Build on their strengths, not problems

20th February 2009 at 00:00

As reported last month, the number of exclusions from Scottish schools fell by 11 per cent last year. Much of the media coverage focused on whether this represented a real improvement in behaviour or under-reporting, and anecdotal comments were used to show that unruly behaviour persists and may even be increasing.

It is no surprise that the Schools Minister chose to announce the new figures from Inshes Primary in Inverness. That the school has not excluded a single pupil since it opened 18 months ago is cause for celebration. Much of this success has been the use of a solution-focused philosophy throughout the school and with parents.

This is the approach that Barnardo's Scotland has adopted at its SPACE (supporting primary-aged children early) service in Dundee for the last 10 years - and achieved some fantastic results. In an evaluation of our work with 270 children experiencing significant difficulties, 93 per cent remained with their families and 91 per cent remained in school.

SPACE has achieved these results by building on the strengths and resources of children and those around them, rather than dwelling on the problems. This practical and positive approach does not necessarily rely on additional resources.

We all want to see improved behaviour in the classroom, less disruption to learning and exclusions avoided wherever possible. So let's have less arguing over statistics and more discussion of what works.

Martin Crewe, director, Barnardo's Scotland.

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