Facing the issues together

30th January 2004 at 00:00
It was with much interest that I read your front page story last week, "Peacock vows to act on indiscipline". The next "must read" was to be found in your Scotland Plus feature where there was an informative interview with Shannon Bigham, the so-called school discipline "tsar".

At this stage, I must come clean and say that I'm presently employed in a school that can best be described as having a large number of "challenging pupils". This does not detract from the fact that I enjoy my job immensely and as a graduate of the "hard school of life", I see very clearly the importance of education and the role it can play in transforming lives.

In my experience over the last 10 years, the growing problems teachers face are greater than those we experienced in the early 1970s and it is unwise to pursue the view that the problems are related solely to "the raised awareness of teachers about incidents and reporting them".

It is in the spirit of creating a positive dialogue that I would like to offer some of my own observations: the links between local authorities and schools is a critical one, where the authorities have the resources to be supportive of schools that are in difficulties.

However, the problem relates to the willingness of those in power in education departments to enter into constructive talks with all their staff.

If the head is appointed by the director of education, is the loyalty to the head or to the school? Lack of effective communication with the grass roots is not only squandering the expertise of those who teach, but it leads to a sense of being alienated from the decision-making process.

When was there ever a meeting in my school where one of the education officers attended to listen to what the staff have to say?

Too many times in the past few years serious issues have been brushed aside, simply because they are rising at a rate which consequently increases the workload of senior managers in schools to levels that are unsustainable. This increasingly stressful environment can lead to accusations, where staff and managers lose faith in each other. The "blame culture" only accelerates the problems in the school.

Schools that are experiencing behavioural problems need to have a caring, careful and supportive policy, which schools in themselves may be unable to deliver and hence the importance of the local authority.

We all want the best for the pupils we teach and this must clearly be the view not only of those at the chalkface but of the senior managers, those employed in education departments and not forgetting the major unions.

John Rae

Old Bothwell Road

Glasgow

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