Unruly pupils may be acting out, not just acting up

Published on Tuesday, 31 July 2012 09:20
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

New figures show that pupils with special educational needs are around nine times more likely to be permanently excluded than those with none – up from eight times the previous year.

The call comes ahead of a two-part Channel 4 documentary which follows children from one of its specialist schools.

Lost Children will show what school life can be like for the most vulnerable in society through the eyes of Josh, 15, and Courtney, 12, two pupils at Barnardo's High Close School, in Berkshire. All its pupils have a statement of special educational needs; 95 per cent have two or more needs identified and 22 per cent have five or more.

Filmed during a year, it follows the ups and downs of their education at school and explores their histories.

Josh was taken away from his heroin-addicted mum and put into care at the age of three. He had 24 moves through care before the age of six.

Courtney has been diagnosed with ADHD and was excluded from her primary school.

Struggling to find words for how she feels, Courtney says it's like there's "a little cell in inside my head that says 'don't care'.".

Behind Courtney's anger there is a family story that stretches back more than four generations, from her mother Sara to her great-grandmother Edna.  Loving and close, these four generations are a remarkable testimony to the strength of their family ties, but they have also seen troubled and sometimes violent relationships.

Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said:

"A school teacher's job is not an easy one, but they must look behind the behaviour to see the child.  Unruly pupils may be acting out, not just acting up.

The most 'out of control children' may be the most vulnerable children facing horrendous problems at home.  Pupils may also have undiagnosed special needs, and the earlier these are identified, the better chance they have to reach their full potential.

We believe that education and a stable home are vital if children are to have a chance at overcoming disadvantage. This is why Barnardo's schools work with the most challenging children and their families to help overcome their problems against the odds."

Behavioural problems often have their roots at home or in the community, such as drug addicted parents or domestic abuse. Good schools recognise that it is worthwhile tackling the causes of poor behaviour through early intervention and by working with support services. Some children, like Josh and Courtney, need specialist support like that given by Barnardo's schools when they have not received the early intervention they need to prevent problems from happening later on in childhood.

There were 5,080 permanent exclusions from English primary, secondary and special schools in 2010/11, according to figures released by the Department for Education on Wednesday.

Source: ©Barnardo's

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