A visiting educator says problems with young children
acting violently in schools are real, but not isolated to New
Wilson McCaskill, of Perth, was in Dunedin recently visiting
Green Island School, where a programme he developed has been
Mr McCaskill said because of key competencies outlined in the
New Zealand school curriculum, teachers throughout the
country were well placed to deal with violent children.
Thinking, relating to others, contributing and participating
were important components of the New Zealand curriculum, he
Mr McCaskill created the Play is the Way programme, designed
to teach children how to take responsibility for their
actions and feelings.
It was gaining popularity in New Zealand and used games to
show children constructive ways of dealing with everyday
situations such as playground squabbles and hurt feelings.
With his wife Julie, Mr McCaskill developed Play is the Way,
which grew from his experiences teaching theatre to children
in London during the 1970s.
''We found the children loved the exercises and games we did
as warm-ups more than anything else and the Play is the Way
programme evolved out of that.''
Green Island School principal Steve Hayward said he was first
introduced to the programme at an educational conference a
few years ago.
''We applied for Ministry of Education funding to put the
programme in place and we've been working with it now for two
years,'' he said.
The programme was not a ''fad'', but taught children genuine
life skills for dealing with playground falling-outs and
differences of opinion in a constructive and positive way, Mr
Mr McCaskill said children faced many pressures adults could
''We have home and family lives, but also live in a world
where our experiences are almost completely uniform, no
matter where in the world we live,'' he said.
Although disciplinary action in Otago schools has declined
since 2009, the number of violent incidents involving
children aged between 5 and 10 has increased.
But the increase in bad behaviour, far from being isolated to
New Zealand, was being seen in most Western countries, Mr
''Children learn best from positive, constructive engagement,
but the everyday dialogue of our society criticises children
and rarely provides enough role-modelling.''
If more schools implemented Play is the Way, behaviour would
improve, he said.
Schools had the freedom to focus on the life of the child,
and imbed skills and qualities of character which allowed
them to lead fulfilling lives, he said.
- Steve Bolton