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Behaviour must top priorities list

I welcome your series on behaviour and recognise the relevance of Terry Haydn's "Behaviour now: the classroom" (June 18). As a former head of learning supportSenco in a large comprehensive, I have seen poor behaviour and lack of respect for authority escalate to its present alarming level.

Much is said of the breakdown of discipline and the stress placed on school staff in their bid to "deliver the curriculum" to the disaffected. Outside school, anti-social behaviour orders and acceptable behaviour contracts have failed: they do not change behaviour, but merely apportion blame.

There never was a "golden age" when all children behaved well and respected those in authority, but the levels of venom now directed at school staff points to immense wells of anger in our young people.

The Government must address the relevance of the curriculum and the opportunities open to school-leavers. But schools can do a lot to improve behaviour. Most obvious is the setting up of a strong, consistent behaviour management programme of rewards and sanctions. To do this well, a school should use an outside professional or agency which can advise, train and monitor. Managers must be open to possibilities and willing to let go of "territory".

I know from experience of drawing up common assessment framework reports that support for families with parenting skills was almost always a paramount need.

But at meetings to identify the agency to meet those needs, there was a black hole: there is no service that can provide regular, frequent, professional support with the difficult job of parenting. With imminent cuts in local authority budgets, schools will be even less able to access the meagre resources available.

Mr Haydn rightly points out that under our judgmental system, it is not easy for heads and governors to be completely open about the problems. Yet behaviour should be their first priority, since without a successful behaviour management system, performance and attainment plummet as staff stress levels rise.

Jean Williams, Former secondary Senco and senior partner in parent support solutions, Stratford-upon-Avon.

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