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Discipline is prerequisite to improving

Your front-page lead story (TES, July 12) homes in on the biggest issues facing our country this century - the emotional well-being of a nation. Our school has 88 per cent free school meals and the children are faced daily with lifestyles on television they are unlikely to ever achieve.

Our staff realised three years ago that to raise our academic standards we first had to address discipline and the emotional development of our children; our kids needed a "damage limitation" model when it comes to developing a school curriculum to prepare them to cope with what life in the 1990s will throw at them. But this is not just because we are in the inner city.

This country has a growth in teenage pregnancies and teenage suicides, and we see adults under pressure behaving like children when it comes to road rage and relationships. Three years ago our school was witnessing disaffection in five-year-olds with their curiosity for life totally snuffed out.

We had to make a whole-school commitment to agree it is our duty to teach manners and to counsel children to control tantrums. We developed a strong positive discipline policy, training every member of our teaching and non-teaching staff, and 19 providing school clubs for four- to 11-year-olds.

We hold half-termly forums with children to help make school a fairer place. We also developed a citizenship policy giving children experiences from emergency first aid at Year 6 to school recognition for out-of-school good deeds. We also make lunchtimes fun: a qualified PE coach is present every day, and there are a variety of lunchtime clubs to extend children's social skills.

We have just been OFSTEDed and got an "excellent" for our out-of-school clubs, spiritual, moral, social education and pastoral care.

We have not got stunning tests results but we are beginning to access our children's minds and standards of achievement are "on the up". This would not have been so if we had never taken stock of the emotional intelligence in our children. Schools can make a massive impact on this if only OFSTED and the Government would give it equal status with the other things it inspects.

For suggestionss on how to address the needs of the little "timebombs", just read Daniel Coleman's book Emotional Intelligence and then make your concept of education the widest one you can. We need a "nation's curriculum" not just a national curriculum.

HELEN BUCHANAN Headteacher St Clements Egerton C of E Primary School West Park Street Ordsall Greater Manchester

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