What exactly was so great about it?

25th September 2009 at 01:00

Once again, someone of limited imagination and boundless anonymity feels free to take a pop at Brian Boyd and Keir Bloomer for daring to suggest that education in schools might actually be improved by something other than the punishment of children (TESS September 11).

The correspondent who yearns for the return to "what was once good about Scottish education" omits one rather important detail: what exactly is it that she or he thinks once was great?

But what and how children learn isn't really the correspondent's concern: it is, in fact, that old elephant in the room, discipline. And so it should be, because the ethos of our classrooms is crucial in ensuring effective teaching and learning. However, I do not believe for one minute that "teachers' abilities" to deal with indiscipline have been diminished, and I believe the correspondent insults her or his colleagues by suggesting this.

As a behaviour management trainer who has worked with schools from Shetland to Yorkshire, I believe that teachers today are far more able and skilful at maintaining a well-ordered class than ever before. Their ability rests not in filling out an exclusion form but in carefully- managed and planned strategies which show them that they are actually empowered within their classrooms.

I see nothing wrong with measuring successful behaviour management not by how many pupils are excluded, but by how few, since, in many cases, that is as a result of successful techniques which keep children in the classroom.

But of course, what do I know? I too am one of those who "walked away from the classroom" to train students. Funnily enough, though, I walk back into classrooms dozens upon dozens of times a year, and see new teachers putting fantastic techniques into place which build relationships with their pupils and create the type of inclusive, respectful ethos I never experienced as a pupil in the days when discipline depended on the tawse in the desk drawer.

Raymond Soltysek, Strathclyde University.

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