Call to slash class sizes to restore order

Scotland's largest teaching union has called for radical cuts in class sizes as part of a concerted effort to reduce pupil indiscipline.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "Pupil indiscipline is the biggest single problem confronting schools today. Throughout 2004, considerable research evidence, as well as the information we are receiving from teachers on a daily basis, points to a serious and significant rise in pupil indiscipline."

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, responded by pledging to do even better in 2005. The EIS has raised the ante, however, arguing that while initiatives are beginning to bear fruit in some schools, provision was still patchy and arrangements inconsistent.

Mr Smith said that class sizes were still too large to allow modern teaching methods to be effectively implemented. He also warned that none of the Scottish Executive's initiatives, including its Ambitious, Excellent Schools reforms, would succeed unless pupils were properly disciplined.

"The substantial new changes proposed in the school curriculum as part of Peter Peacock's announcement in November will only work if the school classroom is a positive environment where every single child in the class is committed to learning and benefiting from their time in school," Mr Smith said.

The Executive had made considerable steps in acknowledging the seriousness of the problem, but teachers now needed to see urgent action taken in their own classrooms and their own schools.

Despite the best efforts of the Executive, Mr Smith said, there is no evidence of a decline in indiscipline. "The reality is that too few teachers, in their day to day work, feel properly involved in the positive initiatives now being developed.

"The objective now must be to ensure that every single teacher in Scotland should be part of the process. Every single teacher must have the chance of being fully involved in the strategies being adopted to deal with indisciplined children."

Mr Peacock said in a special statement: "In 2004, I have continued to give priority to addressing behaviour challenges in our schools and supporting our teachers even more effectively.

"The EIS and others have worked closely with me to help shape our work and I look forward to working closely with them again in 2005 when I hope to be able to add to what we have been doing, to give even more support to our teachers and headteachers.

"It is important that schools have a range of initiatives at their disposal to ensure they can tackle the challenges they face. In 2004, we had more in place to help than in 2003, and in 2005 we will go further. Step by step, we are putting in place the good practices and resources that will make the difference for teachers and pupils."

Mr Smith said: "There is a big gap between valuable pilot projects being worked on by a small number of people and the realities in the majority of our classrooms."

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