It is commonly acknowledged that children respond better to rewards than sanctions but sometimes regardless of the reward system used and the rewards offered sanctions have to be used.
It makes sense (to the adults) that children in school should be in class and learning, unfortunately not all children seem to see it this way. Some children, despite the support put in place, despite the lessons being split into bite-sized accessible chunks presented in the child’s preferred learning style, despite following all of the suggestions given by outside professionals, despite personalised reward systems being put in place some children still choose to behave in an unacceptable way. They not only deny themselves an education they persistently disrupt the learning of the other pupils.
If their behaviour continues eventually the child will be removed from the classroom, given work to complete elsewhere in the school but with less support than they would have received in their classroom. The child, after a short while, will return to their class. Depending upon the cause of the disruptive behaviour the behaviour pattern will probably be repeated – as the cause, quite possibly nothing to do with life in school, is still there.
If the behaviours continue once the child is returned to the class they risk being excluded from the school for a fixed time; a fairly drastic step. For the majority of parents, this would be embarrassing even shameful and the child would be in trouble at home too but for some their child receiving an exclusion is a badge of honour. In the strange world of playground politics, some parents almost seem to use what their children have done as bragging rights.
Following a few of these exclusions, parents start to get annoyed. Not annoyed at the children for their behaviour, not annoyed that their child’s education and the education of other children are being affected but annoyed that their own life is affected. Children who have been externally excluded cannot go out to public places during school hours. This effectively means house arrest for the parent. They can’t nip to the shops, to the gym or anywhere else that they may go to during the day. If they work childcare needs to be sorted – as they have pointed out to us – it is very inconvenient!
The children are often happy to be excluded – they get to go home. They may be able to look after a parent they are worried about. They may think that they will get parental attention as other siblings are in school. They may think that playing with younger siblings is fun. They may just be glad that the pressure of following instructions in school or producing a piece of writing has gone. They don’t look ahead to realise the effect of these exclusions. If we try and explain they don’t seem to care. They are going home – job done!
The last thing any school wants to do is permanently exclude a child, as the Government document states,
“permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort, in response to a serious breach, or persistent breaches, of the school’s behaviour policy; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.”
Still, it sometimes happens.
Parents on the other hand sometimes ask us to permanently exclude their child. They see it as a shortcut to get to education at an alternative provision, a school they feel will be able to deal with their child. They see it as a step to getting their life back, a life where they don’t have to worry that they will receive “that” phone call.
This is really sad; sad on a series of levels.
Sad that the behaviour has reached this point and we haven’t been able to help.
Sad that the child has a permanent exclusion on their school record.
Sad that parents seem happy that their child is permanently excluded.
So is there a solution? There must be for many of our young people who are so troubled, but can we find it? We call in Educational Psychologists who suggest techniques such as Incredible 5 Point Scales. We have ELSA trained support staff who work with the children, Nurture groups, drawing and talking experts, behaviour support services, TAs to act as 1-1 support in school, CAMHS to rule out mental illness (well that’s the theory). The list goes on.
There is certainly no magic wand or panacea. I really wish that there was. In the meantime, we will keep trying. Trying to find something that engages the children in school so that they want to learn, trying to use all of the strategies that outside agencies suggest, trying to use all of the emotional literacy interventions that we can and most of all, perhaps, trying to change attitudes to exclusions (both children’s and parents).
How long will this take? I don’t know. What I do know is that we will keep trying.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Jill Turner and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.