Social inclusion is not the cause of rising classroom indiscipline in secondaries, the Scottish Executive asserts in its updated guidance on improving pupil behaviour.
In a finding that challenges conventional classroom opinion, the Executive asks: "Has the principle of mainstreaming affected discipline? The current evidence suggests it has not."
The latest extensive survey of teachers and headteachers on discipline, led by Professor Pamela Munn of Edinburgh University, reveals that teachers did not identify pupils with records of need or special educational needs as being their most difficult pupils.
Almost half of the secondary teachers describing their most difficult class said that it contained very few pupils with SEN. But one in five teachers maintains their most difficult class had up to a quarter of pupils with SEN.
The study reports that teachers may cite "inclusion" as a reason for indiscipline but rates of exclusion have remained "reasonably level and the population of special schools is not falling significantly".
Inspectorate reports show that many schools are coping well with inclusion and are adjusting their provision to meet the needs of all pupils, the Executive says.
Central data shows that the number of pupils attending special schools has fallen marginally from 1.09 per cent to 1.05 per cent of the total school roll. "So there has been no major removal of special school pupils for a placement in mainstream schools. Statistics show that there are now almost 300 more pupils in mainstream schools with a record of need than there were in 1998, an increase of 5 per cent," the Executive states.
In a second challenging question, the Executive asks: "Are there more pupils in mainstream schools with a record of need where the main difficulty is a social, emotional and behavioural difficulty (SEBD)? Executive figures suggest there are not."
The statement adds: "Records with SEBD have increased in real numbers by 13 pupils in primary and in secondary by 57 pupils. Although there may be different levels of recording of need among different authorities for pupils with SEBD, these increases seem very small against the total pupil population."
In Professor Munn's report, secondary teachers and heads emphasise that they have some particularly difficult pupils and classes and that social inclusion is sometimes seen as the cause. "Interestingly enough, pupils with a record of need did not feature strongly in teachers' descriptions of pupils they found difficult to deal with. However, about one in three of teachers identifying difficult pupils said that the particularly difficult pupil had special provision or support," the researchers say.
The study, commissioned by the Executive to reinforce its policy on better behaviour, confirms teachers' views about growing problems with indiscipline in class and around schools.
In contrast, the majority of secondary teachers regard the majority of pupils as easy to deal with. The vast majority of teachers felt that in their working week they would only encounter one or two classes with difficult pupils.
Some 5 per cent of secondary teachers say that every class has either several or one or two difficult pupils.
News 4-5; Leader 22