Good manners not essential

4th May 2007 at 01:00
Teachers are given choice over behaviour scheme

AUTHORITARIAN LESSONS where children are drilled to say "please" or "thank you" are unlikely to be part of a behaviour scheme that is being expanded to secondary schools. Instead, teachers will be encouraged to help pupils empathise with characters from plays and history, and learn methods to resolve conflict.

Stories in the press this week about the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (Seal) scheme suggested that all secondary pupils should be taught good manners.

But the project is not expected to be compulsory. It is already used by 60 per cent of primary schools. Fifty secondary schools have piloted the programme since 2005 and Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, announced last month that it would be made available to all secondaries later this year. Examples the Department for Education and Skills have given of Seal's use in secondary lessons include exploring the motivation of characters in drama or English lessons, particularly those who overcome difficulties.

RE teachers are encouraged to focus on the motivation of religious figures who faced oppression and persecution. PE teachers are advised to concentrate children's minds on how to cope with disappointment in the face of failure.

The Compton secondary school in Barnet, north London, tried the scheme with Year 9 pupils and now makes it a regular part of morning tutor time for all.

Tutors use interactive whiteboard presentations, created by the school, which focus on topics such as how to avoid conflict and reasons for rules, such as the ban on chewing gum.

Charlotte Gormley, assistant headteacher, said the techniques, together with a behaviour management drive, had cut temporary exclusions by 50 per cent. Hollickwood primary in Barnet, north London, has been using Seal techniques for three years. It introduces a new theme every half term, currently "relationships".

Puppets are used by children in reception to explore their feelings when they think things are unfair. Staff are encouraged to demonstrate calming techniques, such as counting to 10 or deep breathing.

Chris Ryan, headteacher, said: "It's not about telling teachers what to teach. It's about providing a framework that they can work from." A DfES spokesperson said the secondary resource pack would be available soon.

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