How New York state's experience can help

When Matt Murray became headteacher of Gilboa-Conesville Central School in Gilboa, New York State, the boys' toilets were smashed up. Doors were battered down, and paper and towels set alight: it was a den for out-of-control smokers. That was 13 years ago.

Last year, two children were caught smoking in the entire year after being turned in by their fellow pupils. Soap, toilet rolls and paper towels survive in the reformed environment.

"I put it down to vigilance, hard-nosed discipline, hard work and building a school community. In many of the classrooms we talk about what is a quality conversation, what a quality audience looks like, and how are you going to play fair in theclassroom. What does that mean? And how are we going to respect each other?

"We are addressing behavioural and interpersonal issues, as well as curriculum content. As kids grow up in our system in the classrooms, that carries over into the hallways and facilities. So you don't have the same kind of problems we had before. Kids have respect for each other and the place and they get upset if someone throws something on the floor," Mr Murray said.

Teachers who use the CSP programme to set standards with students have fewer discipline problems. "By and large, kids feel they are respected, their opinion heard and teachers get the respect back. Attendance has improved significantly," he said.

His teachers use CSP regularly, depending on the time of year and where they are in the curriculum. "Instead of telling students the information, we turn it into a problem for them to solve and we ask them to present their learning, maybe by standing up and telling the class what they've done; they may do drawings or a skit. When you put people together in a collaborative group to solve problems and give them a time frame, they do brilliant things they would never have expected and that's true whether it's senior managers or primary kids," Mr Murray said.

Further information from colin.weatherley@gullanes.demon.co.uk

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