Scotland's largest teaching union has issued an urgent call to the Scottish Executive to provide more off-site facilities for pupils with "particularly challenging behaviour". The demand comes in a new report, published today (Friday) by a special committee of the Educational Institute of Scotland, set up to tackle the problem of indiscipline.
While not as forthright as last week's report by the National Union of Teachers in England, which came close to a U-turn by that union on the sensitive issue of inclusion, the EIS report emphasises that it is a "growing concern of teachers that there are a number of pupils for whom a 'mainstream' placing is proving inappropriate or indeed impossible".
While the NUT report, based on work by former Strathclyde University education professor John MacBeath (now at Cambridge University), called for a "root and branch independent review of inclusion policies and practice", the EIS stance is more of an affirmation of its existing position. The union says that teachers and pupils have a right to work in a safe and disciplined environment and demands that funding be found to implement existing executive plans.
Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, said: "The EIS report is seeking three Cs -clarity of procedures and arrangements; consistency of application; and co-ownership of discipline policies."
The union has for some time been expressing concern that the unprecedented level of official activity in responding to concerns about behaviour is not having any real impact on classroom teachers. It therefore calls on every EIS local association to fulfil its role in pushing the discipline agenda in local negotiations and in supporting teachers in school.
Sandy Fowler, convener of the EIS indiscipline committee, said: "The Scottish Executive's policies of inclusion and the presumption of 'mainstreaming' have presented new and difficult challenges for teachers.
These challenges certainly require teachers to be more reflective about their teaching and about pupils' learning. But they also call into question the level of support that they receive from school management, from local authorities and indeed from the Scottish Executive."
Mr Fowler added: "This report confirms the EIS belief in the fundamental principle that teachers have the right to teach and that young people have the right to learn in a safe and disciplined environment. It is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive and local authorities to meet these requirements.
"We acknowledge the place of alternatives to exclusion and the work of the Scottish Executive in promoting and funding innovative solutions. However, the impact of such innovations may take many years to become real or apparent - of little comfort to the teacher who is facing daily disruption or physical assault."
A spokeswoman for the executive said: "We are already taking action on many of the points raised in this report. We have already provided additional funding, including pound;35 million for additional support staff in schools, and are working with local authorities on a range of activities to improve behaviour -like putting in place behaviour co-ordinators and trying out restorative practices in schools.
"We are also looking at the support facilities that are available to Scottish schools for dealing with more challenging pupils."
Mr Fowler reaffirmed the EIS position that heads should continue to have the right to exclude difficult pupils, "where appropriate".
The union acknowledges that many children have increasingly complex lives "in which they often communicate their personal difficulties through challenging behaviour".
It adds, however: "Those schools which have had some success in tackling pupil indiscipline have been characterised by strong effective leadership but most importantly their policies on discipline and better behaviour have emerged after full consultation, have been clear and concise, featured good communication and have been consistently applied."
classroom havoc 6; Leader 22