Primary - 'circling' and golden time

17th January 1997 at 00:00
A mouthful such as "positive behaviour management" may be a jargon phrase, but turning it into reality has raised great enthusiasm and commitment for teachers like Helen Tipping, acting head of Dundee's Ancram Road Primary School. The school gives a presentation today, along with Aberdeen's Quarryhill Primary - whose initiatives, including counselling and support, have seen a high demand for places in a school from a deprived area of the city.

When Ancram Road began looking at discipline a few years ago they found they were concentrating on bad behaviour. They wanted to praise what was good, and also to help children speak about anything that upset or worried them.

Inspired by the writings of Jenny Mosley - whom they invited to speak to them - one of several initiatives they launched was "circling", a forum for discussion and problem-solving.

"Children sit in a circle, everyone is equal and has things to offer. It's a fun thing too, which is important. Children bring up issues and play games which encourage them to think of others. Teachers can raise issues in different ways, like asking them about something that has made them happy this week, " says Mrs Tipping.

Pupils prove surprisingly sensitive and try to solve each other's problems. But do they find some children begin to reveal more disturbing things, like abuse? "Particular problems at home we wouldn't see as appropriate for circling. We would say 'Maybe that's something you'd like to talk with me about later'. But I think it has helped create an atmosphere of trust where children do feel they can confide in teachers about big things that are worrying them."

Circling in a big group doesn't usually work well for the minority of disturbed children - often they can't handle it and become disruptive. "But with plenty of staff support, we can get a lot from working in smaller circles of their own."

The school has also introduced "golden time", a weekly half-hour where classes can be rewarded by choosing what they want to do. One surprising result is the popularity of visiting the youngest classes to help and work with the kids. Instead of seeing them as a pain in the neck, older children are falling over themselves for the chance to help out: "And boys are just as enthusiastic as girls," says Mrs Tipping.

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