The support group is caught in a whirlwind of change. The new children are, understandably, taking a while to settle. The more settled children are feeling unsettled by the newcomers in their patch and staff are having to adapt rapidly to an ever changing dynamic. It is becoming clear which children are now ready to be reintegrated back into class, which are going to need a specialist provision, and which simply need more time in the group.
One child in particular is ready to return to his class. He has been in the group for a year now. When he first joined the group he was uncontrollable. He would climb tables, walls, windows. Constantly. He could not listen. He could not sit for any length of time. He was in no state to learn. You could see that he was desperate to be part of the class but simply didn’t know how. A year on and he is a different child. Calm, delightful, ready to learn. Keen to do the right thing and not liking it when the other children in the group behave badly. His reintegration starts tomorrow and we are confident that he will succeed. This is a testament to the staff in the group who have nurtured and repaired and readied him for his return to ‘mainstream’.
On the other hand there are two new children in the group who are clearly unhappy and distressed. This manifests itself in constant conflict. They are in such a high state of anxiety. They seem to be unable to contain themselves in their bodies and so are in a constant motion. This can explode into violent behaviours and when it does it can be difficult to contain. However, we know that with careful management, these violent incidents will subside, just like they did for the child who is about to be reintegrated. There are two other children in the group who have been there a long time too and it is becoming ever clearer that they will need a specialist provision so we are putting things in place to facilitate this. The group has enabled us to contain the children who otherwise disrupt the learning of others. There are still challenging children in each class but the ones that are seriously out of control are contained and making progress without impacting on the rest of the school.
Providing this facility in school has meant cuts in other areas and this in turn has increased some of the pressures on staff. All the decisions that I make, in conjunction with my Senior Leadership Team, are done in what we feel to be the best interests of the children. I don’t always get things right and at the moment there is some conflict and unrest in the school as a result of a redeployment of staff. I have reflected long and hard about the causes of this. I think that it is due in part to the underlying anxiety of the staff in having to manage classes with challenging children on their own in the afternoons. I was aware that this might happen. My mistake was not in the redeployment, which we made for sound educational reasons, but perhaps I should have given the staff more ownership of the changes and given them more opportunity to contribute to the redeployment. I am intending to put this to rights this week. I am sad that instead of coming to talk to me about it they have caused some unrest and upset other members of staff. I think that I am approachable and that I listen, and in general staff do come to me if they have an issue and together we can resolve things. I am not sure why, on this occasion, they have not.
I find this difficult. I am not someone who is very good when there is conflict. I haven’t slept properly all week and have had anxiety dreams and nightmares. However, I have a steely determination, can admit if I have made mistakes and can learn from them. I am determined that what is paramount is securing the best outcomes for the children in our care. I am sure that the issue will have a positive resolution.
I find the management of adults, from parents and carers to staff, the most challenging element of my work. In my experience of being a Head Teacher, you need the skills of the most effective of negotiators. I have a parental complaint to deal with first thing on Monday morning. It is not a serious one and should be easy to resolve. The parent has worked closely with my Pupil and Family Support Worker for some time. We seem to be dealing with a lot of issues surrounding separated and divorced parents at the moment. There are a number where each are not to have details of the other. This presents us with some considerable challenge, especially when both have parental responsibility for the children. All too often we see children truly ‘caught in the middle’. We provide them with emotional support but sadly, when we try and engage with the parents, to help them to understand the impact of their conflict on their child, they frequently disengage.
And the process starts all over again…