Strategies in coping with teenage anger

5th October 2001 at 01:00
Tactics: the Canonmills social skills course resource pack City of Edinburgh Council, pound;40 Contact Wendy Laird, Publications Unit, Education Department, City of Edinburgh Council, Level 2, Wellington Court, 10 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EG, tel 0131 469 3328

While the discipline situation in Scottish schools may not be quite as apocalyptic as some doom-mongers would have us believe, there is undoubtedly cause for concern. Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, signalled as much when he set up the Discipline Task Group last year.

The group's recently issued advice booklet for schools makes clear there is no magic wand on offer from central authority. It talks of the need for "local solutions for local situations". So, don't expect the cavalry to appear over the hill; you must fight your own battles.

The appearance of a resource pack aimed at promoting anger management by pupils is, therefore, timely. Tactics, produced by Edinburgh City Council's education department, offers a social skills and anger control programme for early adolescence and aims to give young people the skills to deal with stressful situations and assert themselves without resorting to aggression or abusive behaviour. It is aimed primarily at school groups from Secondary 2 upwards.

Its pedigree is impressive, drawing upon the work of several researchers in behaviour management. Although important, the best aspect of the course is that it has been created by Hazel Crawford, acting assistant headteacher at Canonmills special school in Edinburgh, who obviously knows the reality of the classroom frontline.

The pack outlines in practical detail 16 sessions, with the emphasis on activity by the pupils. Each lesson outline is backed by a variety of photocopiable resources, including cartoons, flashcards, puzzles, "wind up" and "hassle" logsheets and role-play scenarios. Some of the material will be familiar but there are new methodologies and fresh slants on old ones. "Fogging", for instance, can be used to take the sting out of an insult by making a joke of it, as in: "You smell!" "Aye, that's what my nose is for.

"Now, everyone, think of an insult and the group will come up with a fogging reply."

Fun? I think so.

The author is realistic enough to acknowledge that the course is not a panacea and that there will be no significant change in behaviour in the short term. As always, the key lies with the individual pupil who will choose whether or not to use the techniques in everyday life.

Tactics is not the final answer to the quest for solutions for situations - nothing ever will be - but it provides what teachers really want: not policies or pious mission statements but well presented, practical, workable ideas which they can fine tune for their particular group of loveable rogues.

Innes Murchie is principal teacher of guidance at Bridge of Don Academy, Aberdeen

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