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Girls fighting

Liz Henning is associate adviser for Manchester local education authority.

A former head of maths in Rochdale, she is a troubleshooter, giving support in behaviour management and maths teaching strategies to teachers in the city "With girls there will always be quite a bit of name-calling before a fight; quite a bit of nastiness; weeks of carrying tales backwards and forwards. Girls tend to harbour grudges more than boys, they find it hard to let go. They can pull out whole handfuls of hair when they get going and can inflict serious damage, so I would go in, but only if the fight looked as if it would continue if I didn't.

"I don't run when I see a fight, I tend to let pupils have a couple of swipes at each other before I intervene, then they are less likely to have a swipe at me. I always shout a warning, establish a presence and bring my arm down like a barrier. It's all about having certainty in your voice and body language. If possible they should be separated and, as in this case, the more aggressive child accompanied by the teacher.

"Teachers have to appear very calm after a fight. I tend to talk very slowly, lower my voice and adopt very open body language. There should then be a cooling-off period and teachers should attempt to get a clear version of the story as soon as possible. I always try to find out what has motivated the fighters, and make them understand the motivation of 'friends' involved, because two girls rarely start a fight on their own."

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