Monthly Archives: July 2014

SHOULD WE LABEL CHILDREN?

Originally posted by jordyjax at http://www.jordyjax.wordpress.com

 

I am deputy and SENCO in a primary PRU and I recently read a blog which discussed whether we should be labelling children ADHD, ASD etc or meeting their needs as unique individuals.  From a personal perspective I incline to the latter view but the pragmatic SENCO in me favours the former. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, children are excluded because they present challenging behaviours but  in many cases they have underlying issues which are undiagnosed. If a ‘label’ had been applied at an earlier stage then the child could have received the help and support they needed in mainstream; it is distressing for a child with acute ASD to be placed in a BESD setting as strategies to manage behaviour alone are at odds with strategies for ASD particularly when the child has sensory issues.
Secondly, when children come to us without a ‘label’ and struggle to access even our small classes then we have a problem. We are only a short stay provision and if the child cannot cope with a mainstream school due to SEN where is he or she to go? In order to move the child to a suitable specialist provision we need to begin statutory assessment procedures; an EP needs to diagnose and we need SEND support. The fact of the matter is the child needs a ‘label’.
So there is a dichotomy here; a PRU cannot operate effectively without applying labels although we recognise the need to look at the whole child. We do discourage children from seeing themselves as a series of ‘conditions’ but the reality is we have to!

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What did a PRU do for me?

“Children must be taught that they are worth being heard, being saved and being loved.” – Unknown Quote

When I decided to leave mainstream education after just 2 and a half years, it was last chance saloon. The enormity of debts accrued through university (particularly the student bar) paired with expectation of my family meant that my next move simply had to work. I was the first in my family to go to University and surely I wasn’t going to be the first one to throw it away. The next decision I made was rather drastic – I decided that I would work in a PRU.

I remember the interview well, because I was the only one who interviewed for a permanent post in a time where staff were repeatedly kept on fixed term contracts. I naively thought this was a stroke of good fortune however in hindsight, it was because no-one else wanted the job!

I walked in on day one with very little planning… I was only meant to be in class with 7 kids. I was paired with an experienced teacher, thankfully! I can’t really remember much else from that day; possibly due to the fact that I felt like I was in a whirlwind… no a spectacular tornado. There was something special about being told to f*** off by an 8 year old. I felt like I’d stepped into a parallel world where all rules did not have to be followed. I reflected for a bit on my first evening and soon came to realise… that this was actually the case (sort of)

I soon began to build a rapport with the children in my class but no sooner as I had settled them, they were whisked off back to their mainstream setting as quick as a flash for the next arrival of hard to reach kids were shipped in. The only ones that seemed to stay for a LONG time where the children who were not going back, but the ones who had being named to go to a local EBD school. It was these children that really taught me how to manage extremely challenging behaviour.

The journey began. From staybacks, home visits to talk about behaviour, consequences and stupendously tiring support…. I got very little. Why did the children simply not respond to my punitive measures? Couldn’t they see that it was in their best interest to not throw the chair, break all the rules and revel in their mass destruction?

I worked with a chap who had do 25+ years in this provision… a warhorse in some manner. He was an older man, grey hair, slightly odd dress sense, poor hearing and an odd dress sense…oh, I already said that. The children had plenty of opportunities to have a pop. Did it phase him? No. Had he helped difficult kids in distressing times of their lives? Yes. I often found myself having long and drawn out conversations with him about serious incidents down to simple nuances in behaviour. He told me that the kids weren’t really kicking off, but they were in need of support. Some of the time, the support needed may be punitive, but for the majority of the time, they needed a different type of support. It takes me back to the opening quote. I soon realised that I could not get the kids to behave for me, but because they wanted to behave for themselves.

Read the rest of this entry

A look back…

“How can you know what you’re capable of if you don’t embrace the unkown?” – Esmerelda Santiago

I started my teaching career in 2007 as an NQT in an inner-city primary school on a massive council estate. I was brought up on the area, I did a teaching placement in the exact same school and was offered a job instantly. What could go wrong? In fact, my NQT year was more like what couldn’t.

I found my NQT year extremely challenging and the transition from university to a REAL job, one where I was accountable and actually had to do stuff was a difficult one. In fact, the transition was non-existent. I landed in this challenging and dynamic career with an awesome class… and I was terrible at it. I built a rapport with staff, children and parents extremely quickly but my organisational skills were as effective as my cooking skills… and I eat out way too much. I rambled on and scraped over the NQT standards finish line with a faint limp.

I continued for another year and a half before I thought that actually, teaching wasn’t for me. I loved the teaching but hated everything else. I really enjoyed working with children with special needs and the feedback was that I was quite good at it. In fact, the feedback was that I should move into a different type of provision. I considered this, spoke with my wife and eventually did as I was told (ha!) and if I wasn’t naive, maybe I would have considered the quote from Esmeralda in the opening of this post. I was not too switched on so had to find this in hindsight but even so… it sums up how I probably felt at the time. I knew this was make or break. I knew this was seat of the pants time. Hold on.

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