Making schools a safe haven;Leading Article;Opinion

11th June 1999 at 01:00
MUSSELBURGH GRAMMAR must wish it had had conflict resolution in practice the day the inspectors called. Whether the "care and welfare" report was over-critical or not, the school admits that town gang rivalries have spilled over on to its premises. Some pupils feel insecure at school. In these terms the ethos is less than perfect for promoting learning and high standards.

No doubt Musselburgh, like some of the schools fingered south of the border, is unlucky in the amount of publicity it has attracted. For their part, establishments exhibiting positive qualities, like those featured by the Scottish Schools Ethos Network, are not without problems. But there is good work in schools aimed at reducing conflict and promoting positive behaviour.

Conflict resolution classes in Inverclyde (page 15) are an example. Children from their earliest years tend to resolve problems by physical intervention and response. Neither the resulting nursery tears nor the more serious consequences later of real physical damage and mental intimidation can be allowed to go unchecked.

Among the counter-strategies are the "care and welfare" inspections. So are attempts to show youngsters how to address problems without resorting to violence. And the promotion of a positive school ethos across many fronts is another way to enhance relationships among groups and boost individuals' self-esteem.

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