Hard knocks in the classroom

17th June 2005 at 01:00
A cannabis culture in schools, pupils treating teachers with contempt, and a nine-year-old special needs pupil assaulting teachers were only some of the problems aired in a series of debates on discipline problems.

Hugh Donnelly, Glasgow, caught the mood when he said: "Inclusion means we have to cope with a wide range of difficulties, but I do believe we are failing to address the needs of the disaffected and that is undermining the chances of other pupils."

Mr Donnelly described one secondary school in the west of Scotland where pupils treated teachers with contempt "because they know nothing will happen to them". The result was that teachers were working with intolerable stress levels.

Olwen McGarvey, Renfrewshire, who teaches in a unit for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, warned that authorities across Scotland were abusing the notion of mainstreaming. Five weeks before her school was due to close, a nine-year-old child had attacked her and knocked her to the ground; attacked a non-teaching member of staff, cracking her rib; and attacked a promoted member of staff, bruising her mouth.

"This child has been disruptive since nursery but was only referred to a special school a few months ago," she said.

Ian McCrone, Renfrewshire, described the case of a nursery pupil who, when finally persuaded to climb down from sitting on top of the television, had fractured the elbow of a nursery nurse. A secondary pupil had barged past a female teacher and then accused her of sexual assault.

Bob Dow, Glasgow, said that his 12-year-old niece had been offered a pound;5 bag of marijuana on her way to school in North Lanarkshire. There was, Mr Dow said, a cannabis culture in schools that led to major discipline problems.

A survey of teachers in a Glasgow secondary found that 96 per cent of pupils had lessons disrupted because other pupils had not come properly equipped; 82 per cent of lessons were disrupted by mobile phones; 88 per cent of classes were disrupted by pupils eating or drinking; 96 per cent of lessons were disrupted by pupils refusing to follow instructions; 84 per cent of teachers said there was a problem every time they took a class; 86 per cent said lessons were disrupted by pupils calling out; and 85 per cent of lessons were disrupted by talking.

"We need to nail down the amount of disruption that teachers from nursery through to secondary are experiencing," Mr Dow said.

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