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Take a tip from learning support

The skills of learning support staff should be shared with other teachers so that all pupils can feel the benefits, Ruth Campbell, the Scottish Executive's policy manager for discipline, told the conference. "We must wonder how these positive relationships can be experienced in all classes, not just in small havens and in special provision."

These skills lay in developing positive relations with pupils, in making them feel they were being treated with respect and that they were being understood.

Ms Campbell pointed to projects such as staged intervention in East Ayrshire and restorative justice approaches in Highland, Fife and North Lanarkshire which are used to promote good behaviour. These were based on inclusive principles, involving class teachers and pupils themselves to help improve the climate for learning.

"All staff are involved because we believe it is in their capacity to solve the problems." Ms Campbell said. "It is not simply about removing the problems from them."

The conference also heard from Kathleen Marshall, the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People, that adults had to watch their own behaviour in schools. "Bullying is not just about children bullying children," Professor Marshall said. "It is about adults bullying children. Any strategies to combat bullying will be ineffective if they are operating in a culture that tolerates any kind of intimidation."

She also warned against turning inclusion on its head and forcing some children out of special schools where they may feel protected and safe. "If they are being bullied in mainstream, they are actually being excluded," she said.

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