You could say it with chocolates

16th May 1997 at 01:00
Not every boy would regard a pen and a box of chocolates as glittering prizes. But Robert Jaffray, a second-year pupil at Wallace Hall High in Stirling, seemed delighted to have any token at all of his success in keeping to his behaviour target. He was happy to talk about it last Friday at a conference in Stirling which explored ways of stepping up children's participation in decision-making, particularly local government.

Robert's prizes were awarded for keeping his punishments to below five a week, better than his previous tally of eight. His message to teachers was that "they should listen more to what pupils have to say".

Margaret Doran, Stirling's head of school services, acknowledged that schools had to be resourced to make this a reality. Wallace Hall High has benefited from an additional member of staff, better links with outside agencies and more positive approaches to behaviour. Exclusions are down from 92 last session to seven so far this year.

Ms Doran blamed the constraints of secondary timetabling and the subject-based curriculum for the difficulties guidance and support staff face in spending time with individual children. "Education is not about teaching your subject, it is about teaching weans," Ms Doran said.

She suggested that teamwork and collaborative approaches were needed for both pupils and teachers. "Staff have to be released from the pressures they are under to let that happen," she said.

Ms Doran added: "You have got to spend to save, intervening early to avoid storing up trouble and increasing costs later on."

The conference, organised by Children in Scotland and the Scottish Local Information Unit, also heard from Gillie Thomson, chair of Stirling's community committee, who said: "We have to bear in mind that local authorities are not exciting or sexy to everyone, least of all youths."

Peter Slater, a senior official from Newcastle City Council, warned schools not to become inward looking, divorced from their communities.

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