Original Research

Alignment of school discipline with positive behavioural interventions and supports: The case of one disadvantaged urban South African Primary School

Joseph Calvin Gagnon, Frederick J. Sylvester, Kathryn Marsh
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 11, No 1 | a1022 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v11i1.1022 | © 2021 Joseph Calvin Gagnon, Frederick J. Sylvester, Kathryn Marsh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 April 2021 | Published: 18 November 2021

About the author(s)

Joseph Calvin Gagnon, Department of Special Needs Education, Faculty of Education Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Frederick J. Sylvester, Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Kathryn Marsh, Unumb Center of Neurodevelopment, Columbia, United States


Background: Positive behavioural interventions and supports (PBIS) is a framework that aligns with the South African Department of Education’s Alternatives to Corporal Punishment.

Aim: The aim of this study is to provide a snapshot of the extent to which policies and practices in a disadvantaged South African primary school align with PBIS.

Setting: The study was conducted at a South African primary school with grades kindergarten to Grade 7 in an urban disadvantaged community.

Methods: Twenty-eight teachers, administrators and non-educational school staff completed a survey that addressed: (1) common behaviour problems; (2) the extent to which the school implements five core features of PBIS and (3) the existence of a crisis prevention and intervention plan.

Results: In this disadvantaged school, there is little evidence that (1) a cohesive, evidence-based schoolwide behaviour plan exists that includes multi-tiered systems of support; (2) staff have the expertise to implement a positive and proactive behaviour plan or are provided adequate professional development; (3) staff follow the plan and are held accountable for following it and (4) a representative leadership team provides oversight and direction regarding the plan by using learner behaviour data.

Conclusion: The results indicate that there is a lack of multi-tiered systems of behavioural support and a continued reliance on reactive and punitive approaches to learner behaviour. Moreover, staff do not adhere to the schoolwide behaviour plan, are not held accountable for doing so, and need training in key areas of behaviour management.


South Africa; disadvantaged schools; positive behavioural interventions and prevention, learner behaviour


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