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Playing the blame game

David Henderson reports from the educational psychologists' conference at Heriot-Watt University

Parents start by taking a totally different view from teachers if they are called in for a meeting about their child's behaviour.

Teachers pin the blame on home background and many parents agree that adverse home circumstances are a factor. But they and their children think it is mostly teachers' fault.

Andy Miller, professor of psychology at Nottingham University, and author of So it's your fault!, said that pupils think their difficult behaviour is down to being shouted at and picked on by teachers.

Many teachers did not relate to pupils, they said, and had favourites and scapegoats. Some were rude, did not recognise good work and were moody, the children in one study said.

They also admitted that peer group pressure could be a factor. Some were vulnerable to being goaded into inappropriate action.

Professor Miller said one small study he had carried out with teachers who had successfully devised strategies to overcome difficulties with particular pupils showed that at first most blamed the parents. They cited general management of the child, punitive or violent home conditions, lack of attention or difficulties following separation or divorce and consequences such as moving home.

Most teachers thought it was only their interventions that led to improvements.

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