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Skill Force may have to tackle more unruly pupils

Falkirk is the latest authority to consider tapping into the potential of the Skill Force initiative to deal with its most difficult pupils.

As indiscipline shows no signs of moving off the top of the political agenda, Falkirk's education committee heard this week that schools cannot cope with very troubled pupils - even when they are referred to a support base in school or day units outside it.

Ann Carnachan, the head of school improvement, reported: "These young people can be very challenging and, as currently established, the day units are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of the young people who are referred to them."

The committee agreed the situation needs a whole new approach, and is to set up a pupil support resource group for primary pupils only, and a secondary pupil support service with up to 50 full-time places. The emphasis would be on providing alternative curricula, linking with family support workers and trying to ease pupils back into the mainstream.

Pupils would be referred to external support using staged intervention techniques, first pioneered in Scotland in East Ayrshire schools with the support of behaviour co-ordinators.

The council believes that Skill Force would be another effective option, after a successful pilot experience with third- and fourth-year pupils in five North Lanarkshire secondary schools. It has been forcefully backed by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, who said: "Ideally, every school in Scotland would have a Skill Force team of its own."

An evaluation of the programme by Glasgow University found that it had successfully shaken of its "boot camp" image, acquired through its use of former military officers as instructors. Skill Force now concentrates on a wider range of youngsters than just those who "cause mayhem", James Cant, its development manager in Scotland, told The TESS (August 13, 2004).

A review of behaviour support in Falkirk by the authority found there was "growing resourcefulness" in primary schools, but secondaries were still struggling to cope with the problems.

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