Category Archives: pru

Restraint, Risk and Reduction

As part of my current role, I am responsible for behaviour in the cluster I work in and I am an accredited Team Teach instructor. I have been trained in Team Teach for the last 7 years (four of that while working in a PRU and three years in my current mainstream) and I have been an instructor for the last year. I, alongside my colleague, have trained around 150 staff in our Multi Academy Trust and I will be training another 20 or so in September. One of the biggest problems that I come across as the behaviour lead for the cluster I work in, is when some people are trained in schools and some are not. Usually, the majority of staff, who have not had any formal training in positive handling, see themselves as not being allowed to physically touch or restrain children. This is simply not the case and this has caused schools so many problems. Knowledge is power… or so they say. This blog post intends to be my outlook on the restraint, risk and reduction as well as a link to some formal documentation.

Power to use reasonable force and duty of care

All members of staff who work in a school have a legal power to use reasonable force. There are set reasons when staff could use reasonable force because whenever anyone physically handles another person, it must be a legal use of force. You can’t normally physically touch another person without their consent. If I was to walk down the street and take hold of someones arm against their will, they would have a right, and possibly should, press charges for assault. In schools, we act under exceptional circumstances and if the situation presents itself, we can step outside of this norm. The DfE, in their non-statutory guidance, states that reasonable force ‘means using no more force than is needed.’ The term force, in the contexts of reasonable force is deemed when the force is applied to control of restrain.

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NQT Support

This blog post is a very quick one but one that I thought was worthwhile.

On Wednesday, I delivered some training to a group of NQTs as part of our Academy Trust training programme, The session was great, very informal in terms of delivery style but well structured. At the beginning of the session, some of them put up post-its with particular questions that they would like answering. Rather than paying them 10 minutes lip service at the end, I said that I would respond to them as a whole by email so that they could be used as a starting point for further discussion if necessary.

This blog post is simply the questions that were on the post-its and the answers that I gave in the email. It seemed a shame to waste them!

Girls – chatty and attitude

Girls can be a nightmare to manage because they often have behaviour problems which are more understated. It is often very easy to see with boys what the issue  is, therefore it is more straight forward to manage. Scripts can be used to deal with this. When a child is chatty or shows attitude, you really must stop yourself from reacting. Even if you’re furious inside, keep calm and identify that they are trying to wind you up. Whatever you say, say the same thing every time without changing the intonation in your voice. Keep it monotonous, keep it low and slow and assign a sanction to the end. “Sarah you’re talking instead of… If you continue, this will happen…”

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Teaching Behaviour

As educators working in schools, our primary job is to impart knowledge to others. Maths, literacy, scientific skills et cetera. There are many other elements to the job but the only thing that we should be doing when directly working with children is to educate them, to teach them something. This may be something academic but it can also be a whole plethora of other things, such as how to ask politely for something, how to share, how to resolve their issues, communicate… In fact, every time we interact with children, we should always teach them something.

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Feelings and Behaviour

After working with children with challenging behaviour for a number of years, and more recently taking up a role in a mainstream academy as well as supporting other local schools with behaviour, I know more than ever how difficult it can be to persuade/encourage other members of staff to change how they manage behaviour. Where effective behaviour modification in children takes place, it is usually down to how the adult changes their behaviour. The driving force behind this… is the adult being aware of the feelings of both parties.

Our feelings

When we feel in a calm and serene mood, we may behave in a particular way. The behaviour may be in the actions we undertake, but it is also in our body language, tone of voice, the things we say and the look on our faces. On a Saturday morning, after a full week at work, I am usually in an extremely calm frame of mind. I have put the week behind me (until at least the Sunday night work!) and I get to spend the morning having a cup of tea with my wife, spending time with my kids, reading or whatever else suits my agenda. I am relaxed in my posture, my mannerisms, with the things that I say and I am even handle frustrations more easily. None of the kids electronic devices are not connecting to the wifi… no problem. I’ll sort it.

Fast forward this to a time when I am not feeling so calm, maybe to a state of anxiety or frustration and as you can guess, it is not the same idyllic picture. I am more edgy; my movements are quicker and sharper; I am more easily wound up and simply short with everyone. My kids come to me saying the wifi has gone off while I’m in the middle of writing reports that are due the next day and it is already 8.30pm? Big problem… it seems as though the end of the world is nigh!
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Engaging parents

“No school can work well for children if parents and teachers do not act in partnership on behalf of the children’s b est interests. Parents have every right to understand what is happening to their children at school, and teachers have the responsibility to share that information without prejudicial judgement…. Such communication, which can only be in a child’s interest, is not possible without mutual trust between parent and teacher.”

Dorothy H. Cohen

A few weeks ago I read a blog post written by @jordyjax titled Should we label children?’ which was excellent and since then, I have been thinking and reflecting. As people we judge all of the time, even sub-consciously. Everyone makes judgements but the professional side of someone working in education is to keep these judgements to yourself and be impartial. As @jordyjax blog post eloquently alludes to, labelling children, particularly with special needs, is vital to help them progress. So what about when we, as people and professionals, silently judge or label parents?

My precious role working in a PRU had me regularly performing outreach work. When I went into schools and classes that were in crisis with particular children, the staff in those schools were so exasperated that they wouldn’t even keep their judgements of the parents to themselves… they would kind of just blame the parents. They are just like their dad, the parents are useless because they swear in front of them, they are allowed to stay up until 2am, the parents are always late to pick them up, they can’t be bothered/don’t care about their child… and it goes on. If these conversations happen in the staffroom or anywhere else, they have the ability to become toxic and poison the perceptions that other members of staff may have of that child. So when that child finally ends up in the Y6 class, the teacher already knows all about the child but also knows second-hand, all about the parents useless parenting technique and they haven’t even said hello yet!

Engaging parents is awesome and for the amount of effort and time you actually put into it in a contrived manner… the pay off can be seismic. It really does have the power to turn around a child who needs supporting with their behaviour or it also has the power to help bring out a more confident side of a child and after the initial effort, the contrived manner is dropped and it just becomes natural. So why bother? What is the key?

How can I get parents on side?

This is an easy one… talk to them. I recently started a new post in a mainstream in April and I was the third teacher for that class. I knew the parents would be apprehensive about another new teacher so I made an effort to be seen on the playground every night, talking to someone. It was only small conversations but I was consistent, insistent and persistent. I have now spoken to the majority of the parents. It started off by going over, introducing myself and just repeating something that the child had told me that day – “Oh I hear that John is in a rugby match at the weekend?” That is the ice breaker. What it does is it shows the parents that you have listened to their children about things other than school and it also shows that you are willing to open dialogue about it. If you make the effort to talk to them, they will make the effort to talk to you. How many times have you said “well if you/child had told me this was happening, I could have helped.” Now with may parents at the school I work, I will speak formally when I need to and the rest of the time I will speak on a more casual basis with comments etc as I am passing by. Read the rest of this entry

Conflict Spiral – Letting children know we can listen

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen”

Ernest Hemingway

I have worked with many children over the years who felt that adults do not listen to them. Children in my old PRU, children in my mainstream posts and children who I worked with on outreach. “What’s the point… they don’t even listen anyways!” was a usual response I got. Now, I have written a blog post on scripted language which addresses this in one sense (The ‘you talk to me, I will listen’ script). Staff do spend time sitting and listening… or so they think. Many staff spend time hearing children and this is usually characterised by the member of staff responding with something like “I understand all of that but you shouldn’t have done x, y or z.”

So, how can you be a better listener? How can you fill the void of desperation from within the child and replace it with belief… belief from the child that you will listen to them? It is something called the conflict spiral.

Where does it come from?

I was first introduced to the conflict spiral on my Team Teach Training 4 years ago.

conflict spiral image

 

Now it basically says that we can take any experience – negative or positive and place it onto the conflict spiral. Let’s take a positive one. If children are sitting smartly during your input (positive experience) this will shape the way you feel and make you feel happy (feelings). This in turn will drive positive behaviours and you may speak in a kind voice / praise more/ have positive body language (behaviours) which result in positive reactions (in this case) from the staff.

It looks a bit like this – positive behaviours > shape positive feelings > which drive positive behaviours > which result in positive reactions.

And on the flipside, the children talk during your input which makes you feel annoyed/angry/frustrated and these feelings drive your behaviour and you raise your voice / apply a sanction etc. The reaction you offer is negative and there is a potential to be a conflict between you and the child. Get it?

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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!

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.

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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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