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Wanted: a partnership on issues

Two councils brought pupils face to face with local policy-makers last week. John Clark and Neil Munro report.

Two senior pupils represented each of North Lanarkshire's 26 secondaries at a "pupils in partnership" conference in Stepps last week. Concerns ranged from drugs to homework.

Kirsteen Husband from Braidhurst High in Motherwell said high expectations from parents and teachers, along with peer influences, added to the pressures of a heavy workload. Her discussion group suggested there should be better organisation of study time and pupils should speak up about their problems "not just clam up".

Alan Jack of Clyde Valley High in Wishaw cited bullying as a major concern. His group also criticised some teachers who appeared to have favourite pupils.

Teachers who set unrealistic deadlines were a target for Jennifer Brentle of Airdrie Academy. "A lot of teachers think their subject is the most important, " she said. Coaching in time management was one of her group's solutions.

There should be a "buddy" system between senior and younger pupils to combat bullying.

One of the major preoccupations for North Lanarkshire is underachievement, Michael O'Neill, the authority's director of education, told the conference. The council is second only to Glasgow at the top of the Scottish Office's "poverty index", and 18 of 26 secondaries run supported study programmes.

Lesley Faichnie of Greenfaulds High in Cumbernauld identified peer pressure as one cause of underachievement. "Nobody wants to be branded a swot," she said. There should be more time for personal study and more careers interviews, her group urged.

Anthony O'Connor of Our Lady's High in Cumbernauld raised the effect of gender. Hard workers were predominantly girls whereas underachievers were mostly boys. "Boys misbehave because they want attention from girls and girls often act dumb in class although they have better exam results," he said.

Peer pressure was a factor in drug-taking, according to Edward Duddy of Our Lady's High in Motherwell.

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