Solutions to rising school indiscipline were on the front burner this week at the first meeting of the ministerial task group. Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, has taken personal charge of the discipline strategy and stressed that increasing levels of disruptive behaviour are a cause of widespread concern.
"The task group is a top priority for me," Mr McConnell said. "I want to ensure that we support the majority of hard-working children, parents and teachers while taking steps to re-engage the minority who feel alienated and who disrupt not only their own education but also the education of other children."
The group will report back in six months after investigating existing policies and how to improve practice from nurseries through to secondaries. Issues for subgroups include the involvement of teachers in initiatives about discipline; strategies to deal with indiscipline and bad behaviour; training for teachers in classroom management; the role of parents in motivating and supporting children and fostering positive attitudesto education; and the role of agencies in improving classroom behaviour and discipline.
Mr McConnell said: "Our aim must be a stimulating and supportive learning environment for all children from pre-school education onwards so that they can develop their full potential."
Gordon Mackenzie, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, who first raised national concerns last autumn, welcomed the initiative but warned: "It's not a quick fix and there will have to be strategies schools, teachers and local authorities will have to engage."
The group includes teachers, parents, directors of education and social work, academics, HM Inspectors and representatives from the voluntary sector and children's panels.
There are already a range of initiatives to improve discipline and ethos, including the anti-bullying network, alternatives to exclusion, the Scottish Schools Ethos Network and study support. A further scheme focuses on family literacy projects and employing home-link teachers.
ScotlandPlus, pages 2-3