Spare the rod and save the child

28th March 2008 at 00:00
One of England's foremost experts in pupil behaviour has suggested that Scotland may be employing too many discipline strategies to be effective, writes Elizabeth Buie

Katherine Weare, professor of education at Southampton University, who is one of the architects of the emotional literacy programme used in more than half of England's primary schools, told a behaviour conference for Scottish teachers that its approach might be too "eclectic" and not sufficiently "integrated".

She said: "Scotland has gone down the road of 'let many flowers grow', not focusing on one programme. Have you thought about whether there is too much diversity?"

Professor Weare also urged Scottish education leaders to focus more on evaluating their behaviour strategies, because that was the best way to give them credibility and to have evidence of good practice. "Are you evaluating these so that you know what works?" she challenged delegates at the conference, organised by the Scottish Government.

Maureen Watt, Scottish Schools Minister, said she took on board Professor Weare's points about the need to evaluate what works and what does not work. But she did not accept that Scotland should follow England in focusing on a single behaviour model: "Some methods work in some schools and not in others. You need time to see what works in different circumstances."

The minister also told the conference she would be announcing new guidance on exclusions before the summer. "It is not going to be target-driven - it is going to be headteachers working out what the best method is for dealing with indiscipline in their schools," she said.

Professor Weare was instrumental in the design of Primary SEAL (social and emotional aspects of learning), an emotional literacy programme adopted in more than half of English primary schools.

Over the last two years, Secondary SEAL has been piloted in 60 secondaries in England and is in 10 per cent of schools in the sector. It had received a positive evaluation from the English schools' inspectorate, Ofsted, she added, and its web-based materials had been integrated into the secondary curriculum.

Professor Weare suggests that the key ingredients to a successful behaviour policy for schools are:

- Good theory and sound evidence;

- A whole-school approach;

- Effective leadership;

- Universal and targeted approaches;

- Explicit learning of skills;

- Involving parents;

- Tailoring the approach to the setting;

- Staff training and development.

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