Pack to 'fix' rowdy pupils

A video training pack for teachers on violence and aggression in schools aims to "fix the problem before it gets broken", Anne Marie Carrie, head of education in East Lothian, said on Tuesday.

The pack is believed to be the first of its kind in Britain and has been adapted from an earlier version with a Pounds 10,000 contribution from East Lothian. The council made the investment after the Dunblane shootings in March and agreed to co-operate with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which has funded the pack.

Ms Carrie told a meeting in Musselburgh: "It's not that our schools are in crisis. We do not have a Ridings but it could happen tomorrow or the day after. We do not have a problem but that is not the point. It is about fixing it before it gets broken."

She added: "Authorities have a responsibility to provide schools which are safe, secure and caring. We also have to create a culture and ethos in schools where reporting incidents is a positive move." It had to be acceptable for teachers to report problems with individual pupils or groups of pupils.

Simon Collier of Merlin Communications, which has produced the pack, told the meeting: "Before most incidents of violence in schools there have been warnings." There was a duty to report these.

Ms Carrie said all staff, including janitors and auxiliaries, were involved in providing a safe environment, although the emphasis was frequently on teachers. Lord Cullen's report on the Dunblane incident had focused on unauthorised entry to schools but the most common difficulties were presented by authorised entries, such as parents visiting teachers or classroom incidents escalating out of control.

The pack, Ms Carrie said, was designed to reduce risks throughout the school and "help educate staff in getting their own personal safety up to scratch". It would support teachers when faced with conflict and aggression, increase their confidence and help them defuse situations in and around the classroom.

Alan Scott, local secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, welcomed the initiative. "If it recommends strategies that help people cope with violent situations in the classroom, that is fine," Mr Scott said. Teachers wanted to be able to handle incidents if they arose.

Schools in East Lothian will be given free copies of the pack but Mr Scott called for staff development sessions to back it up.

* The Personal Safety for Schools Training Pack contains two videos and an explanatory book that highlight possible flashpoints in schools and suggest ways to combat problems.

It costs around Pounds 230 and is available from Merlin Communications (01285 641851).

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