Editor's comment

18th May 2007 at 01:00
The first conference of the "union season" was a useful reminder that, while political match-making may come and go, school realities carry on regardless.

The annual gathering of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (p4) had the usual mix of the old and the new. Discipline will never be far below the surface and, no doubt, teachers and opposition politicians will make their judgments about the effectiveness of Alex Salmond's new minority government as much on its ability to deal with classroom behaviour as on any other issue - just as they did with Jack McConnell's administration.

While discipline may be old hat, it also wears disturbing new ones - thanks to the pervasive power of technology. The potential for mobile phones and the web to wreak havoc with the most carefully-laid discipline strategy is clear. Young people, it is often said, will always be a step or three ahead of teachers when it comes to using ICT for learning: the same holds true for behaviour.

McConnell's administration was often accused of lacking the "big ideas" in education and elsewhere. Discipline, however, is one area where the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition could not be faulted for effort. A string of initiatives - staged intervention, early intervention, restorative practices, the motivated school, the solution-oriented school, behaviour co-ordinators - poured forth at a bewildering pace. Initiatives, certainly, although many teachers may see it as initiative-itis.

As a new minority administration at Holyrood is looking for consensus to build majorities for policies, perhaps now is the time to do just that on school discipline. Revisiting the former executive's strategy will do no harm on this most pressing - and depressing - of issues.

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