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Schools in Fife keep the peace

Serious misbehaviour in schools is rare, senior officials in Fife maintain in setting out their latest strategy on behaviour and discipline. A staff survey last year and reports by inspectors underline that "the quality of relationships in Fife schools is very good", the authority says.

It is the second council in recent weeks - Moray was the other - to stress the positive climate in schools and dismiss scare stories about a breakdown of discipline.

Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector, has also recently played down talk of rampant indiscipline and talked up the generally positive climate in schools. "Overall," Fife says, "behaviour of pupils is good. Even in the secondary sector where staff report most concern, this relates to indiscipline that is of low seriousness but persistent."

The authority acknowledges that the social behaviour of young people has changed over the past decade to match changes in the structure of families and communities. The effects of social exclusion and disaffection, the progressive emancipation of young people, stronger peer groups and the effects of drug and alcohol abuse all impact on schools and support services, it points out.

But teachers are important too. "Pupil disaffection, indiscipline and staff stress are generated, in part, by a mismatch between the needs of the pupils and the capacity of the school. This mismatch is often most acute in schools serving communities of social disadvantage and poverty. Although related, in part, to resource allocation, this is a whole-school matter,"

the report states.

Fife argues that behaviour is learnt and can be shaped and that schools "do make a difference".

"Our task is to enable all schools to implement the whole-school techniques of the most successful schools," the authority says.

A new "incident manager" module on the Phoenix pupil database allows secondary school managers to identify patterns of behaviour or hot spots and target support.

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