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Halfway house on discipline

Most schools are well-disciplined and most pupils are well-behaved. Such, in essence, is the message from HMIE in its report on school discipline this week (page four). It does not run counter to the other conclusion: that there are discipline problems in many schools, of a more challenging nature than in the past and requiring more intensive activity by teachers to combat it. As with all statistics, it's a case of where you place the accent: there are problems in more than half of secondaries, or a half of secondaries have indiscipline under control; more than a quarter of primaries face difficulties, or three-quarters do not.

While national strategies may be derided in schools, there is no doubt that the action plan from the Better Behaviour-Better Learning task group has acted as a catalyst for many developments, such as "time out" for pupils and pupil support bases which HMIE believes are being more rigorously and intelligently used than the "sin bins" of the past.

It is, of course, all very well having fine strategies in place to tackle indiscipline, but these must also feed into improved learning and achievement for pupils, which will be the focus of the next HMIE report on discipline. But, as the head of pupil support at Edinburgh's Trinity Academy put it so succinctly, the nub of the issue is the age-old one of the quality in the relationship between teacher and pupil.

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