This is not an easy one to write.
I read this article this afternoon and it made me sad, angry and a whole host of other emotions. Partly from personal experience of seeing some of the horrendous circumstances that some of my kids have ended up in and partly because the headline and the information conveyed in the piece just does not surprise me.
Years ago, I worked in a really tricky setting where some of the kids had very difficult home-lives and had to endure some awful circumstances. These kind of settings and backgrounds tend to spill over into the classroom. It is human. If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or you’re not sure whether you’ll have a house next week, you’ll feel wobbly and not know what to do with yourselves. Most of those kids were lovely and actually responded well to some calm consistency and support. However, there were some kids who just didn’t. They often had learning difficulties and just couldn’t quite manage mainstream school. Often they ended up excluded, either for a fixed term or permanently. I never quite understood what was supposed to happen to these kids.
Alternative provision seemed to be somewhat lacking and that was more than 10 years ago.
Fast forward to now, and nothing has changed. Alternative Provision capacity has shrunk beyond recognition, schools are fined for excluding kids (who sometimes do need to be excluded- I am not against consequences for kids who make poor choices) and kids who need that extra support just aren’t getting it.
There seems to be little opportunity for kids to come back and start afresh from poor decisions which have had significant, adverse consequences for them. When one of the students I had worked with killed his mum years ago, I couldn’t help thinking that he needed more support earlier on so that he could find ways to channel his negative emotions. Ultimately, I do understand that he made the choice to do what he did, but I can’t help but think if there were more, accessible and consistent alternative provision and support for that student years ago, that he’d not have ended up where he did.
It seems that little, if anything, has changed.