A GOOD relationship with teachers is the key factor in pupil enjoyment and motivation, according to the pupils themselves.
This emerged yesterday (Thursday) when Save the Children Scotland released a report on its consultation with young people on the Education Bill, commissioned by the Scottish Executive.
In its own response, Save the Children suggests every school should draw up a charter on pupil participation and the Executive should give schools a "tool kit" to aid the process. Teacher training should also include an introduction to consulting pupils.
All pupils thought schools would benefit from consulting them. "Children and young people have a sophisticated understanding of what is happening in their schools and ways in which improvements can be made," Susan Fisher, assistant director at Save the Children Scotland, said.
The consultation involved 11 focus groups of young people aged five to 16. Four primaries, three secondaries and four schools and centres for disabled or problem pupils took part.
All pupils talked at great length about their relationship with teachers. This included enjoyable and "fun" lessons as well as being treated with respect, a view expressed particularly strongly in one special school.
"Primary pupils had mainly positive views about teachers but secondary pupils' opinions were more varied, with the quality of relationships affecting experiences of particular subjects," the report states.
Help and praise from teachers is particularly appreciated, although some pupils felt this was reserved for the brightest and the best. "I worry if I am doing well or not," one 14-year-old said. "They don't tell you enough."
Pupils with behavioural and other difficulties or who had been excluded identified class sizes as particularly crucial, saying the smaller classes in specialist centres had been very beneficial.
The findings suggest schools have some distance to go in promoting inclusion. Pupils who had been in specialist schools felt the difficulties which lay behind their misbehaviour were now being recognised and attitudes to schools were very positive. But those who had been excluded and had not received any special help had almost nothing positive to say.
The majority of children wanted changes to the school day, with later starts, shorter periods, more breaks, fewer double periods and more variety of subjects. Other priorities include better toilets in secondaries, grassy areas and trees in primary playgrounds.
Leader, page 18