A laid-back Australian approach has helped some challenging children. Robert Mendick reports
AN education consultant is using techniques gleaned from his native Australia to produce remarkable successes with some of London's problem pupils.
John Phelps's methods have earned plaudits from Brent pupil referral unit, which has seen temporary exclusions drop dramatically from 58 in 1994-95 down to just seven in 1997-98.
This week, Brent PRU issued a guide to parents, written by Mr Phelps, entitled: Getting Through the Tricky Times.
Mr Phelps, 54, who came to London three years ago after being head of a special school in Australia, said: "Australia's more relaxed attitude to behaviour management means that problems don't escalate the way they sometimes do in English schools.
"If there is a little problem, like somebody comes in late into class, then in English schools that could lead to a confrontation between a teacher and a pupil. And confrontations can escalate, leading to possible exclusion.
"Whereas with a more relaxed, positive approach things don't get that far. When a kid comes into a classroom late, the teacher will say: 'Get on with your work and I will see you later'. The teacher will then later talk privately about why the child was late."
The 20-page booklet is illustrated by Brent PRU's art teacher Sue Scott-Miller.
Mr Phelps said: "There have been books written on this, but you need to be a university sociology graduate to understand them. This book is written with the real audience very much in mind."
Paul Roper, headteacher at Brent PRU, said the unit had achieved some notable successes since Mr Phelps began working with teachers two years ago.