Praise, don't point, heads told

Wagging fingers at teachers will not improve schools, Pamela Munn of Moray House Institute, one of the country's leading education researchers, told Roman Catholic secondary heads at their annual conference in Crieff last week.

"You improve by giving people responsibility and control over different aspects of the school. You highlight what they already do well and the kind of areas they should improve in. You do not do it by wagging your finger at them," Professor Munn said.

Professor Munn, who is heading a Scottish Office-funded investigation into school exclusions and discipline, said St Andrew's House shared her view. Schools, she said, had to become more involved in self-evaluation. "The more long-lasting improvements are brought about by people recognising the need to improve. You do it through self-evaluation," she said.

A key question for teachers was to ask whether they would send their own children to the school they teach in. Ethos was all important to a good school and the Scottish Schools Ethos Network, an initiative sponsored by the Scottish Office, now had more than 450 members.

Catholic schools appeared to perform better on value-added measures because of their shared ethos. Forthcoming research on schools that had fewer exclusions is likely to reveal a significant alignment of social and academic targets.

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