Archive for December, 2010

A leadership approach to good behaviour

Friday, December 31st, 2010

A no-nonsense whole school approach to behaviour can be led from the top, says deputy headteacher David Morley, who here shares tips on how

I did spot them on my preliminary tour of the school but put it down to it being a bad day. I saw them again on interview day – but this time it was different; they would vanish as various dignitaries roamed the school, only to reappear later, tucked in a remote corner. They were the ‘Corridor Club’ – the excluded students who wander the halls of schools where a structured approach to discipline has crumbled, replaced with ad-hoc bouts of teacher’s revenge – the consequences of administering punishment while angry!

So how can the tide be turned? Where do you start the process of getting bad behaviour back on track? In a school where standards of behaviour are low, it becomes inevitable that pupil performance will dip. But if you want to make progress you must start by taking some sort of benchmark – talk to the parents, listen to pupils and staff. Find out from them where they think it is going wrong and what should happen next – listen to their ideas and incorporate them into your plans. This will be invaluable in the weeks and months down the line.

School is cool when you follow the rules!

One of the first starting points was to examine the school rules. There seems to have been a trend a few years ago to spend hours examining the meaning of every word used in a school’s rules. The result meant you ended up with a strange concoction of niceties which skirt around the point. Rules are all about bringing order, structure and discipline to your school – without these vital ingredients, your school will never flourish. School rules need to fulfil four vital criteria:

  • aim to be positive – reaffirming the type of behaviour you do want
  • they need to be obvious – lose the airy-fairy waffle
  • understood by all stakeholders – pupils, parents and staff
  • be brief so that they can be easily displayed and are clearly visible.

If you are going to re-evaluate your school rules, you will need at least to consult with your pupils to gain their opinions – sounds like a job for the school council.

The major problem I encountered when I arrived at my current school lay in the wording of the school rules. It was obvious that a great deal of time had been put into thinking about the wording, however, what rule was broken if a child said, ‘No’? You could attempt to manipulate the existing rule: ‘Well, you have been rude and defiant, so the rule you have broken is…em…“We are thoughtful to the feelings of others”.’ It just doesn’t work, does it? It is really important that school rules are not just a list of no’s and don’ts; they must be very clear. After rethinking the primary message we wanted to convey to the students, our first new rule became ‘Follow instructions’.

I have been challenged over this in discussions with academics and do-gooders: ‘Basically, what you mean is, David, that children should do what they are told!’ My response is, ‘Absolutely; of course they should.’ While it is important that we teach our children to question, challenge and respond, they also need to know when to do as expected and keep quiet. What’s more, this is achievable. The rule is followed by some small print: ‘Listen to all adults working in the school.’

We also felt that there were too many aggressive incidents in our school. Yet posturing and shoving couldn’t be classified as explicitly forbidden within the old rules. When we added, ‘Be gentle, kind and polite; keep hands, feet and unkind words to yourself’, it meant that all aspects of physical and verbal aggression are included, as well as any aspects of racism or bullying. To really hammer this message home, we decided that any physical aggression was punishable by the student missing both their break-time and lunchtime.

Following this, it was considered important that the children show greater respect for the environment that they learned in. Too often doors would be slammed and chairs knocked over as children fought to get their own way and gain acknowledgement from adults. Our new rule of ‘Value people’s belongings; respect the school and other people’s property’ had a big impact.

Our fourth new rule was ‘Be honest; tell the truth’. We aimed to reinforce the message as often as possible so that, while children would still be punished for misbehaviour, they would get into less trouble if they told the truth. The children took this on board and now considerable time is saved with incidents. This does not mean, though, that every child confesses all the time!

What happened next: taking responsibility

So what should be done with those children who break the rules? You need to have a very clear structure of consequences which is on display throughout the school. Ours are as follows:

  • verbal warning
  • five minutes time out
  • missed break and/or lunchtime
  • see senior teacher – parents informed
  • meet with the headteacher/deputy headteacher.

Each classroom has a dry wipe board on which to record poor-quality behaviour. This is a common process in all schools and is a key to success. However, much of the improvement we have made is through contact and communication with parents. On initiating the list of consequences, we also provided staff with a ‘missed’ break form where teachers could record the child’s name and the date of the incident. When a child had been given too many of these warning, their parents would be contacted.

This is where our problems began. What constituted too many? How long should the period be before we made parents aware? Degrees of hostility from parents were also encountered. They wanted to know the number of missed breaks, what they were for and why parents had not made aware of them earlier.

We had to design a more successful system. We decided that five missed breaks in a half term would definitely give us cause to contact a child’s parents. If we were to do this, then it was vital that the information we gathered had to be accurate and detailed enough to recall at a later date if required. Our new forms had not only name and date, but also the school rule the child had broken, a comment box on how they had broken it and the name of the member of staff who had issued the discipline.

To tackle the common complaint of ‘Why didn’t you tell me about it sooner?’ we made the children responsible for informing their parents each and every time they had a missed break. We even added a tick box on the form so that teachers could remind the children to do this. We sent copies of the Golden Rules and the consequences of breaking them home to parents, together with a letter informing them of our plans. We continued to place reminders in our school newsletters asking parents to check regularly with their children if they have had any missed breaks, as well as informing parents that they can check with their child’s class teacher at any time.

Passing on responsibility to the children for informing their parents by making them accountable for their actions made a huge difference. We have not had parents questioning the school when a fifth missed break letter arrives on their doorstep. (Yes – we do post it!)

Maintaining consistency

Without consistency throughout the school you will not be successful. Lack of constancy means you will be lacking the thing that all children hold very dearly – fairness. You need to ensure that incidents are dealt with in the same way. The only way that this can be achieved is by having a team of adults around you who have the skills to make decisions on the appropriate consequence rather than to dispense justice while angry – unfortunately a course of action too familiar in some schools.

If you decide to implement a similar system to the one that has been so successful for us, you will need to monitor carefully who is issuing missed breaks and how regularly they are doing it. This will provide you with early indications if someone is being rather ‘trigger happy’. If they are, you need to talk to them and provide strategies on how to manage behaviour is a more controlled way.

Flourishing creativity and inspiring add-ons!

I have no doubt that much of our success can also be put down to our new approach to a creative curriculum. Over a period of a couple of years we took the time to re-examine what we were teaching and how we were teaching it. We felt that the children were not being inspired sufficiently and that learning was just happening to them.

We combined our new approach with the introduction of BLP (Building Learning Power) – a programme devised by Guy Claxton which teaches children how to become better learners, now and in the future. By making these changes and engaging more fully with the children in the classroom, we realised the children felt better about their learning and really could see what was in it for them.

I have known of some schools where, when the going got tough, they put up the shutters. Out went trips, visitors, special events, activities, special rewards and theme days because senior management felt that, the staff did not have the will left to organise such events and the children did not deserve them. At my school, we felt that the contrary was true: the more exciting you made your school, the more opportunities that you presented to your children, the more exciting the school becomes. This created a sense of belonging; a place where the children wanted to be.

With the school becoming more exciting, the children had something to look forward too. When we adapted our behaviour policy to include children missing significant school events if they reached five missed breaks, children became increasingly aware that their actions had consequences. Children who reached 25 missed breaks by the time a residential trip had arrived were not allowed to take part in the activity. This had the desired effect on getting good behaviour.

by David Morley, deputy head of a large Primary School in Milton Keynes and a guest conference speaker.

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Study shows food, beverage price hikes unreasonable

Friday, December 31st, 2010
PUTRAJAYA: Restaurant operators have no reason to implement up to 10 per cent increase in prices of food and beverages despite the price rationalisation of sugar and fuel since Dec 4, according to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.Its deputy secretary-general Datuk Daud Tahir said a price simulation exercise conducted recently also showed minimal changes in food prices, which was between 0.1 sen and three sen.

“We carried out a simulation with a consultant to see how much these prices will go up with the revised prices of sugar and fuel and it is not reasonable for them to impose higher prices for food and beverages,” he said here yesterday.
Daud said the price simulation included 64 types of food and beverages such as teh tarik, which involved a 0.8 per cent change from RM1.20 to RM1.21 while tea without milk cost one sen more, from RM1 to RM1.01, and items like roti canai kosong, roti jala and roti telur were affected by 0.2 sen to 0.3 sen only.

When asked if restaurant operators agreed with the simulated prices, Daud said the ministry would make the matter known to them during a meeting early next month.


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Balanced worldview via history

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Our secondary school history syllabus needs some serious thought and reworking as it is very imbalanced.

I DID a funny thing on Christmas Day. I went to a bookstore and bought an SPM history book. The last time I read one of these things, Ronald Reagan was president and it was considered the height of fashion to wear carrot-cut trousers and white socks with your little black shoes; an ugly time indeed.

Anyway, the reason I bought this SPM history textbook was because there has been some controversy recently about the proposal to make history a compulsory subject in the SPM exams.

The main contention about this move by the Government is the actual content of the history taught. In the spirit of independent research, I bought the book to see if there is any cause for concern.

The thing about history is that it is not written in stone. Discoveries are made which shed new light on old ideas. For example, archaeological digs in Malaysia have shown that the peninsular has been inhabited for far longer than previously thought.

In Egypt, discoveries of entire towns surrounding the great pyramids suggest that they were built by a skilled workforce as opposed to an army of slaves (or technologically advanced Atlanteans if you read some of the more far out books).

Even existing facts can be reinterpreted in order to view established historical figures and events in a new way.

Recent works on Genghis Khan dismiss the simplistic (and racist) view that he was merely a blood-thirsty conqueror. Instead his empire established progressive ideas such as a common currency, protected trade routes and centres for education and culture.

However, the interpretation and reinterpretation of history has to be done very carefully.

There is always the danger that if a person has a specific agenda in mind, then his version of historical events can be very skewed and untruthful.

For example, for many years the great African civilisations like Nubia were not given any prominence because it conflicted with the European agenda to depict Africa as a backward place, thus justifying their exploitation of the continent and its peoples.

Therefore, any historian worth his salt must be as objective as possible and back his assertions with solid evidence; assertions which can change with future discoveries.

With this in mind, I dipped into my brand new book. And I must admit that the SPM syllabus leaves much to be desired.

The most glaring oddity is found in the Fourth Form section of the book. There are 10 chapters in the Fourth Form syllabus and five of them are about Islamic civilisation.

I do not understand why there has to be so much emphasis on Islamic civilisation.

Great swathes of important history such as the ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the Chinese Kingdom, the Indian empires (north and south), the Renaissance and the South-East Asian kingdoms are dealt with almost perfunctorily.

What is even more troubling is that the “history” of Islamic civilisation has elements of theology in it.

This overly heavy emphasis on one aspect of human history is not healthy as it provides our young people with a very imbalanced worldview.

And it is most ironic that it is Islamic civilisation that is given so much space in the history syllabus because one of the greatest strengths of the so-called golden age of Islamic history was the hunger that Muslim thinkers then had to seek knowledge from around the world.

They were not insular and narrow in their thinking and if one were to truly honour Islamic civilisation, then it is this attitude that should be embraced, not the rather strange idea that one civilisation deserves so much more attention than all others.

Looking at the Fifth Form part of the book, there is also some cause for concern.

In studying the development of the nation state that is Malaysia, there is a need for our young people to understand that there were many players involved.

The Malayan Union, for example, was not opposed by the Malays only. The multi-racial AMCJA-PUTERA (which was given approximately three dismissive lines in the book I bought), opposed the Malayan Union too.

They organised massive rallies and a general strike which Malayans from all walks of life and ethnic communities participated in. And they were the first to actually demand independence.

So yes, I do believe that our secondary history syllabus needs some serious thought and reworking. As it is, it is very imbalanced.

If taught correctly, history can be fun and also invaluable in shaping a sense of common identity.

However, if taught wrongly it is deadly dull and if content-wise it is wrong, it can be divisive and breed dangerous ideology.

With the New Year upon us, let us not forget that to move forward we must understand the past.

Let that understanding be a fair one in order for our progress to be fair too.

by Azmi Sharom.

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New Year’s Resolution Do’s and Don’ts

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

A New Year’s resolution is a made by an individual to reform a habit, or to change their lifestyle. These promises are made on New Year’s Day, the first day of a brand new year and are supposed to be either fulfilled or abandoned by the end of that year. However, the problem with the start of a new year is that most good resolutions are often derailed within a few weeks.

The most popular resolutions are usually the goals to improve health, improve finances, improve career, and improve education and a few other more. The list of resolutions in New Year never ends. Different people come up with thousands of innovative resolutions every year. Some remain abandoned, while some get fulfilled.

This year, instead of listing the do’s and don’ts of New Year resolutions I am going to concentrate on the don’ts. Here is my list of the things that you must not include in your New Year resolutions.

1. Quit smoking

If you to quit smoking again this year my advice is don’t because it will not work. It will do more damages to you because some methods in quitting involve using antidepressant drugs such as bupropion, nicotin patch and nicotin receptor like agonist varenicline. If finance is your main concern behind quitting than these stuff are as expensive as cigarettes and maybe more. If health is your main concern then some of this stuff are as deadly as cigarettes. So if to quit smoking is one of your New Year Resolutions then you might want to think again. Some chain smokers that I know live up to their eighties and the great Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer is a perfect example.

2. To be rich

This is another popular New Year resolution that you should avoid if you long for a happy and healthy life. Rich billionaires like Howard Hughes, Aristotle Onassis, Jean Paul Getty, William Randolph Hearst and many more are miserable human beings. Live like my late grandfather, poor, healthy and happy; ok maybe a little suffering in life but the cool ones like being rebellious and penniless while avoiding assassination attempts etc. More famous examples were Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevara and Saladin. Live like Gandhi, became an icon and then a martyr. You will be remembered for eternity or at least until 2012.

3. Improve career

Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to improve your career. Stick to the job that you’re having right now. Jobs are hard to come by these days. Whatever that you are doing right now is cool by today’s standard. No need for ambitions in this time of trouble.

Guidelines to Making Resolutions
If in any way, you still have your sacred list of New Year Resolutions for this year the experts have a few tips on how to reach your goals effectively. The first one is to avoid perfectionist thinking like, for example, while we certainly always want to better ourselves, it is healthier to think in terms than it is to focus on how much we fall of our aspirations. In other words, students should view the grade of an A- as better than a B, rather than not as good as an A+.

is to not make absolute resolutions by keeping them realistic. For example that instead of saying you won’t yell at your kids anymore, resolve to yell at them less often.  Third is to not keep the resolutions to yourself. Tell someone you trust about your resolutions. It helps to share your goals with friends, who can gently nudge you in the right direction when you veer off course. Fourth is to give your resolutions some meaning. People sometimes make goals that aren’t necessarily meaningful to them. Your goal should be something you really desire to change or achieve, not something that society say is good for you to do or your family would like to see you do. If you don’t have strong, internal motivation within yourself, you won’t be successful.

And finally, take baby steps which are to set realistic goals that are attainable and then take small steps that are likely to be met with success toward those goals. Don’t try to lose 10 pounds in a week or quit smoking turkey with no preparation. Instead, try joining a weight loss program and try to lose a pound a week, or join a smoking cessation group or take my advice to don’t quit smoking at all.

New Year Resolutions are individual goals that are meant for individual contributions that would make the a better place to live. In the end it is about our own contribution to our society. It should be an ongoing or continuous process rather than a trivial annual event. I’m sure that most human beings would want a more peaceful planet with less pollution, a world where its inhabitant would practice no apathy at all. Mahatma Gandhi once said “Be the change that you want in this world”. The key to a better world is definitely in each and everyone of our individual hands.

by Al-Jafree Md. Yusop.

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Understanding Bullying

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Each day hundreds of thousands of children dread going to school and facing the taunts, jeers, and humiliation wrought by bullies. When we think of bullying, the easily identifiable physical and verbal harassment comes to mind, including teasing, taunting, threatening, and hitting. Relational bullying is more difficult for adults to observe and identify. Children who bully through relational means socially isolate their victims by intentionally excluding them or spreading rumors about them. Bullying, then, refers to physical or psychological intimidation that occurs repeatedly, is intended to inflict injury or discomfort on the victim, and creates an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.

The bullying relationship is characterized by an imbalance of power, such that the victim of bullying finds it hard to defend him- or herself and begins to feel powerless against the bully. The child who bullies typically is bigger, older, stronger, or more popular than the victim of bullying, and his or her intent is to exert power over the victim. For example, girls who bully through exclusion and other forms of relational aggression tend to have more social power than their victims. The bully is aware that his or her behavior causes distress, the bully enjoys the victim’s reaction, and the bullying continues and escalates. Bullies hurt others in order to feel strong and powerful at a given moment.

It’s very difficult for most parents to determine whether their children engage in bullying behaviors because most bullying occurs out of parents’ sight.

Some adults and children rationalize bullying because victims are overly sensitive, cry easily, or act in ways that set them apart from other children. Even if the victim does show these characteristics, adults and children must know bullying is not a healthy coping response—it signals that a child needs to learn how to manage his or her emotions, release anger and frustration in more healthy ways, and learn more constructive strategies for getting along with others. Your role, as parent or teacher, is to help children establish more mature and healthy ways of relating with others, thereby ensuring that they will grow into caring and adaptive adults.

Who is likely to be victimized?
There are at least two types of victims: passive victims and reactive victims. The stereotypical image of the bullied child is the passive victim: He or she avoids confrontation, is physically slight, quiet, does not tease others, and does not defend him- or herself from the bully. The passive victim turns inward when bullied—crying and withdrawing rather than fighting back.

Reactive victims are much less common than passive victims. The reactive victim provokes attacks by being aggressive, disruptive, argumentative, and antagonizing towards bullies and other children, and retaliates when he or she is bullied. Sometimes reactive victims are referred to as bully/victims because they straddle the fence of being a bully and/or victim. They are difficult to identify because they seem to be targets for bullies, but they often taunt bullies and other children. Not only do reactive victims fight back when bullied, but they sometimes channel their rage and anger into bullying others, especially those younger and weaker than themselves. In this way, some victims of bullies transform into bullies themselves, perpetuating the abuse and singling out new victims.

What are the effects of bullying?
Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. Victims of bullying suffer psychological and sometimes physical scars that last a lifetime. Victims report greater fear and anxiety, feel less accepted, suffer from more health problems, and score lower on measures of academic achievement and self-esteem than students who are not bullied. Victims often turn their anger inward, which may lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicide. The experience of bullying is also linked with violence, as the fatal school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, and Jonesborough, Arkansas, have illustrated.

However, it’s not just victims who are hurt by bullying. Bullies fail to learn how to cope, manage their emotions, and communicate effectively—skills vital to success in the adult world. Without intervention, bullies suffer stunted emotional growth and fail to develop empathy. Since bullies are accustomed to achieving their immediate goals by pushing others around, they don’t learn how to have genuine relationships with other people. Instead, they externalize and blame others for their problems, never taking responsibility, nor learning how to care for another’s needs. Bullies who don’t learn other ways of getting what they want develop into adult bullies who are more likely to experience criminal troubles, be abusive toward their spouses, and have more aggressive children, perhaps continuing the cycle of bullying into the next generation.

Ending bullying: What works
The most effective way of addressing bullying is through comprehensive schoolwide programs. Schoolwide programs, developed collaboratively between school administration and personnel, students, parents, and community members, seek to change the school’s culture to emphasize respect and eliminate bullying. So what has been shown to work in preventing and ending bullying?

  • Increased awareness, understanding, and knowledge about bullying on the part of school staff, parents, and students
  • Involvement of the wider community, including parents and service providers
  • Integration of bullying-related content into the curriculum in ways that are appropriate to each grade
  • Increased supervision and monitoring of students to observe and intervene in bullying situations
  • Involvement of students
  • Encouragement of students to seek help when victimized or witnessing victimization
  • A plan to deal with instances of bullying
  • Class and school rules and policies regarding bullying and appropriate social behavior
  • Promotion of personal and social competencies (e.g., assertiveness, anger management, self-confidence, and emotional management skills)
  • A schoolwide community of respect in which every student is valued
  • Collaboration between parents, educators, service providers, and students to reinforce messages and skills across settings (e.g., home, school, community)
  • Serious commitment to implementing the program on the part of administrators and school staff.

Tara L. Kuther, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Western Connecticut State University, is the author of Gimme Your Lunch Money: A Guide to Bullies and Bullying (Parent’s Guide Press, 2003). Learn more about her work and how to contact her at

by Tara L. Kuther. Ph.D.

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Strategies to Protect Your Children

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Even with cooperative school officials, parents remain on the front line protecting their children. Here are some strategies parents can implement:

  • Learn about the new technologies. If you are unfamiliar with the Internet, now is the time to start surfing the Web. Learn the many ways that children can bully electronically, through IMs, e-mails, blogs (Web logs that are online diaries), and videos that are downloaded from camcorders or picture phones.
  • Talk about values. The technology may have changed, but kindness and decency should still be top priorities for everyone.
  • Guard passwords. A bully can use another child’s screen name to send out offensive e-mails. Tell your child not to share passwords with friends and to change passwords frequently.
  • Talk to your child if you believe he is the victim of a bully. Oftentimes a child being tormented by a cyberbully will be too embarrassed to tell a parent or teacher. Make sure your child knows he’s not to blame for being targeted and that he should report any incident to you or an adult at school.
  • Keep copies. Having documentation of the cyberbullying will strengthen your case if you need to report it to school or other authorities. Otero advises not to delete the original e-mail, even after you have printed it out. “There may be something in the original [e-mail] header that would lead us to the source,” he says.
  • Lobby your school. Even if cyberbullying happens outside of school, the repercussions spill over into the classroom. Computer etiquette should be on your school’s agenda.
  • Stress the Internet’s impact. An e-mail sent to one child can be forwarded to hundreds. Old e-mails and IMs may resurface and get even a well-meaning child in trouble. Encourage your child to think before clicking.

Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese are coauthors of several books for parents of young adolescents, including The Roller-Coaster Years: Raising Your Child Through the Maddening Yet Magical Middle School Years; Cliques: 8 Steps to Help Your Child Survive the Social Jungle; and What Are You Doing In There? Balancing Your Need to Know with Your Adolescent’s Need to Grow. They lecture to parent, teacher, and student groups across the United States.

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Linking sport to positive behaviour

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Teachers are becoming increasingly convinced that that taking part in regular physical activity can have a significant impact on children’s behaviour.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s PE and School Sport (PESS) investigation concluded that physical activity has a motivational impact on children, increasing their self-esteem and general wellbeing. It also found that PE and sport helps children to develop essential social skills such as concentration, self-discipline, cooperation and an awareness of the need to think of things and people other than themselves.

The knock-on effects on work in other curriculum areas and on attitude in general makes PE a particularly appropriate tool for helping children with behavioural difficulties. The earlier children are introduced to the learning and developmental processes inherent in good quality physical activity, the sooner they can benefit.

The QCA identifies the following ways in which schools can use high quality physical activity to impact positively upon behaviour.

Provide activities at break times and lunchtimes

In many schools, the playground is the setting for a lot of unacceptable, challenging behaviour, so offering pupils a range of formal and semi-formal activities at break times and lunchtimes can have a significant impact.

If pupils have something positive to do in the playground, they channel their energy into physical activity rather than getting involved in arguments and fights. They form new friendships, learn to cooperate and become more tolerant of one another.

Find out what activities children in your school would like to be offered in the playground and then respond to their requests. If they feel empowered, they are more likely to participate in and enjoy the activities. Choose activities that encourage pupils from different year groups to mix and work together, such as team-building games or dancing; avoid aggressive team games that might increase tension.

To sustain interest, offer a limited choice of activities at any one time. This works on the same principle as children’s menus in restaurants – the choices are attractive but limited. Pupils know what they are doing, are able to get on with the activity and feel they can succeed.

Reorganise space at break times and lunchtimes

Pupils’ behaviour improves when they feel they have a safe space in which to play freely. Setting up zones for various types of activity encourages pupils to be more purposeful and active.

Allocate and mark out areas of indoor and outdoor space, for example the playground, all-weather pitch, fields and hall, and provide specific activities in each area. Make sure there is supervision. Tell pupils what they can choose from and encourage them to stick to one task at a time.

Make sure there is enough equipment available

If pupils spend less time queuing for equipment and waiting for a turn, there will be less frustration and boredom. With fewer arguments about how long someone’s turn has taken or whose turn is next, relationships between pupils improve.

Put an efficient, fair system for distributing equipment in place. Consider training pupils to manage the distribution and collection of playground equipment.

Encourage adults to support positive play

If pupils see adults behaving in a positive, active way, they are more likely to do the same. Receiving praise and positive feedback from an adult can increase a pupil’s self-esteem and, in turn, improve their behaviour. By taking a more hands-on approach in the playground, midday supervisors are more likely to anticipate and stop incidents of unacceptable behaviour.

Ensure that adults take a positive interest in what pupils are doing. They could organise activities, coach pupils, join in or simply provide general feedback. Train classroom assistants and midday supervisors to act as play leaders and manage activities.

Give pupils roles and responsibilities

Putting older and younger pupils together changes the atmosphere of the playground and makes it feel much more inclusive and supportive. The younger pupils look up to their older role models and want to win their respect by behaving well. With more supervision and organisation in the playground, there tends to be less bullying and other negative behaviour.

Give older pupils roles as play leaders or mentors at break and lunchtimes. They could take responsibility for organising equipment, leading activities, teaching younger pupils games and supporting their play.

Use team-building and cooperative activities

Pupils learn how to cooperate, work together to achieve a goal and get on with one another. Being put in a position of responsibility for, or reliance on, others in a team often brings out the best in them. This can have an impact on their behaviour far beyond the activity itself.

Provide pupils with tasks and challenges that promote cooperation, problem-solving and teamwork during PE lessons or in clubs after school. Outdoor and adventurous activities and parachute-style games can be particularly effective.

Introduce activity breaks in lessons

Short activity breaks in the middle of lessons other than PE can improve behaviour. This works best when the activity is structured and organised and, where possible, is related to the lesson (for example, an active numeracy challenge in a mathematics lesson).

Many pupils lose concentration when they have been sitting down for a long time. They tend to become fidgety and find ways of attracting attention by annoying or distracting others. A short five- to 15-minute exercise break to do something active and exciting gets the oxygen flowing to the brain. They come back to their task in a better frame of mind and ready to behave better.

Success stories

Abbey Park Middle School, Worcestershire
In an effort to improve their attitudes towards learning, 18 Year 6 pupils from a year group of around 80 were asked to take part in an after-school programme including physical activities.

Fifteen of the children were chosen for the ‘PESS Club’ because they had problems concentrating, low self-esteem, learning difficulties and social and emotional problems. The problems experienced by individual children included attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hearing difficulties and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD).

The remaining three pupils in the group were selected as positive role models because they had shown excellent attitudes to learning and high levels of involvement in school life.

Almost 70% of the pupils already took part in extracurricular clubs and activities, and the school was keen to see if this involvement could have a greater impact on children’s overall achievement.
The activities that were offered included:

  • Tri-golf (with the help of an outside coach). The sessions culminated in an inter-school Tri-golf tournament
  • skipping workshop
  • dance mat club
  • athletics (led by an outside coach)
  • ‘rubbish fashion’ show
  • keyboard sessions
  • arts and crafts, including card-making, découpage and painting on glass
  • cookery.

Pupils were not offered a choice of activities, but simply invited to bring along their PE kit and join in with whatever was on offer.

Groups and pairs were set up to ensure that all of the pupils interacted with a range of other children, rather than staying in their established friendship groups.

As well as taking part in activities, PESS Club participants were given new responsibilities around the school, including serving in the tuck shop, acting as librarians, helping with the school’s play leader scheme, ordering new playground equipment and helping to organise the dance mat club.

Staff found that most of the targeted pupils progressed in leaps and bounds. Their overwhelmingly positive comments on the experience contrasted dramatically with their scepticism – even hostility – at the start of the project. Teachers reported a marked improvement in cooperative skills and noted that the pupils involved developed the ability to think more about others, rather than putting themselves first.

Since taking part in the sessions two of the pupils have signed up to become play leaders and three have volunteered to become peer mentors.

One pupil with an obsessive compulsive disorder has started eating with other pupils for the first time and, after being introduced to Tri-golf through the PESS Club, has been inspired to join a community golf club.

Fair Furlong Primary School, Bristol
Fair Furlong found that improving the activities on offer to pupils at break and lunchtime had a positive impact on pupils’ behaviour, attitudes to learning and attendance.

As a Zoneparc school, Fair Furlong started by auditing pupils’ needs and then established areas for a range of different pupil activities in the playground. These included:

  • areas for quiet activities, with good-quality seating and board games
  • a fenced ballpark for fast-flowing mini-sports
  • areas for more general activity, such as basketball shooting, kingball, catch-up and ‘piggy in the middle’.

The school invested in good quality PE equipment exclusively for use at playtimes and lunchtimes, including a dance stage with music where pupils could develop their own routines. Once a week, Year 10 pupils from the nearby secondary school provided dance guidance and leadership.

Four learning support assistants (LSAs) took on the role of play leader at lunchtimes. School meal supervisory assistants (SMSAs) and LSAs were given a day’s training on how to use the Zoneparc equipment and ideas for activities. The training included strategies for managing difficult pupil behaviour and creating systems to reward good behaviour and encourage involvement in activities.

Providing a good learning environment in the playground by organising the playground into different activity areas enabled pupils to feel safe and encouraged them to play freely in adequate space and focus on what they were doing.

As a result, there were significant improvements in their attitudes and behaviour. A small group of pupils who were disaffected and negative towards both their peers and the school environment developed greater self-esteem. They were happy to describe how the new playground activities affected their lives in a positive, productive way.

The number of anti-social incidents logged in the playground area fell by two-thirds while the number of pupils involved in purposeful physical activity increased significantly. The range of activities available to pupils became much broader and met a wider variety of needs; football no longer dominated.

SMSAs were under less stress and described their work as more fulfilling and rewarding. As a result, the school had a waiting list of people wanting to be SMSAs.

Attendance rates improved significantly, particularly among more vulnerable pupils, and teachers reported that the climate for learning in the classroom improved with pupils approaching tasks with more confidence and concentration. Their enhanced ability to work cooperatively and purposefully with one another generated more on-task time, while minimising distraction.

by Crispin Andrews.

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Pupil misbehaviour is an international problem

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Are you a secondary school teacher who has problems keeping control in the classroom?

If you feel you’re losing a battle with foul-mouthed, disruptive students, take some comfort in knowing you are not alone.

It’s not just a national problem. Apparently, it’s global.

Student misbehaviour disrupts lessons in three schools out of five around the world, according to a new international report.

Three-quarters of lower-secondary school teachers in, for instance, Mexico, Italy, Slovakia, Estonia and Spain, work in schools where classroom disturbances hinder the teaching process “to some extent” or “a lot”.

Teachers in 23 countries – excluding the UK – were surveyed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for a study, which it claims presents the first internationally comparable data on conditions affecting teachers in their schools.

Roughly a third of teachers polled said their lessons were disrupted by pupils turning up late for class, by profanity and swearing, and by their intimidation or verbal abuse of other students.

On average, teachers in these countries spend 13% of classroom time maintaining order. In Brazil and Malaysia, the proportion rises to more than 17%, while in Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, less than 10% of classroom time is reported lost in this way.

According to the report, the most significant drain on teacher morale was lack of recognition of their work. Three-quarters of the 90,000 teachers interviewed felt they were given no incentives to improve their teaching.

Many countries make no link between appraisal of teachers’ performance and the rewards and recognition that they receive, the report notes.

Those running education need to give teachers more effective incentives to improve their teaching, according to the OECD’s secretary-general Angel Gurría.

“High-quality teachers are key to the successful implementation of education policies,” he said. “The bottom line is that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and their work.”

The report, Creating effective teaching and learning environments, is part of the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis).

It claims to be the first international survey to focus on the learning environment and the working conditions of teachers in schools.

How do you think the UK might compare?

by Peter Kingston.

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Homemade happiness

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Put the whole family on course for a lifetime of wellness.

There are plenty of ways to make healthy eating fun. The key is to involve the family in meal planning and give everyone a chance to participate in deciding what to eat. This makes it easier for them to welcome a healthier daily diet.

Have good variety

Having an assortment of meals not only makes family mealtimes interesting, it’s recommended by nutrition experts. You and your family will benefit from the different nutrients in different foods.

Be a savvy shopper

Once you’ve planned the meals for the week, write up a shopping list. Prioritise healthy, fresh ingredients rather than processed ones. Bring the kids along and let them help choose the groceries. That way, you save time wandering the aisles and wondering if you’ve forgotten anything.

Involve the family

Cooking can be another fun-filled experience for the whole family. Explore healthier cooking methods, like baking or grilling instead of frying every dish. The meals will taste just as great if not better, and you cut down your family’s intake of fats and oils.

Remember that food flavouring doesn’t have to depend on just oil or salt. Lessen seasoning with salt and try using herbs and spices instead! Involve the kids in the kitchen but remember to keep them away from sharp utensils and hot liquids. Be creative as a family!

Get creative

Let your creativity shine! There are plenty of different cuisines from different cultures out there, and many recipes are readily accessible from the Internet, TV cooking shows or cookbooks.

Try to tweak recipes to make them healthier. Before you know it, you’ll have everyone coming home early, looking forward to healthy, tasty new dishes.

You’ll be hearing “what’s for dinner?” more often and get to spend time chatting with them over a meal that is well worth the effort.

Fitter bodies for life

Good nutrition alone doesn’t do the job; it needs to be complemented with daily physical activity. Regular physical activity can yield a ton of health benefits that will make the whole family physically and mentally fitter in the long run.

The best part is, it can be really enjoyable and bring everyone closer together! If you do it right, you can even turn the drudgery of household chores into enjoyable family activities.

Here are a few ways to get you started.

Begin with the kids

Compared with the adults, kids need more physical activity as they are growing. Bring them to the park nearby and let them run free (under a watchful eye, of course). It would be even better if you joined them; they would love to have your company. Plus, it keeps you young at heart! Play catch or throw the ball around.

Go as a group

Family group exercises are healthy times together that create strong bonds as well. Get out of your usual routine and try new and adventurous activities like hiking or jungle trekking. Soon, your kids will be looking forward to fun-filled weekends instead of sleeping their day away. When you think about it, the possibilities of fun physical activities are virtually endless; you’re only limited by your creativity!

Welcome family feedback

Encourage family members to contribute ideas of what to eat and what to do for the weekend. If the maid does the cooking, provide clear instructions on the dishes. The important thing to remember is to keep the adventure alive and keep the goal in sight. Get the entire family involved for a healthier, more meaningful life. What better time to get started than now?

o Article courtesy of Nutrition Society of Malaysia, supported by Nestlé Products Sdn Bhd. For further information, please visit or contact Nestlé Products Sdn Bhd at Free-Phone 1 800 88 3433 or

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‘Encourage study of Bible Knowledge’

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Kota Kinabalu: Mission schools should put in more efforts to encourage their students to take up Bible Knowledge as an elective subject for the SPM examination.

Chairman of the Sub-Committee which implements decisions made by the Technical Committee on Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputeras (with regard to matters like mission schools and native customary right (NCR) land), Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, advanced this view when asked to comment on talk that the number of students taking the subject was on the decline.

“We know there are not many. Schools may not want Bible Knowledge to be a subject that will pull down the overall passing rate. But in terms of education, I think we don’t have to look at the subject in this way.

“As an elective subject, Bible Knowledge will not be taken into account for the purpose of scholarship eligibility and things like that,” he said after a recent courtesy call on him by a delegation from the Federation of Councils of Christian Mission Schools Malaysia (FCCMSM), led by its Chairman, Yap Kok Keong.

Among the members were the Federation Secretary, Yin Kam Yoke, Chairperson of the Sabah Council of Christian Mission Schools (SCCMS), Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching, and Secretary, Yap Pak Soon, and Chairperson of the Sarawak Council of Christian Mission Schools (SCCMS), Ambrose Linang.

Asked whether there is a shortage of Bible Knowledge teachers, Dompok, who is Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, felt that first of all, there must be an interest, and being taught in English, it is limited to schools in urban centres where the usage of the language is much more.

“But my point is that Number One, learning Bible Knowledge exposes Christian students to the tenets of universal values,” he contended.

Advocating the study of Bible Knowledge by Christian students, Dompok said it is an opportunity for them to read parts of the Bible not just for examination purposes but also for their personal knowledge.

“Secondly, since it is taught in English, the subject will to a certain degree help the students in improving their proficiency in the language.

“More importantly, we need to imbue the students with universal values for character formation,” he pointed out.

Earlier, in his meetings with educationists and mission school stakeholders from Semenanjung, Sabah and Sarawak over the last three years, Dompok proposed that the three regional councils of Christian Mission Schools get together to form a Federation.

“This is to facilitate discussion of relevant issues and present resolutions to the Government as a unified body, so the Government doesn’t have to deal with a host of administrative school authorities,” he explained.

Such issues pertain to Bible Knowledge being taught in schools (mission and government schools), school maintenance and repairs, appointment of school heads and recruitment of teachers and students.

It was agreed to form the Sabah Council of Christian Mission Schools (SCCMS) on September 2, 2009 with Datuk Bishop Albert Vun as Protem Chairman. Its formation was formalised on September 29, 2010 with Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching elected as Chairperson.

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