A Rock and a Hard Place

One of the hardest things in my job is deciding what to do when a child’s behaviour is very extreme. I am torn between a number of different options, all with different consequences for different people. It gets even more difficult when you feel like you have run out of options…

When I got to school this morning, which for me was later than usual, I was immediately faced with a member of staff who had come to tell me that Cheeky Grin had run off from breakfast club and was refusing to come in, and was telling the adults to ‘fuck off’. Today he was supposed to be going back into class after him internal exclusion in the support group provision after his exploits on Friday and Monday.

My first thought was that he was anxious about the return to class and this seemed to be borne out when I found him in the Nurture room, curled up on the sofa, with one of my Assistant Head’s talking to him. We had been wondering if a return to class was the best thing given his lbehaviour over the last couple of weeks. I asked him where he would rather be, he said he wanted to stay in the group. I reminded him that it would mean that he couldn’t then attend the other nurture group and he seemed to accept this (the group is VERY nurturing and it wouldn’t work to be in both).

He went down to the group and seemed to be ok. In the meantime in the group one of the boys had come in very distressed as his parents had just split up – mum had ‘kicked dad out of the house.’ He then told the staff that the parents were both putting pressure on him to choose to live with them. I’m amazed that he wasn’t climbing the walls. It’s a testament to the staff in the group that he felt safe enough to talk to them. He’s never done that before.

I spent most of the rest of the morning in a TAC meeting. It’s really sad when you get parents who seem to have a vested interest in their child having a SEN. The parents this morning seemed to be unable to hear anything positive about their daughter or anything that might help. They are very positive about us and the provision that we are providing but they are, understandably, worried about secondary transfer. They also repeatedly fail to attend appointments with health professionals when they are told things they don’t want to hear, which is usually that the issue isn’t as bad as the parents think it is. Tricky to manage.

Lunchtime flew by as my Pupil and family Support worker met with Cheeky Grin’s mum to discuss his placement on a proper place in the support group. Mum was happy with the placement. About half an hour later the Learning Support Assistant from the group appeared at my door in floods of tears. She had been slapped round the face. Deliberately. Hard. And punched in the back. What she was crying about was that she felt responsible for a potential exclusion. She was in shock. She felt that she had failed. She hadn’t. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She is brilliant with the challenging children and very empathic. She doesn’t shout. She speaks to them in a respectful way. She holds the boundaries. Cheeky Grin hadn’t got his own way and so had slapped her face and punched her in the back and then run into the nurture group and slapped one of the children hard round the face too. I am very concerned about this violence. We are working hard to support but things take a long time. In the meantime I had a difficult problem.

I knew that I couldn’t put Cheeky Grin back in the group straight away. I didn’t want to send him home as that was what he wanted. I couldn’t internally exclude him as that hadn’t worked. I couldn’t send him to the local PRU as his brother was there. But I couldn’t let this go. Stalemate. I rang our Behaviour Support Teacher to talk it through. It is never acceptable to hit anyone, but it is especially not acceptable to do so in such a deliberate way. If we are hit as a child is ‘out of control’ or struggling then that is not an exclusion. This was calculated and deliberate. Staff and children need to see that we won’t allow this line to be crossed. The other children in the group were shocked by her behaviour and were waiting to see what the adults would do about it. In the end I decided to exclude him for the rest of the week. It is me who feels like I have failed. On Monday when he returns, we will begin the reparation process and hope that we can support him so that it doesn’t, ever, happen again…

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3 Responses to A Rock and a Hard Place

  1. Mark Mackley says:

    As I have said before, I do not know how you do what you do. I have to deal with difficult children from time to time, some bear some similarities to what you describe but not as severe! You are clearly dedicated and sound like you have a wonderful staff – keep on doing what you do. Deep down you know you haven’t failed, there are trip ups on the way but as long as you keep getting up again and helping the children to do the same then it’s not failure. I just wonder when Gove or others at that level will visit schools like yours and realise that all their posturing on Academic rigour and Baccalaureates etc is far less important than making children feel loved and valued and worth something.

  2. MrsT says:

    This is indeed a difficult position to be put it in. It is always shocking and sad to see such violence from young children. I hope you are able to get to the bottom of Cheeky Grin’s behavior she sounds like she needs you all. I hope your TA is okay. What an amazing staff you have. The children in your school are very lucky. Good luck.

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