It’s been one of those days where I am struggling to remember what I did this morning so much has happened since. I think it started very ordinarily, the sun was shining, classes were settled and our KS1 moderation team got nicely underway. I had a productive meeting with my Chair of Governors who always provides a good challenge. I like this as it keeps my thinking clear. In conjunction with my Bursar I had also dealt with a staffing issue which had upset my office staff.
As I walked down the main corridor I found a teacher talking to a child who was obviously angry as he didn’t want to give him the toy that he had brought into school. There have been lots of times where children don’t like to give staff the things that they have brought into school (when they shouldn’t have done). I have noticed that when you ask for them to be handed over the child’s reaction can be quite out of proportion. This made me realise that the ‘thing’ – be it a lego man, a toy car or a pack of swap cards, has an emotional value for the child. They often seem to use them like ‘transitional objects’ and thinking about it now, they are all boys. With this in mind I asked the child about the toy and why he didn’t want us to look after it for him. He told me that his grandmother had given it to him. This particular child was in a state of uncertainty as his mother had talked about moving away but kept changing her mind. The toy given to him by his grandmother seemed to be his way of holding on to something certain, something solid. He was holding it to his chest. I asked him what his grandmother would have wanted him to do with the toy. He looked at me, thought for a moment, and gave me the toy. He was well behaved for the rest of the day and came to me to collect the toy at the end of it with smile on his face.
At lunchtime I sat with Y5 and Y6 to eat with them as on a Thursday I don’t have lunch with the ‘support’ class. Today they were very chatty and full of gossip. One of the children told me quite chirpily that he had had is diagnosis of epilepsy. One of the others told me about the operation that she is going to have in the summer to correct her scoliosis, and how she was going to meet a boy who has already had same operation. The children noticed that the new girl from was sitting on her own, (the others at her table had finished). The children invited her to sit with us. The conversation then turned to football. Being a Lower league fan I tried to persuade them that the premiership wasn’t proper football but unsurprisingly they weren’t having any of it! Apparently Head Teachers know nothing about footie!
As lunchtime came to an end the weather started to change. It had been quite a sunny morning but the wind was getting up and the sky was darkening ominously. The children started to come in from their play and were lively and chatty as they came through the door. There was a kerfuffle. Some boys came in looking very red in the face and angry. One of them was in floods of tears. Another was gritting his teeth and clenching his fists. The third was clearly very agitated. As anyone in a primary school will know, this is a very hard time of year for Y6 as they prepare to move onto a new phase in their lives. In this school the build up to the transition is very difficult for them and they become quite volatile and emotional.
When they were sat in my office I asked them to explain to me why they were upset. As is common here a simple game of ‘it’ had led to a major dramatic upset, culminating with one of the children hurting another and the third giving chase. I could tell that they were more upset than the actual incident warranted so we started to talk about how they were feeling as it was clear to me that something wasn’t right.
One of them burst into tears and told me that someone had threatened to call social services. In fact, he became quite hysterical. I asked him to tell me a bit more and he made a disclosure that I can’t go into for obvious reasons. Suffice to say it was dealt with in the appropriate manner. Telling me seemed to calm him down and it also explained why his behaviour has been so erratic this week.
Once he had gone back to class my attention turned to the other two boys, who are usually both well behaved and very hard working. One of them does find it difficult to get on with the other children at times but in recent weeks had been managing very well. They were obviously very upset so I asked them to write down what was upsetting them. One of the boys’ dad had recently been diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer and had been in and out of hospital and the other one’s uncle had recently moved to another country. This uncle had been a key adult for this child as he was being brought up by his grandmother not his mum. These two issues unsurprisingly were written on their respective lists alongside ‘friendships’, ‘leaving’ and ‘being me’.
It was also clear to me that they both needed to talk. So I made them a cup of tea and we talked. To begin with we talked about friendships and how they could manage them. This led to a conversation about how they thought they weren’t like the other boys because they didn’t like football and how some of the girls were giving them a hard time. One of them said that he didn’t like boys’ toys and that he likes playing with his sister’s dolls, and that he had tried his sister’s clothes on but didn’t like them, The other agreed that he too liked playing with his sisters’ dolls. They said that they didn’t think that was normal and I tried to reassure them that it was and that there were no rules about who was allowed to play with what. They then told me that the other children call them ‘gay’ so we had a conversation about homophobia and being gay. I tried to reassure them both that this was taken very seriously in school and that it was ok to be gay.
The conversation then moved on to leaving, moving on to secondary school, and about what they might do when they grow up. One of the boys seemed to calm right down so I sent him back to class. The other had been very teary through the conversation and as this was the child who had written ‘being me’ as one of the things that was upsetting them I asked him what he meant. He then told me that he ‘hurt himself’. I asked him to tell me a bit more and he told me that he sharpened pencils and dug them into his skin. He showed me his arms.
I am very lucky to have on my staff a Pupil and Family Support Worker who is very well qualified to deal with self harm. She is currently working with a significant number of parents who self harm and an increasing number of children. I asked the boy if he would mind talking to her about this, he said he would be happy to and so we went to see her. She has come up with a plan of support for him and is going to talk to his mum.
I went back to my office and sat.
This week my ‘to do’ list has got longer and longer and I know that I will end up going into work on Saturday to catch up. I can’t, however, be a head who shuts myself away – as I am dealing with these sorts of issues, so are the rest of my SLT.
In the background today, our KS1 results were being moderated. We were all a bit nervous, but by the end of the day I had the results. We have achieved the best KS1 results the school has ever had.
What a day!