You’re late, we’ll wait?   In my beloved FE sector, there are teachers/lecturers who fall into two parties - the “do’s” and “do nots” - when it comes to starting class on time.

If a timetable states that a class starts at 9am, at 2.30pm or at 6.30pm, that is the time that the class starts.  Yes?

In FE we pride ourselves on being the last bastion of defence before real life sets in for learners who’d like to do well in their chosen career.  We also have adult learners who are retraining, upskilling or just plain and simply enjoying learning something new.

But a class start time is a class start time.  So why the dilemma?

I was recently interviewed for a radio discussion about lateness and timekeeping generally, in the education sense.   The debate ensued because Hampshire County Council had announced a task force to fine parents who allow their children to be late to school.

On the panel for discussion there was a headteacher, an education welfare officer and a parent. The parent has a child at primary school.   The parent (a lovely and articulate woman) believed that a few minutes’ lateness wouldn’t make any difference to her 6 year old.  “We sometimes stop and smell the flowers, look at the ducks on the pond, forget the time….” she said.  “What’s the harm?”

This parent insisted that her 6 year old would not be affected by this lateness, but went on to contradict this by saying that there was a tricky moment once when her daughter missed the start of assembly (and was mortified).

That is scary stuff for a 6-year old.  But it’s a bit deeper than that, I believe.  It sets the tone for this young person’s attitude, learned from childhood.

Getting back to my point.   Some teachers have a cavalier approach to the lesson start time.  They tell me that they chat about life, they s-l-o-w-l-y take the register, shuffle papers and wait for latecomers.


You don’t need to look far in psychology to know that setting habits and sticking to them is the way to reinforce behaviour that you’d like to see.   As early as 1926 the psychologist R Motley connected arriving late with subsequent absences followed by withdrawal (in the workplace).  Motley’s work has been built upon over the last near century but the late-absent–withdrawal cycle remains true.

So, do you think it’s a case of “We’ll wait ‘cos you’re late” or is it “You can wait, you’re late!”

I believe we should respect punctuality and start lessons on time, and EXPECT everyone to be there.

Usain Bolt will not hang around at the blocks waiting for someone to arrive at the 100m start line.  He’ll kick back his heels and storm down the track at the crack of the starter pistol.  In this scenario, if you’re late, you won’t succeed.

And what about an employer who just keeps commerce at bay until you make it to work……   No, I don’t think so either.

So why do some of us find this acceptable in FE? I believe there is a misguided belief that post-16 year olds and adults have more complexities in their life and that we should accommodate lateness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should forbid class entry to all latecomers or banish them to the corner. But out of respect and acknowledgement to those who’ve arrived on time, lessons should start on time.

And make it bloomin’ unmissable.  Say hello and then “BAM” a thought-provoking activity or innovative recap.