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OLDER teachers and bigger classes could be just what your school really needs. According to management consultants the Hay Group, positive classroom atmosphere is the key to good results, and teachers find it easier to achieve that happy state if they have had 11 to 20 years of solid experience.

The consultants also say that while primary schools do better with smaller classes, secondary classes go on improving with size until they reach about 30. These conclusions, plus a bundle of training material on classroom climate, can be plundered from the Hay Group's website at:

One of the documents on the site is Fay Smith's survey of 8,000 pupils:

"What does it feel like to learn in our schools?": It suggests that while primary male and female teachers appear to be equally adept at creating a positive classroom climate, men are regularly rated more highly than female colleagues by secondary pupils (check out Figure 22 on page 43 of the statistical analysis document).

While schools prepare pupils for life in the wider society, school managers have to spend time and money keeping the wider society at bay. It can be uphill work.

A recent survey of local authorities shows that intrusion is the major security headache for schools. Parents and ex-pupils coming into school during the day to "sort someone out" are regular worries. Theft, arson and vandalism are also relatively commonplace. Some schools even have to deal with joy-riders dumping cars on their grounds and setting fire to them.

But simple deterrents can work. Better perimeter fencing, digital video cameras and defined secure zones within buildings all help. One school reduced its annual window-replacement bill from pound;7,000 to pound;1,500, mainly by installing closed-circuit television cameras.

Richard Lloyd and Charlene Ching's government-commissioned report can be downloaded from: Readers can email suggestions on future Internet Insights to Sam Saunders at

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