Speak softly to the press

It was a classic. One newspaper reported last week that new guidelines from Edinburgh City Council would "ban" teachers shouting at pupils (as though a ban can be enforced through guidelines). The rest of the media attached arms and legs to the claim and the story was soon up and running - and, for good measure, lest the information was too challenging for the average tabloid reader, 'shouting' was given the ultimate accolade of appearing dressed in capital letters. The odd (sic) expert - that is, the leader of the Opposition Tories on the council - was then easily found to slam the move, which was sufficient to suggest in these bizarre media times that there was universal fury.

The only slight difficulty with this treatment is that no such guidelines have been issued by Edinburgh City Council. The report which triggered the feeding frenzy, from the education department's advice and conciliation service, did refer rather misleadingly to guidelines but these amount to no more than a set of recommendations to schools about what they might learn from the nature of the complaints that have been lodged against the authority.

These involve the rather less than earth-shattering conclusion that shouting at pupils is "inappropriate and unprofessional" - and the less widely reported observation (totally unreported, in fact) that heads should also tell parents where necessary that any unreasonable or abusive language and behaviour in schools is equally unacceptable. Every parent knows, after all, that reprimanding through constant shouting is totally counter-productive.

Of course, what the coverage missed entirely was the powerful force of encouraging positive behaviour - which applies to staff as well as to pupils. There was, unaccountably, little reference to the finding of the research study among Angus Council primaries (reported in The TESS of June 21) that among the strategies which had proved successful in turning round pupils' behaviour was "speaking in a soft voice and reprimanding in a quiet manner". But then, sections of the press have never been interested in correcting misbehaviour.

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