BESD and Mental Health

This blog has been written as a contribution to Martin’s brilliant #sharingiscaring collection.

Last Wednesday I ran a session for primary mainstream SENCOs on BESD and mental health. The current situation is grim….children as young as 5 are displaying symptoms of acute distress including disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, feelings of withdrawal and isolation, disassociation. These can manifest themselves in poorly formed relationships with others and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, acts of violence and aggression and incidents of self-harm. As DHT of a PRU I despair that these marginalised children end up with us because often the right help is not sought, so I was on a mission to both inform and give pointers to early support.

I was fortunate to have a lovely lady from Barnardo’s come to speak to the group about their commissioned services and the role of CAMHS was also discussed with useful contact numbers given. We watched a very moving video on young people discussing their experiences – very emotional and thought – provoking – leading to an interesting discussion about societal issues which impact on mental health and individual cases within our various settings. We then had a look at the mental health standards for schools with some fab resources via Butterfly Print and discussed collaborating on Young Minds’ bespoke training on adopting a whole school approach.

At the end of the session a school immediately came forward to offer a venue for training and a young teacher said that she felt empowered to deal with cases herself rather than having to ask around for help. The feedback generally was extremely positive and there was a sense of schools wanting to take ownership rather than rushing to offload their difficulties onto others.

Final thoughts: our headteacher commented on how far some of the teachers had travelled for our twilight training….journeys of up to an hour each way; this underlines the commitment of dedicated professionals to improving the lives of children in their care. Our session was delivered free of charge, including refreshments, (nice biccies too!) because help is needed out in our real world and some things are priceless and shouldn’t have a monetary bottom line!

Next steps are to email the PowerPoint presentation to schools who have said they will cascade information to colleagues. I was very proud to incorporate relevant hyperlinks, thanks to tutoring from my amazing colleague who also works tirelessly to deliver help and training in the mainstream, and it’s a cost effective way of resourcing our events. We are also developing our new school website and hoping to collect useful resources and contacts in one place.
I am very proud of the links being forged in our school community and we try and organise free events each half term. We have also started a weekly SENCO surgery where schools can come by appointment to discuss individual cases and we frequently deliver INSET to schools in their settings!! Again….its free! I truly believe we are both sharing and caring!


Men wanted?

I have just read an interesting post from @cherrylkd about the perceived need for more men in primary education. Cherryl came down very firmly on the side of this and argued eloquently without evoking shades of sexism. I began to think about our primary pru and changes I have noted since I started here six years ago, and my thoughts are these:

Initially I was seconded as DHT to cover the retirement of a female deputy; coincidentally the only male teacher, in fact the only male member of staff (aside from our male caretaker) left just before I started. As a newcomer to BESD provision I didn’t ponder much on the fact that we were an all-female teaching/support staff other than when we were in a restraint situation. It did occasionally cross my mind that it would be useful to have a male with our (mostly) boys when it came to de-escalating and debriefing during and after some quite challenging physical encounters. However, initially, I just accepted the status quo. Then we had a change of head and behaviour worsened; we all became vulnerable to assault and actual violence which resulted in considerable numbers of staff absences. Male members of staff were recruited who were able, partly, to head off/deal with violent escalations and they effectively became unofficial ‘bouncers’ within the school.

A further change of head brought positive benefits; the mentality of man as ‘bouncer’ was discouraged in favour of man as ‘motivator’ and positive role model. We employed a male apprentice and a male behaviour support assistant and the advantages became immediately apparent; our male staff developed our outdoor environment, involving our disaffected boys to good effect. They were positive sporting role models in a way which us females couldn’t be. They offered counselling opportunities in a way which us females couldn’t. They offered a measure of reassurance in difficult and challenging circumstances with aggressive male children.

This isn’t to decry the place of female staff in prus; many of our boys have hostile relationships with the women in their lives – they have attachment difficulties with their mothers – and so they need to start building positive relationships with women. However it is easy for these to stray into the inappropriate with boys ‘loving’ or even ‘fancying’ female staff members in an ultimately negative way. It is still vital for women to interact with our children – boys and girls – but there needs to be a balance of the sexes.

In conclusion, I feel that males and females need to both play a part in the education of our disaffected children and have a lot to offer albeit in different ways.


An interview with Nicky Morgan

After a successful visit to OFSTED towers on Friday I was interested to see that TES were doing a live video interview with Nicky Morgan today. Obviously TES will be writing it up in full but I thought it might be interesting to give my impressions given the outcry over two alleged statements, in her name , put out in the last few days!

Richard Vaughan was the interviewer and lost no time in cutting to the chase re the Guardian story about setting. Nicky had no hesitation in saying categorically..”it’s not true”. She has prepared over the summer for her new role and is looking to implement reforms which are supportive towards teachers and will help to inculcate high standards; she is not about issuing edicts on how they do this. She is impressed by her department which she says is stuffed with dedicated staff and is looking forward to visiting schools in her new capacity. She has a clear vision for her work with educators and knows that really good teachers are needed.

Like Michael Cladingbowl,  Nicky Morgan wants to listen to the profession; she staunchly defended her predecessor Michael Gove,  saying he was listening and enjoyed fierce debate. She said she had sent an email to all teachers to that end (note to self: check email); she appreciates that workload and red tape impact on teacher morale but feels that changes have been made to ensure we have the best schools.

She stressed that she is committed to the government’s work and is passionate about curricular reforms/exams. She is also passionate about school links with business and mental health issues /CAMHS; the latter is dear to my heart because of the children who come into our PRU. She said she is interested due to family reasons and is aware of needs out there and the importance of early intervention. My ears pricked up when she said she particularly needs to think about these outside mainstream…PRUs and medical units…as she appreciates there are wider constraints. Previously she has led a big debate in the House Of Commons and wants to consult further.
With regards to links between business and education ,she cited the need for better careers advice which she described as ‘patchy’ and is interested in hearing from this sector. She cited her involvement with ‘Bridge to work’ which is  in partnership with Loughborough University and stressed the need to look at vocational as well as university provision.

Assessment was a big issue…lots of questions on this…..She shied away from saying that EBACC core subjects are to be enforced but says she is concerned about students who come to her and say they haven’t taken the right subjects. She stressed we need to think big and all options should be open. She is going to have a discussion with Sir Michael Wilshaw so watch this space…..!

Nicky is big on teamwork and was very enthusiastic about a maths lesson she had seen this morning which used it well. She feels it is important to build skills which embrace character, resilience and grit; she is prepared to listen to teachers and not second guess them!

A concerned parent asked about GCSEs and the changes which are happening mid course; Nicky has personal  experience of this with the introduction of the first GCSEs but will bear this in mind for the future.

Other topics addressed included PSHE. …Nicky wants a focus on reducing homophobic and transgender bullying. What should / shouldn’t be compulsory is up for discussion.
She feels teacher retention rates are good and has met a lot of dedicated professionals both new and long standing.
She had high praise for teaching assistants at primary level….she has young children in school….and said it’s the job of head teachers how they are deployed.
She supports a possible Royal College of Teaching and says it’s up to teaching professionals to sort this out not government.
With regards to the new SEN framework Nicky hopes this will deliver a better service to children and families but is prepared to tweak it if necessary.

A big question was about the role of OFSTED. My particular question wasn’t aired because it had been answered elsewhere ….Nicky feels that the relationship should be good, constructive ,collaborative and will be consulting closely with them in the future. This will include discussion re the academies enterprise trust ; there was a follow on question about ‘forced’ academisation but Nicky felt it was about giving those schools a fresh start. She also feels strongly that schools should be not for profit in the future as this model is proving successful.

This was supposed to be a mini blog but I have included all the questions I heard which were sent in by parents and professionals. There was one point where the video froze so I might have missed something! So what can be concluded from the interview?
Obviously Nicky is an experienced parliamentarian and was wise enough not to fall into any bear traps, but she came across as sincere and interested in her role. Like Michael Cladingbowl she is a stakeholder in the system and seems genuine about consulting with and listening to teachers. She is enthusiastic and seems to recognise the worth of our profession. Also, like Michael, she is not prepared to accept the mediocre..her watchwords were ‘ high standards’. It maybe in the future that she will be ‘outed’ as an expert dissembler but that is not my impression at this time.
Nicky Morgan…the jury is still out, but I, for one, will be disappointed if this happens! The early signs are encouraging , on the strength of this interview, and if you and the Michaels work together and with us then there is hope for the future of education in this country!


Ofsted meeting matters; a collection of blogs

All the blogs together..great idea..thanks

Governing Matters

Over the last few months Ofsted has been actively engaging with teachers and governors. Mike Cladingbowl and Sean Harford have held meetings where the discussion has been open and frank. The people attending these meetings have blogged about what was discussed. I thought it would be a good idea to collate these blogs so if anyone was interested in reading them they would be able to find them all in one place. The following is a list of these blogs. I will add other blogs to the list as and when they are published.

Tom Sherrington
David Didau
 Ross McGill
Tom Bennet
Shena Lewington
Andrew Old
Naureen Khalid
Cherryl Kd
Stephen Tierney
Chris McDonald
Old P
rimary Head Part 1 and Part 2
Miss Smith
Mary Isherwood

Debra Kidd

It is clear from reading these posts that Mike Cladingbowl is sincere in his wish to work alongside school…

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