THE deans of discipline which are being placed in secondary schools will relieve school administrators and teachers of the arduous task of dealing with disciplinary matters, enabling them to focus on the business of imparting knowledge, senior advisor to the education minister Alphansus Davis said.
He said one of the concerns school administrators and teachers face is that they were using a lot of their instructional time to deal with disciplinary problems within schools.
"So, realising that their time could be better spent to deal with the instructional delivery, the Ministry of Education thought that it would be fitting to appoint deans of discipline, who would have sole responsibility of working with the principal, board and parents within the schools," he said.
The deans of discipline will be placed in schools over a phased period this academic year. They will not participate in academic activities and instead will carry a comprehensive mandate w hich focuses on achieving discipline in schools.
Their key responsibilities are to define rules of conduct and standards of discipline; develop specific mentoring and peer counselling programmes; establish procedures for reporting and dealing with incidents of indiscipline; lead discipline enforcement; maintain records of students' conduct, attendance and punctuality and establish a critical incident management team in each school.
They are also mandated to provide intervention for students' discipline issues; develop appropriate programmes to promote positive behaviour; monitor, develop and implement student behaviour contracts; keep a log of students' attendance and truancy issues; communicate disciplinary concerns to parents and staff; ensure the overall safety of the school premises; and maintain participation in the process of screening for acceptance and transfer of students with behavioural and other problems.
Albert Corcha, principal of Tarrant High School, one of the institutions that will benefit from the programme, said he welcomes the initiative. He is strongly of the view that every school should have a dean of discipline, from the primary level upwards.
"Gone are the days when we see the dean of discipline as somebody walking around with a strap, or somebody who will punish a child. The new dispensation now is a softer, firmer approach, not punishing the child, but putting measures in place to correct the behaviour and point the child in the right direction. I am happy that the ministry has gone this route and I know that all the schools that are involved will benefit," Corcha said.
The Ministry of Education expects to place 86 deans of discipline by the end of the 2009/10 school year. The ministries of National Security and Health are on board to aid in the necessary development programmes that should see a decrease in violent activities in schools across the island. The dean of discipline programme is part on the ministry's Behaviour Management Strategy, which takes a strategic approach to improving student behaviour by seeking the involvement of the community to ensure a comprehensive approach.
Along with the establishment of the post of dean of discipline, the strategy addresses effective classroom management strategies; systems of rewards and sanctions; conflict resolution strategies; the rights and responsibilities of the child; the role of parents and communities; a training needs analysis and plan; and development of a standard home school agreement and code of conduct for students, teachers and parents.