Teams track school violence

March 15, 1996

A flare-up of violence in and around French schools has put the spotlight on a French research programme commissioned a year ago by the ministries of education and of the interior, writes Stella Hughes.

Nine research teams are carrying out a series of studies for these two government departments, ranging from the mental health of staff victims of school violence to comparative studies of violence in British, French and German schools.

A series of summer schools is planned with teachers and school heads to improve strategies for dealing with violence by raising awareness of the factors involved.

Bernard Debarbieux, of Bordeaux University, is making a comparative analysis of 80 schools to determine why schools in areas sharing the same socio-economic disadvantages have widely varying rates of violence. He argues that the size of schools in difficult areas and the leadership role - or lack of one - of the school head can be determining factors.

Psychiatrist Mario Horenstein says the originality of the research lies in the scale of this project. He heads a team of five researchers at the Mutuelle Generale de l'Education Nationale, a mutual benefit society set up by teachers in the 1950s.

Other teams are based in universities, the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique or the interior ministry's Institute for Advanced Studies of Internal Security. The teams meet regularly to compare their findings. Four regional conferences will be held in the autumn and an international conference at the end of the year.

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