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Letters extra: The crushing impact of misbehaviour

I found the views of Alan McLean (TES 8 February 2002) a significant contribution to the Behaviour debate, although I perceived, possibly, a hint of irony in his article.

As a teacher I am well aware of the need for good behaviour, as well as the crushing impact that misbehaviour can bring. Bad behaviour can ruin concentration and wreck lessons. It can inhibit teaching and learning and it can, and indeed at its very worst it does, make people ill. These people could be teachers faced with serial harassment or abuse or it could be pupils on the wrong end of the bully's spite.

But I'm afraid I am perhaps a touch cynical over the latest initiative to tackle behaviour problems in schools. My cynicism springs from the apparently mixed messages coming through in the past few months.

First we saw the issue of the `Violence Statistics' and the message I thought I was getting then was that verbal abuse, offensive gestures, aggression, assault, damage to property - violence in any of its forms - were unacceptable. But when I read the Discipline Task Group's report I thought the tone seemed different. There seemed to be something - that the abuse of another human being, whether pupil, teacher or anybody else, is unacceptable - missing. I couldn't spot a clear, unequivocal message that verbal abuse, offensive gestures, aggression, assault, damage to property etc. were unacceptable.

It's worrying that two sides of the same coin - indiscipline and violence - may be viewed in different ways. When it comes to indisciplineviolence there can't be mixed messages, there has to be a coherent and rigorous approach - joined up working - and if something is unacceptable we have to be prepared to say so and be prepared to challenge it not appease it.

However, I look forward to being shown that my touch of cynicism is unfounded. I look forward to clear messages that the type of behaviour that disrupts education, harasses teachers and intimidates pupils in unacceptable and I look forward to seeing the systems, resources and support - wholehearted support not short term window dressing - needed to protect the innocent and bring about a change of culture being established.

Ian McCrone
160 Hollows Avenue
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