No change in fight against bullies

20th June 1997 at 01:00
The Scottish Office has confirmed a two-year programme aimed at reinforcing positive behaviour in schools, as concern over bullying intensifies. The sums involved are modest, with 42 schools in 14 councils submitting successful bids for shares of the Pounds 84,000 available. Another 13 schools in the four cities have already been selected to receive an additional Pounds 60,000.

Brian Wilson, the Education MInister, says the aim is to promote good practice but also to share it. The Government would continue to expect schools to put an emphasis on praise and rewards for pupils rather than punishment.

While the unions have always insisted that smaller classes would be more effective in improving discipline, they welcome any crumbs from the table. The Scottish Office says the new programme is a direct response to teacher concerns about "the corrosive effect of constant, low-level indiscipline on staff-pupil relationships, ethos and effectiveness of teaching and learning".

The Government's funding complements the Pounds 3 million earmarked over three years for projects which support alternatives to exclusion from school, a policy initiated by the previous government and endorsed under Labour. Details of the successful applicants, which have to be capable of assuming full funding responsibility after the three years, are expected by the end of the session.

Meanwhile the Western Isles education department has called in all school policies on bullying to ensure they are in line with national and council guidelines.

This follows public concern following the conviction of two girls at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway for assaulting another girl who subsequently committed suicide.

The school denied there were problems with bullying but it emerged this week that a survey by the school board four years ago found that a third of pupils and almost half of parents said bullying was a problem. The rector should stop "pussyfooting around", the board stated.

Neil Galbraith, the council's director of education, said the survey had been largely overtaken by events as measures to deal with bullying were put in place. These include staff training.

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