I have mentioned in previous posts that we are reintegrating a child from a local PRU into one of our classes. I have mentioned that she is living with Foster carers and that she has had a very troubled young life.
I have also mentioned in previous posts that the class she is being reintegrated into is one of the most challenging and needy in the school. We are a one form entry school so this was unavoidable.
To be honest I felt under a great deal of pressure to take her on, even though I stated and re-stated that I felt we were already at capacity with challenging children. But, as a consequence of being very child centred, wanting to give every child a chance, and having a reputation for being able to manage children who are in distress, we agreed that she should come on a trial basis.
Here’s the dilemma. It’s not working. She is not responding to us (and why should she? She doesn’t really know us and has been let down by lots of adults…) but she is disrupting the learning of the other children. That isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that the fine balance that we had attained with the class is now completely trashed, or that those children that we have nurtured and cajoled and encouraged are now slipping because of the influence of one child.
At the end of lunchtime today there was a fight. The child had tripped someone up and the someone, another vulnerable girl in her class, had taken exception to this and a fight had ensued. The child that knows us was keen for the situation to be resolved. The new child wasn’t. The one came readily to my office to calm down and to talk to me, the other point blank refused. We have come a long way in my school. Those sort of refusals were not uncommon, they are now.
She went back into class and proceeded to wind up the other children, wiping their work off their whiteboards, pushing their books away, snatching their pencils. She was obviously in distress but was taking it out on the others in quite a sadistic way. She had a strange smirk on her face as she was doing this. Eventually we got her out of the classroom – she had ended up threatening the Learning Support Assistant with a ruler – and then she went. Running around the school, refusing to talk to us. My Deputy and I followed her, at a distance. We eventually managed to contain her in our music room.
She was repeatedly kicking things, and then she found a drumstick and was banging things. As I watched I noticed that she realised that what she was banging was making different sounds and she tried lots of different things to hear what they sounded like. She almost forgot to be angry. As soon as I said anything though, she resumed his bashing and kicking. She sidled up to a window that leads out into our nursery outdoor play area. Before we could do anything she had climbed through and out. The nursery children were inside their classroom, she seemed bemused and ran into and through the classroom and out the other side. This was a first. No child has ever done that before, as if the young children are a reminder of that they need to be in control. This one was oblivious to them. Eventually she came back round the corridor and sat, hitting the wall with a stick, watching the nursery children through the window as they were now playing outside.
As I watched, the hitting became less and less, she became more still. She tilted her head and I sensed a real sadness as she watched the little ones. This child had not experienced play like this. After a while sat like this her foster carer came. I had asked for her to be called. It was the end of the school day. She was still refusing to talk to us, and as it was home time, she took her home.
I feel deeply sad for this child. I feel even sadder that we really can’t provide for her what she needs. Even though she has been with us for a short space of time it feels like we have failed her and I suppose we have. It’s not certain that she won’t be staying, but I am going to suggest that she doesn’t as we simply have no spare capacity.