reflect.
  • read.
  • write.
  • study.
  • or community service; e.g. litter picking or scraping chewing gum off school furniture.

This was a fairly extensive set of choices, but despite the choice, all students settled for the first three options. To work quietly and use the time productively.

The Breakfast Club:

The morning reminded me of the film, The Breakfast Club. If you have never watched this classic film from 1985, it is a must watch for everyone; particularly students and school teachers.

Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.

Our morning together was not quite like The Breakfast Club; there was no talking whatsoever and students worked productively. Of course there was the occasional reminder needed, but on the whole, sanctions and consequences were resolved and students were given a fresh start. Pep talks were given where needed and some relationships between myself and the students were also developed.

For the context of this blog, I have provided a synopsis of the film, The Breakfast Club.


“On Saturday, March 24, 1984, five students report in at 7:00 a.m. for an all-day detention at Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois. They gather in the high school library, where assistant principal Richard Vernon instructs them not to speak, move from their seats, or sleep for the next eight hours and 54 minutes. He assigns them a 1,000-word essay, in which each must describe “who you think you are.” He then leaves, returning only occasionally to check on them.

the breakfast-club detention film

The students pass the hours by talking, arguing, and, at one point, smoking cannabis. Gradually, they open up to each other and reveal their deepest personal secrets: Allison is a compulsive liar, Andrew can’t easily think for himself, John comes from an abusive household, Brian has attempted suicide due to a bad grade, and Claire is a virgin who feels constant pressure from her friends. They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents: Allison’s parents ignore her due to their own problems, Andrew’s father constantly criticizes his efforts at wrestling and pushes him as hard as possible, John’s father verbally and physically abuses both John and his mother, Brian’s overbearing parents put immense pressure on him to get good grades and keep it that way, and Claire’s parents use her to get back at each other during frequent arguments. The students realise that even with their differences, they face similar pressures and complications in their lives.

Despite their differences in social status, the group begins to form friendships (and even romantic relationships) as the day progresses … As the detention comes to its final moments, the group requests that Brian complete the essay for everyone, and Brian agrees, leaving the essay in the library for Vernon to read after they leave. The students part ways outside the school. Allison and Andrew kiss, as do Claire and John … Vernon reads Brian’s essay (read by Brian in voice-over), in which Brian states that Vernon has already judged who they are, “in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” Brian signs the letter as “The Breakfast Club.” (Source)


Sometimes an alternative sanction can be the breakthrough a student needs.


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  1. DfE: Behaviour and discipline in schools. Advice for headteachers and school staff.
  2. DfE; School discipline and exclusions.


11 thoughts on “The Breakfast Club

      1. They may well be, but when are teachers supposed to get any work-life balance. In a 60+ hour week I NEED time with MY FAMILY and children, not other people’s children. This drip, drip of extra hours is untenable in a career supposedly to last for 40 years. I’m amazed that you think it is ok for teachers to come in regularly at weekends. I’m glad you aren’t my SLT with an attitude such as yours. no wonder teachers are leaving in their droves!
        Rant over!

      2. Goodness me John. Our SLT have a rota where we take turns to lead Saturday detention. This is to ensure consequence for students to support all of our teachers and their classroom practice/student action.

        Since the start of September, this is my first Saturday. My next slot is not until March. If I need to opt out to be with my own family (4 year old son), I can and it is never forced upon anyone.

        No other member of staff is expected to attend school at the weekend. Common sense please. If staff attend at the w’end for revision, it is voluntary and also paid.

      3. And my business comment alluded to ‘independent schools’ and ‘building lettings’ a where PFI schools are open for the community. Our school today was open for our Saturday Russian school and also x2 basketball games. Site maintenance was also taking place and the head of year 12 leading a maths exam re-take for revision. Voluntary of course.

      1. I think Peter is confusing [not having to give notice] – i.e. prior warning with [not having to tell them it’s happening]

  1. Hi,
    I’ve woken up this morning and realised that my comments late last night after too much wine were quite offensive and personal. I apologise to you personally and am glad that you didn’t post the comments. I’m not excusing my behaviour but I’m sure you are as knackered as I am after a tough term. I allowed my personal issues to get in the way of actually being a professional. I value your blog and have used many ideas in my own teaching to good effect.
    So, please accept my apology.
    Best regards and have a restful break,

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