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Good detective work takes many forms

Watching Ashes to Ashes the other night, the thought struck me: if life does indeed imitate art, do school disciplinary policies tend to imitate TV police procedurals?

There are times when the inestimable DI Gene Hunt is inescapably reminiscent of some of my own more robust teachers at school in the 1960s and yet, as time has gone on, society, TV cop shows - and thus schools' approaches to discipline - have changed and, hopefully, made progress.

The advent of Robbie Coltrane as the flawed polis shrink in Cracker, allied to the thoughtful Inspector Morse and the positively refined Inspector Lindley, have combined to suggest a more cerebral approach to cracking the mysteries of crime and, by extension, of school misbehaviour. Even Edinburgh's local hero, John Rebus, tends to spend more time gazing into pints of IPA and out-thinking his adversaries than taking them up dark alleys.

However, sometimes the sophisticated approach isn't necessary. A colleague recently reported a break-in at his primary school, leaving the office vandalised, and the name of a P6 pupil painted along one wall. Calling the lad in, more in sorrow than anger, he asked why he had done it.

"Wisnae me, sir."

"But, Jimmy, you wrote your name on the wall."

Crestfallen silence, followed by: "Didnae think you'd know it was me, sir. I was wearing gloves."

Last week, our dynamic physics department was looking at flight and its properties. Worksheets were to be converted into paper planes to illustrate the theories. Inevitably, one of "the few" retained the missile, which he launched from the firstfloor balcony at interval.

He was amazed when I caught up with him at the start of the next period - till he recollected how he had written his name on the sheet before preparing it for flight.

So, sometimes, you just have to laugh and, as one of a generation that still feels a flutter of excitement at the opening drumbeats of the Z Cars theme, I would like to think, as a depute, that I come over as a lot more John Watt than Charlie Barlow.

Sadly though, in the years I operated with a female depute in investigating miscreant behaviour, we became known as Dempsey and Makepeace. Never having watched that show, I was never too sure who was who.

Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston.

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