When will they learn to behave?

8th October 2004 at 01:00
It is not particularly surprising to discover that secondary schools are under greater pressure in dealing with pupil discipline, while primaries are less challenged (pages 4-5). This is not just a matter of the older age group making life difficult for adults. It may also reflect differing environments and that begs the question of the degree to which teaching styles and teacher attitudes are a contributory factor.

While pupils in general and society at large dump a great deal of their psychological and physical baggage on a school's doorstep, the teaching environment itself cannot be excused. That covers a multitude of sins - the stimulus provided by the curriculum, size of classes, the leadership of the school, and so on. The case study we report this week involving Peter Harris shows that often small organisational changes in a class can make the world of difference.

Whatever the analysis, there is no doubt that the Scottish Executive is on the side of teachers when it comes to combating indiscipline and making their professional lives as productive as possible. The problem is that two worlds are colliding - teachers are becoming increasingly intolerant of even low-level indiscipline, the most regular kind, while pupils come to school with the mores of the homes that shape them. As the Education Minister points out, these are often depressingly negative.

But there are beacons of light. Some schools overcome their blighted circumstances. Some teachers triumph in adversarial relationships with pupils. Some authorities give a lead. If there are pockets of local excellence, why can these not have more universal application?

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