Discipline is still the top priority

26th May 2006 at 01:00
There has been a positive frenzy of activity over the past few years at Scottish Executive level, producing reports, action plans and initiatives to tackle the problems associated with indiscipline. Yet, if the Educational Institute of Scotland (page one) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (page six) are to be believed, all too many teachers are not reaping the benefits.

There is no doubting the executive's good intentions. Resources have been made available to support social inclusion and provide better home-school links. But the problem remains, in all too many classrooms, of small groups of pupils preventing teachers from teaching and pupils from learning. The disruption may be low level, or it may veer occasionally towards violence.

Not surprisingly, many teachers identify discipline as their number one concern.

So what needs to be done? The EIS committee on pupil indiscipline is correct to argue that classroom behaviour problems are a manifestation of society's wider tensions. There is evidence of higher diagnosis, and possibly also higher incidence, of autistic spectrum and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, of mental health problems and of family breakdown.

All these have implications for children's behaviour. Certainly, more and better continuing professional development needs to focus on how to manage behaviour; there needs to be consistent and sustained support from senior management teams and behaviour co-ordinators to the rest of the staff; and teachers, senior management teams and education authority staff need to be singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to discipline.

Would additional off-site and on-site provision for the most challenging pupils help? Almost certainly. But what has perhaps not been sufficiently highlighted by the EIS are the advantages of earlier intervention where younger children manifest behavioural problems. The Additional Support for Learning Act was intended to provide tailored support for every child who needs it at the time he or she needs it. Can it deliver?

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