Sobering facts on an emotive issue

14th April 2006 at 01:00
ising classroom indiscipline will be in the headlines as the first of the teachers' union annual conferences open south of the border. Scottish teachers are certain to echo the refrain over their coming spring get-togethers, which will intensify the image of classroom breakdown. Then we have the survey results of 867 teachers in Moray (page three).

The vast majority of teachers say the vast majority of pupils behave well and there is a predominantly positive climate. There are problems, especially in secondary, but they are mostly about low-level disruption, such as talking out of turn, chewing and unnecessary non-verbal noise. This is what researchers have told us for many years and some, including Professor Pamela Munn, dean of education at Edinburgh University, have been castigated by the unions for sticking to this view.

There is a telling passage in the Moray report. Teacher opinions vary enormously within schools and between schools, and some are "diametrically opposite to one another". The authority stresses that this raises a huge challenge. "Of all the themes that staff identified, this is the most recurring," it continues. Pupils can behave differently in different classes and that is down to the teacher. But each teacher can only operate within a whole-school climate. That is down to management and staff working together.

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