The harshest masters of all are pupils

27th November 1998 at 00:00
If pupils were put in charge of behaviour policies, school exclusion rates would rocket.

Students would be far more punitive when it comes to dealing with classmates' misdemeanours, according to a new report looking at the role of school councils in reducing exclusions.

Pupils interviewed were often very clear that disruptive children should be "got rid of" or "kicked out". In a question about how behaviour problems could be improved, there was an overwhelming feeling that punishments and teachers should be stricter, writes author Professor Lynn Davies, of Birmingham University. "Pupils were particularly scathing about their school accepting children excluded from other schools," she said.

But school councils and other forms of pupil representation can contribute to a more inclusive ethos - with a beneficial effect on exclusion rates, she concludes.

Direct benefits of effective councils include peer control or monitoring of children at risk of exclusion, and peer support for individual classmates. Indirect effects include pupil-ownership of anti-bullying policies, and children "looking out" for each other.

For councils to work, they should have frequent meetings and immediate feedback, agendas covering both pupils' concerns and school policy issues, and support from all teachers.

However, councils are only one part of the equation when it comes to genuinely inclusive schools, and must be "embedded in a total-school ethos of democracy, equity, and concern for pupil and teacher welfare and performance," adds Professor Davies.

She surveyed 10 schools with low or declining exclusion rates and pupil councils, to explore the link between the two.

* For more information on school councils and pupil exclusions, telephone Professor Davies on 0121 414 4823.

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