Late arrivals to a classroom are disruptive to the flow of the teaching and to the concentration levels of the rest of the pupils. Those who are chronic offenders are often missing out on important information and allowing the problem to continue will lead to them being late even more often. This can then encourage those who are punctual to join in the feeling of apathy and lack of personal time management.

There are a number of ways to tackle the issue with either the whole class or individuals.

Clear rules

The outlining of rules is something that should take place on the first day of the school year. This sets the tone for the weeks and months ahead and means that everyone has a common understanding of what is expected of them when they arrive at their class.

A good bonding or icebreaker activity is to set a classroom rules activity where small groups work together to devise and present the rules they feel are important. These should centre on respect for others and treating each other as equals. Enable the pupils to present their rules in a way they feel puts the message across; art work or a short play perhaps. The groups can then join as one to create a list of classroom rules and these can be prominently displayed.

If classroom lateness starts to become an issue, revisit the initial rule activity to refresh the minds of everyone.

Don’t let lateness disrupt the class

If someone arrives late, simply ask them to take a seat and then carry on with the lesson. Don’t make an issue of the person arriving after everyone else. 

At the end of the class, ask the pupil to stay behind to explain why they were late. Give them any work which was missed with the instruction to complete it either during a break or at home. Be firm, but fair and set a deadline for the work to be handed in.

Set up a reward system

Pupils can be incredibly competitive and like to be seen to be succeeding. Create a reward scheme for punctuality and emphasise that everyone can be on time –it’s about personal lifestyle management rather than academic prowess. 

It’s important to show how important social skills are and it gives a good introduction to being employed where lateness is not tolerated. Competitions are always a great motivator and if someone in a team is always late, they will be encouraged by the other team members to improve.

Record keeping

As with other aspects of pupil attainment, late arrivals should always be recorded. Aside from it being a requirement as part of taking the register in case the time of arrival should ever be relevant in the future, it acts as a way of tracking those who make a regular habit of it. Keeping records will show patterns, for example if it is particular days they are always late or if by a certain amount of time.

Remember, the situation may not be in their control. Many young carers have no control over the time they arrive due to family situations such as looking after an ill parent or taking younger siblings to school before being able to arrive themselves.

Persistent lateness hinders the attainment opportunities of every pupil. For the child who is late they have work to catch up on without the immediate assistance of their teacher if they don’t understand it, they miss out on group interaction for classroom project work and they are letting down others who may be relying on them to be there for activities such as presentations.

It’s important though that the teacher investigates the reason for the late arrival without instantly handing out a punishment. There are many reasons why a pupil may be late and it’s in the interest of all involved to look at the situation, listen to what is happening and to look for a solution going forward.