Spread a little happiness - we all need it

15th September 2006 at 01:00
How can teachers create successful learners, confident individuals, responsible global citizens and effective contributors? TES Scotland reporters look at innovative methods being adopted in the steady drive towards A Curriculum for Excellence

Even the tradesmen who visit Kirkhill Primary, Aberdeen, are looking for gold stars from Miss Brodie.

Word spread after the headteacher jokingly rewarded one worker with a "Miss Brodie Thinks I'm a Star" sticker for removing graffiti. The next time someone else did work at the school he confronted her: "Where's my sticker?"

Recognition for a job well done seems to be having an impact inside the classroom as well.

Gary Anderson is the Star of the Week and sits flushed with pleasure as depute headteacher Shona Milne reads a remarkable list of his virtues to his classmates.

The spirit of support and encouragement is a good example of the ethos an Aberdeen-based team is striving to instil throughout Scotland.

Aberdeen City, with partners at Aberdeenshire Council and Moray Council, is leading the national implementation of Happy, Safe and Achieving their Potential, published by the Scottish Executive last year.

The Personal Support in Schools project, which runs until 2008, stems from a national review of guidance in primary and secondary schools and aims to implement 10 standards for personal support of all children from all their teachers, not just guidance or specialist staff.

The plan is to keep children safe and happy to enable them to do as well as they can at school. This means teachers being on the look-out for children whose personal problems are adversely affecting their education, and working in conjunction with outside agencies when appropriate.

There is no shortage of distress in Scottish children's lives, as the Executive highlights in the document's summary. About 80 children aged under 16 become homeless every day; 42 in every 1,000 girls aged between 13 and 19 become pregnant; about 100,000 children live with the domestic abuse of a parent or carer, and 40-60 per cent of these children are also attacked.

Lorraine Brodie and her staff at Kirkhill Primary have implimented a variety of systems to help the pupils communicate with their teachers and each other about issues distressing them, enabling the school to seek outside agency involvement if needed.

Ten-year-old Terri Geraghty explained some of their techniques for keeping children safe and happy, such as the buddy system, where P6 pupils team up with a P1 newcomer. "You help them put on their shoes and their coats and you help them outside and play with them."

The playground squad is also critical. "They look after everyone. Like if there's a fight, they can say, 'Right, you are going in the bad book.' And then there's the Friendly Stop where, if you haven't got a friend, you can sit and the playground squad will come and find you a friend."

Bubble Time is when children can request a one-to-one with a teacher to raise personal issues. "Sometimes when I fall out with my friends I go to Miss Brodie or Miss Milne," says Terri.

Circle Time is a structured "listening system" for a class to discuss their feelings.

The staff are equipped with techniques to handle these sessions and trained to at least first level in counselling skills. They also have a day's training session every year with behaviour management consultant Jenny Mosely.

The school's behaviour policy is based on Ms Mosely's work, with 10 golden rules, developed by the children, providing the school's moral code.

Terry Ashton, Aberdeen's adviser in guidance, is the project leader of Personal Support in Schools, which aims to ensure Happy, Safe and Achieving their Potential becomes a reality for children in all Scottish schools, including special schools. Along with development officers Gill Scott and John MacBean, he is working to collate examples of existing good supportive practice in schools and new ideas, using a network of local authority representatives.

"We hope they will take back the message to their schools, but also, just as importantly, get examples of good practice from all the schools, which we can co-ordinate and make available to people through the Learning and Teaching Scotland website," Mr Ashton explains.

"If teachers see themselves only as being involved in their subject and not concerned about the child as an individual, the chances are the kids won't learn as well. So it's actually about enhancing learning as well," he says.

Ms Scott, who is on secondment from Ellon Academy in Aberdeenshire, believes the project is also about encouraging pupils to be good citizens and empowering them to support each other. "It's about kids helping kids as well," she says.

Jean McLeish


Personal Support in Schools: Where has the Implementation Got To? by Terry Ashton, John MacBean and Gill Scott, Wednesday, 4pm

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