The officials trying to make council budgets match the bottom line have an unenviable task. But we are reminded today (p1) that some efficiencies are a false economy. Classroom assistants and behaviour support teachers have been employed for a specific reason - because they work. They improve classroom discipline and support children who would otherwise struggle to conform to normal behaviour. And for the rest of the children in the class, they allow the teacher to perform his or her function - to teach. Yet support staff are all too vulnerable to budget cuts, and it is almost inevitable that their loss from the repertoire of behaviour management tools will lead to greater disruption, both inside and outside the classroom. Schools will not be the only losers.
This week's report on violence in schools provides some comfort: life in the classroom is far safer than many tabloid headlines would lead us to believe. Violent incidents are very rare and most pupils say they feel secure inside schools, particularly in spaces controlled by teachers.
Further confirmation of the growth in cyberbullying, on the other hand, is of considerable concern. Menacing messages via cyberspace appear disturbingly easy to inflict on victims. That teenage girls in particular resort to such bullying is perhaps not surprising to those who work with them, but it is nevertheless imperative that means are found to quash it. Teachers are increasingly becoming prey to a form of bullying where it is harder to identify the perpetrators. The report recommends restorative practices as an effective means of promoting positive behaviour and bringing home to perpetrators the impact of their actions on their victims. Yet this approach requires human and financial resources to be effective, which brings us back to where we started - cutting them, too, would be another false economy.
Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine) 2009.