Peacock picks Martin to be his peacemaker

30th January 2004 at 00:00
Jim Martin, former general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, is making a comeback as an adviser to Peter Peacock, the Education Minister.

The surprise move was revealed as annual statistics on violence against teachers and other school staff were released on Tuesday, showing a 27 per cent increase. This is the fourth year in succession to have seen a rise.

Mr Peacock announced that Mr Martin would help conduct a wide-ranging review of discipline, including policies on violent incidents, exclusions and attendance.

He will be joined by Professor Pamela Munn, dean of education at Edinburgh University, who, as The TES Scotland revealed last week, has also been commissioned to research the views of 2,600 primary and secondary teachers on disruptive behaviour.

Mr Peacock has been making a string of announcements in the run-up to the publication of the figures designed to demonstrate that he is "not soft on indiscipline or the causes of indiscipline".

These measures have included the appointment of a discipline "tsar", a training programme for behaviour co-ordinators and restorative justice for unruly pupils.

"I am not complacent," Mr Peacock declared again this week as the latest figures showed the tide of violent incidents continued to rise inexorably to 6,899 in 2002-03, up from 5,412 the previous year. In 1998-99, the first year of full reporting, the figure was 1,898.

The Scottish Executive pointed out that they represent an average of one incident per school or pre-school centre every two and a half years. The problem continues to be worse in primary and special schools, where respectively 35 per cent and 36 per cent of incidents took place; secondary schools accounted for 27 per cent.

But these averages disguise the worsening situation in special schools where there were 14 incidents per school, compared to five in secondary and one in primary.



Peter Peacock admitted that he had taken the unusual step of breaching the National Statistics Code of Practice by publishing figures for individual authorities for the first time - against the advice of the statisticians who regard them as unreliable.

"I have not done this lightly," the Education Minister said in a letter to Robert Brown, convener of the parliamentary education committee.

Mr Peacock said that he had done so precisely for the reasons the statisticians did not wish him to - to highlight question marks over the reliability and quality of the statistics.

The Western Isles reported a rise of 22,900 per cent in the number of violent incidents, while Orkney recorded a fall of 83 per cent. Overall, 20 authorities recorded increases and 11 reductions.

Murdo Macleod, director of education in the Western Isles, said most of the increase - up from one incident in 2001-02 to 230 last year - was accounted for by special needs pupils. There was too much inconsistency and too little guidance, Mr Macleod said, and he supported the Executive's moves to make figures more reliable.

The influence of different reporting levels as well as varying practice is further underlined by the fact that Glasgow, the largest authority with 29 secondaries, recorded 616 incidents while Falkirk, one of the smallest with eight secondaries, reported 756 - the highest number.

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