This weekend I have been trying to digest the past 8 weeks. In many ways the first half term of the school year is the most difficult, with relationships being re-established and new relationships being developed; new routines implemented and adults and children trying to find their way in the middle of these; data sets interrogated and re-interrogated, new timetables and interventions established and new data sets released, measuring ourselves against our own previous performance and against the rest of the country. Staff appraisals completed, lesson observations undertaken in order that we have a clear benchmark of where the school is, and what we need to do to improve on our developmental journey.
For no academic institution stands still, or is satisfied with its current performance. We constantly strive for improvement, whilst celebrating what we do well already. Sometimes the pressure is so great and I am so focused on what we still need to do that I forget to celebrate our success enough and my Senior Leadership Team have to remind me! Sometimes, the reverse happens.
And at the heart of all this data and measurement are the children. The individuals who make up the majority of the school. One of the characteristics of my school is that we are so focused on the data for individuals that we sometimes overlook the larger picture. We know each and every child in the school really well and I think that this is what makes my staff so special.
It has not been an easy half term. Whilst some of the children have settled and are thriving already (you can see the progress clearly in their books and in their attitude in class and around the school) some are still struggling. The things that they are struggling with are things that are external to us. Things that are happening to them at home and that they have no control over. I have been thinking a lot about this. Quite a lot of the challenging behaviour that we have seen this half term, and that I have previously blogged about, is to do with children trying to exert some control over their lives. ‘No’ seems to be a manifestation of this. Ironically, these children settle more when we take the control back and hold the boundaries safe.
One such child was the one whose behaviour had been spiraling due to the break up of his parents’ relationship. it was only as her behaviour became totally extreme that we found this out. We dealt with it by keeping the boundaries firm and not giving in to her demands in the way that her parents were. As a result she is fully back in class and engaged in her learning.
The support group is also serving its purpose. It enables the rest of the school to function normally as it provides containment for the most challenging children, without us having to exclude them. This group is very challenging to manage and teach in and it takes a huge toll on the staff running it. We are fortunate to have excellent support through our Behaviour Support Service teacher who is brilliant at talking things through with us. We do need a bit of a re-think though, in terms of how we are managing the children in the group. It is clear that some now need to move to a more appropriate provision, while others are nearly ready to be reintegrated into their class and the rest just need a bit more time.
School this week was surprisingly calm except for Wednesday, when it felt as if the wind outside was whisking the children into a frenzy and the atmosphere was quite manic. Where children usually walk calmly down the corridor they were running and skipping and twirling and whirling and it took some firmness to calm them down. Classrooms were chattier and noisier than normal and at lunchtime tempers frayed. It is very unusual for us to have fights but on Wednesday there was one started, as usual, over football. It was very easily resolved.
On Thursday a group of boys deliberately frightened another child with a spider, when they knew full well he was terrified of them. I told them I was shocked at their lack of rights respecting behaviour and they were suitably penitent. Children can be so cruel and sometimes they forget all that we have taught them.
Thursday was also our parents evening, which was brilliant. The staff were buzzing as a result of the positive feedback that they were getting in response to the positive feedback that they were able to give. It was quite a good turnout too, though there are still some parents and carers that we will follow up after half term who didn’t show up. Interestingly these were mostly ones that we are worried about, or have concerns about their children, or who are very needy and demanding the rest of the time.
Friday brought with it two crises which our pupil and family support leader dealt with: one of our most vulnerable parents needed some serious support in terms of her mental health and one of our families were about to be evicted from their home and they didn’t know if they were going to have anywhere to live. We won’t know how they managed until we get back after half term…