DISCIPLINE remains a great worry for schools. Classroom teachers who have to put up with the disruption that even petty bad behaviour causes are often wary of publicising their problems lest they appear incapable of maintaining order. Guidance staff and senior management are faced with the dilemma of enforcing exclusions, which do no service to the offender's education. It is little wonder that the Headteachers' Association of Scotland devoted part of its conference to a wide-ranging debate in which a large number participated and on which the verdict afterwards was highly positive.
Positive, too, was the approach from most of the speakers. Whatever the mood in staffrooms in parts of the country, the heads saw no point in bemoaning the state of discipline or in allotting blame for the problems. In line with the Government's policy of identifying and supporting alternatives to exclusion, the heads discussd approaches being tried out in individual schools.
There is an obvious contradiction between exclusion and the strategy of social inclusion. Yet if there is to be an alternative to removing disrupters from the premises, it cannot be to the detriment of pupils who want to get on with their work. Behaviour can be taught, and indeed it probably has to be where pupils have clearly not been set parameters at home.
But although there are guidelines for teachers to follow, none is likely to prove a panacea. Different approaches suit different pupils and teachers, and all of them bring hard work and only limited success. The heads came up with an impressive range of initiatives - testimony to their schools' openness to innovation as well as to Government encouragement dating back several years. They do not want society's problems dumped on them, but since that happens they are striving to cope.