I recently spent the day in a South West of England primary school where I was introduced to a year 5 student called Carly. Her teacher explained that she had a very disruptive and dysfunctional home life which caused her to find the structure of school difficult. This resulted in her losing control of her emotions. She was often excluded from class – particularly during Maths.
However, after identifying the key stress triggers and by individualising her Maths programme, which included a time-out option, she is now able to complete most days without a major incident.
Carly does continue to have unique ways in which she manages her outbursts. While I was visiting, she chose to utilise her time-out option by walking over the tables of her fellow pupils in order to leave the room. Interestingly, the other students ignored her and continued to write around her feet as she walked over their desks and papers before quietly exiting the classroom. They know she is different and this teacher had successfully created an environment that the other students appreciate some of their peers require a different approach.
Statistics continue to show that pupils in England with Special Needs (SEN) or those receiving Free School Meals (FSM) are far more likely to be excluded from school than other children. In 2014/15 those with FSM were excluded 4 times more often while those with SEN, seven times more frequently than their peers. It is also likely that those on the cusp of FSM or with undiagnosed SEN make up a large majority of the other children who are excluded.
In addition a high percentage will experience one of the below listed risk factors in families as stated on the March 2015 DfE report on Behaviour and Health issues in children:
Risk factors in Families
- Overt parental conflict
- Family breakdown
- Sibling rivalry
- Inconsistent or unclear discipline
- Hostile or rejecting relationships
- Health of parents
- Failure to adapt to a child’s changing needs
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Parental criminality, alcoholism or personality disorder
- Death and loss-including loss of friendship
If we then consider that children spend about 16% of their year in school and 84% in the care of their parents or carers, it is clear to see the extent to which the adults can influence a range of outcomes.
In one of my training courses No two children are the same (please see the full list below) we emphasise the fact the children with ASD, ADHD, Dyslexia and ODD are developmentally different to their peers in terms of learning and behaviour. As a result they therefore need a structured but more flexible approach.
Perhaps it is time to look again at children who may have developmentally different parents/carers.
Not all students will be getting the same degree of support at home. Therefore it is more likely that they will have different behaviour patterns. Perhaps by introducing some form of ‘home environment assessment tool’ we could better understand how to support each child’s learning, behaviour and socialisation needs. Maybe we could then break the pattern of those at risk of school exclusions while improving their chances of success.