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Collaborative steps to better behaviour

Support groups are making an impact on low-level disruption in the classroom

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Support groups are making an impact on low-level disruption in the classroom

Nearly 15 years ago, long before the "better behaviour, better learning" principles had taken root in Scottish schools, Joan Mowat - then a depute headteacher - embarked on a radical approach to improving behaviour in her school.

Day after day, she would find children standing outside her door - sent there by class teachers because of discipline problems - at Vale of Leven Academy in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire.

"I wanted to do something proactive rather than reactive," she says.

So, for the next seven years, she developed a new methodology - support groups - based on the educational theories of David Perkins' Teaching for Understanding, Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and Alan McLean's Motivated School.

In all, she worked with 150 children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties - or deemed at risk of acquiring them - over that period. Not all were nominated by class teachers because they were causing trouble; in some cases it was a preventative move, often with pupils who appeared to be struggling to make the transition from primary to secondary.

The support group aimed to give pupils a better understanding of themselves and their relationships with other people. As a result, it was hoped they would develop:

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