Minister pledges support for schools with discipline problems

Schools with serious discipline problems will not be labelled but supported, it emerged today.

Schools with serious discipline problems will not be labelled but supported, it emerged today.

Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin told teachers that progress has already been made in identifying and addressing the issue of disruptive behaviour in secondary schools.

But work had to be done with the wider society, through parents, school communities, inter-agency support and professional input.

She spoke out at the Teachers Union of Ireland annual congress in Tralee, amid claims almost all teachers have reported some level of student misbehaviour or disruption in the classroom.

The TUI survey on pupils’ behaviour found in one week 97% of staff suffered unacceptable levels of verbal abuse, threatening or intimidating behaviour, lateness, idleness, damage to school property and defiance.

It also found 7% of teachers has been verbally abused by a parent, with only 8% reporting no form of student indiscipline at all. In total, 1,121 teachers in 58 schools nationwide were questioned.

“The issue of disruptive behaviour in schools is not straight-forward and there are many external social forces behind it over which our schools have no control,” she said.

“Identifying the existence of a serious discipline problem is an important first step for a school seeking support. This signals a level of understanding, leadership and a willingness to tackle underlying problems at the school level.”

Behaviour support classrooms, intensive work to re-integrate students into the mainstream system and behaviour support teams are among the proposals in place.

Minister Hanafin also voiced concerns that schools choose not to admit students with special education needs, English language needs or students from traveller or other disadvantaged backgrounds, warning that schools must continue to meet the needs of children from every background.

“Some second level schools are not operating an open policy of refusal,” she said. “All schools have a duty, not simply in legislation but in social justice, to cater for the needs of students of all backgrounds.”

The minister added that a growing mix of nationalities brings a rich diversity to classrooms.

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