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Peacock's first task

COMPASSION, frustration and anger were the main feelings expressed by teachers in a survey published two weeks ago by the Educational Institute of Scotland on what its members felt towards problem pupils. Teachers often knew what was effective for staff and pupils but did not have full support from local authorities. The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association has published its own tale of front-line despair this week. This must be one of the first issues in the in-tray of Peter Peacock, our new Education Minister, if he is to take the profession with him in the next stage of our Parliament.

Two months ago, his predecessor reconvened the national discipline task group amid suggestions that classroom teachers had seen little benefit from the high-profile strategy, launched by the First Minister. Money has gone in to create units and bases but more needs to be done. Sadly, few teachers seem able to report any advantage from the strategy, although policies and practices do not materialise overnight. Mr Peacock must quickly raise the pace and lend support to teachers.

One area where he could act is exclusions. Further definition about the practicalities of social inclusion would also help. That policy comes with a heavy price tag which ministers have yet to meet fully. But the discipline task group remains teachers' best bet for action.

This week we also report that approaches to countering bullying and boys'

indiscipline may lie in the community. Teachers may accept that analysis but in the short term it is imperative that school behaviour policies - drawn up with the pupils - are crystal clear and the consequences for breaches are spelt out. Schools need some defences against the ills of community.

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