Our programme is not a miracle cure for indiscipline

29th November 1996 at 00:00
The TES reports (November 15) of the recent decision at The Ridings School to stop implementing its version of Discipline for Learning comes as some relief - especially to me, its author.

What is likely to have happened at The Ridings is that staff wanted to hear how to serve punishments quickly to pupils in order to "sort them out". What they heard during Discipline for Learning training was that sanctions were not the way to change pupils' behaviour but that "positive reinforcement" was. Notwithstanding that, there is need to be firm and open with young people for whom we take responsibility. Hence the limited use of sanctions that actually work.

Discipline for Learning training does not claim to be either a quick-fix or a miracle cure. Teachers are told that staff relationships vis-a-vis themselves and towards pupils are paramount to any school's success, and that preparation, teaching style, teamwork and the continued use of sincere, specific "rewards" is the key to maintaining acceptable behaviour in the classroom.

Discipline for Learning also tends to need the same resources in place as any reasonable school would expect: sufficient staffing, easy access to sufficient resources, regular input by local education authority staff and a reasonably proficient board of governors.

Reported evidence is that few, if any, of the basic requirements were in place in sufficient quantities for any good practice of Discipline for Learning. The procedures recommended were corrupted by the virus of incompetence, and Discipline for Learning cannot be responsible for this.

It has adequate in-built mechanisms for schools to measure its success with this approach and expose those teachers who deliberately over-use negative reinforcement. The information was quickly available to the school whose management chose to ignore it and allow fickle and ad hoc arrangements to infiltrate what was agreed.

Its procedures in tracking pupils would also have shown a way forward. This has now been implemented by the new headteacher.

In short, Discipline for Learning is neither a cover-up for weak teaching nor an excuse for children who continue to disrupt the life of the school.

ADRIAN SMITH Director, Discipline for Learning 90 Broadoak Road Langford, Somerset

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