Years ago, as a head teacher, I was faced with the awful situation of a child whose foster care placement was breaking down. He was a boy with a serious back-story, but we all had a special place in our hearts for him. Because of the precarious situation at home, his behaviours in school were (obviously) becoming more and more distressed. It was as if he was, systematically, breaking down relationships on HIS terms, rather than have them severed by external forces, over which he had no control.
His foster carers were keen that school should ‘take a stand’ against his outbursts (he hurt other children, and staff. Myself included. But none of us were complaining). They pushed very hard for me to exclude him, perhaps to back up their experience of him being ‘challenging’ at home?
But, in my heart, I knew this was wrong for this child. I also knew that keeping him in school would escalate his behaviours, and result in further breakdowns in relationships. Also, this all came to a head the week before the Christmas holidays, when the upset to routine, and awareness that he didn’t actually know where he was going to spend Christmas were doubly unsettling.
Pupil Support Services answered my call (and also my prayers!). A ‘virtual’ application was made to, what was then called ‘Behaviour Support’. This application was an e-mail, and a phone call to the Principal Teacher. We discussed how he was struggling to cope, and the circumstances around that. It was agreed that he would attend there, immediately, to enjoy small group activities and Christmas activities he could cope with, for the last 4 days of term. I discussed this, in absolute honesty, with the child, and assured him that this was NOT a punishment. He needed breathing space, and because of all the Christmas goings-on in a busy school, it was going to be almost impossible for us to give him that space and routine. The PT from Pupil Support Service also sat with me, during that meeting. He understood that he wasn’t coping. That nobody could carry on regardless, in that situation. He needed a break. He needed space and time.
After the Christmas holidays, he returned to us, and we were delighted to welcome him back. He had loved his few days, working with a very small group, with a very intensive adult-pupil ratio.
In many ways, I beat myself up about him having to spend those few days away from us, but I dodged the “exclude him” bullet, and hopefully, he knew I was doing my best for him.
Thanks to the Pupil Support Service, who didn’t make me wait for an admissions panel/ submit lengthy reports (although they followed, after it was agreed we could support him, off campus, for a few days). Their responsiveness made sure a solution was found.
I’m sharing this to illustrate how exclusions can be avoided, when support, responsiveness and compassion are key features in the decision making process.
This is an anonymous entry that has been validated by Lisa Cherry.