Fair play restrains the fighters

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Four years ago, the playground at Mossgiel primary in Dundee was more like a battleground, according to the authors of the Overcoming Violence report.

"There was aggressive behaviour in the playground, lashing out and fighting was a common experience, with pupil audiences quickly growing around fights and grudges being held over long periods, both in and out of class.

"The conflicts often spilled out into the community and there were several incidents involving families who were at loggerheads with each other over their children's disputes. The police were frequently called in to escort family members who turned up to intimidate pupils and incite further violence in the playground and away from the school gates.

"The overall pattern was one in which small incidents would escalate into spiralling conflicts."

Fair Play training began to change the pattern. A play council was set up with elections for class reps and met every two weeks. This led at the start of the summer term in 2001 to a positive play initiative in the playground and later to pupil training in peacemaking skills.

"A conflict resolution training programme for P6 pupils was put in place, being set up as a simple 'play mediation' service aimed at infants in P1-P3, led by P6 pupils. A series of six preliminary workshops were delivered to an elected P5-P6 class (children for whom 'mediation' was not a typical choice of problem-solving), working from a broad activity canvas incorporating philosophical enquiry, issue-based drama and mediation," the report states.

The pupils involved went on to run a mediation service "on the hoof" in the infant playground.

Karen Payne, Mossgiel's headteacher, said: "Mossgiel today is a very different school to what it was in 1999. It is much calmer with a very positive ethos. Children play together in organised games. Children talk to buddies and staff about their problems, there is an ongoing programme of teaching playground games, a pupil council and there is less aggression.

"With the help of Fair Play and the strong commitment of staff we have turned the school around."

Ms Payne adds: "We still have incidents, and we still have children with real social and behavioural problems and the aggression is still evident and continues out in the community, but it is much, much better."

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