Highland heads add to pressure on indiscipline

HEADTEACHERS in Highland want smaller classes, better discipline and a more flexible, less overloaded curriculum tailored to groups of pupils.

A meeting last week in Inverness, part of the national debate, reinforced the recent message about growing indiscipline. Pat May, head of Brora primary, said: "You cannot get away from the crisis of discipline. If you do not have discipline, you cannot teach."

John Inkster, head of Thurso High, said "the biggest problem is the indiscipline of the minority".

Mrs May, spokeswoman for primary heads, said that as an experienced teacher even she was not immune to difficulties. "I have been in situations where one or a group of pupils have seriously disrupted the class. I have gone home seriously depressed, waking up during the night and not wanting to go to school the next day. We have to think of class teachers trying to keep these children under control while delivering the curriculum to the rest."

Work in primaries was exciting, the ethos was good and achievement was given more recognition, but the curriculum was overloaded, Mrs May said.

Carra Thomson, a probationer at Raigmore primary, said discipline was the number one priority for new teachers - "keeping control of 31 seven-year-olds to whom you desperately want to deliver an excellent curriculum". Classroom assistants were vital to that, she said.

Stephen Shaw, head of Gairloch High, said difficult pupils could be engaged outside the formal curriculum in areas such as outdoor education where they could build core skills, self-esteem and leadership. "If we are engaging them, then we can be taking them as far as they can go in an academic way," Mr Shaw said.

Campbell Dickson, head of Nairn Academy, called for class sizes well below 33. A more flexible curriculum, particularly in the first two years of secondary, would help prevent the disaffection many pupils experienced. "The curriculum is very much take it or leave it. It's there for everyone. There are 57 varieties of kids in classes but not 57 varieties of the way the curriculum is delivered or the nature of the curriculum," Mr Dickson said.

Mr Inkster said HMI was blocking the reforms young people and teachers wanted. "A lot of the constraints have to be swept away and the idea of a balanced curriculum of people following eight modes in third and fourth year needs to be abandoned. That is against the perceived wisdom of people who know better," he said.

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