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Discipline survey slates inclusion

The link between the Executive's social inclusion policies and rising indiscipline in schools, a key finding of the ministerial task force on discipline, has been confirmed in a West Dunbartonshire survey.

The survey also revealed that sanctions to deal with disruptive pupils are not readily available either in schools or in the authority as a whole.

The analysis of teachers' views was carried out by the West Dunbartonshire local association of the Educational Institute of Scotland - before the recent publication of the task force report - and produced 421 responses from individual members.

Nine out of 10 teachers - 369 of the 421 respondents - felt that incidents of indiscipline had risen in the past two years. Almost exactly the same proportion, 376, regarded in-school sanctions as inappropriate and 385 believed that the authority as a whole did not have adequate sanctions to deal with disruptive pupils.

Sixteen per cent of those surveyed claimed that they had been physically assaulted in the past two years and 78 per cent said they had been verbally abused by pupils either frequently (26 per cent) or "once or twice" (52 per cent).

Surprisingly, only 16 per cent of these claimants went to the length of completing an official "violence to staff" form. This statistic reflects the view of Jan Cleife, president of West Dunbartonshire EIS, that teachers are often made to feel that it is their fault when violent incidents occur and tend not to report them.

Ronnie Alexander, the local EIS secretary, said that indiscipline had been an ongoing issue for a number of years, but the survey had confirmed the view that social inclusion policy had produced an increase in indiscipline, pointing out that 88 per cent of respondents had cited social inclusion - retaining disruptive pupils in school - as a reason for the rise in violent incidents.

He said: "The survey results have been placed on our education director's agenda. I hope that the Scottish Executive and West Dunbartonshire Council will take heed of these figures and that they will influence future policy."

Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, who chaired the discipline task group, has accepted that the increase in exclusions means that the policy of inclusion has not worked. He wants instead to set fresh targets for promoting positive behaviour by pupils.

Bob Cook, head of resource and development in West Dunbartonshire, said the authority acknowledged the genuine difficulties highlighted in the survey.

These were no greater in West Dunbartonshire than anywhere else, he said, but "there is no point in putting our heads in the sand".

Mr Cook added: "Our 'violence against staff' policy recognises that there is a problem and we have appointed a staff welfare officer. In addition we have invested significant resources to support teachers in the classroom. We will continue to work with teacher unions to address these problems."

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