I am motivated to blog on a subject which looms large amongst all children at this time of year…..from nursery right up to university and beyond….transition.
It particularly impacts on the children in our PRU because they have already experienced rejection on a cataclysmic scale from their mainstream schools; they are now in a place of safety where their needs are being met and are having to face up to leaving us.
Last summer I blogged on this very subject under the title….’They love us really’…and touched on reactions from children passing through our doors for the very last time….this time we haven’t even finished yet but the angst is more heart-rending than ever. So has anything changed? Worsened might be a better description! We currently have fifteen year 6 leavers out of 37 children ( yes we are over our maximum number of 32) and other assorted pupils are
moving to mainstream and specialist provision. Ten children will return to us in September so the majority are suffering from transition anxiety.
So how does this manifest itself? Well, we are a PRU so it tends to come out in behaviour. Some children are more subdued than usual…..some are nervy and hyper…..others are aggressive, more so than usual, and set out to punish us for sending them away. There are tears, tantrums and angry outbursts which can involve extreme violence; we have involved the police on occasion! Obviously this is not a road we want to go down but we have to when normal constraints no longer apply; this can come as a shock to our young people but may act as a wake-up call.
The tears don’t stop with the children either…..I have shed tears of frustration when faced with schools who press the panic button when they see our provision linked to their new pupils!! Unfortunately many of our leavers came to us too late to look at for statutory assessment and I fear for their futures. I have lost count of the number of times high school staff have mentioned ‘zero tolerance’ in connection with even minor transgressions let alone swearing or leaving class or throwing furniture!
The other day I met with a high school about a looked after child who is heading their way. He actually stands a better chance than most and is looking forward to next term….however they have been watching him on his transition days and talked about him being ‘vulnerable’ ‘sad’ ‘flat’ ‘aloof’….they demanded that we put in for an EHCP even though we have no evidence! His mainstream school let him down but we are being blamed!! I asked what an EHCP would do to help him settle but received no answer….I know they were thinking it would help get rid of him to specialist provision!! He is not a special school boy!! I asked if he was the only vulnerable Y7 going to their school….again no answer!!
I am meeting with another high school receiving some of our pupils …staff have already highlighted negative behaviours from their transition days. One of the items on the agenda is to discuss how they can be ‘punished’ in September for these transgressions!!! ( this has come from the head!) It beggars belief and I will be addressing this in no uncertain terms!
Some of our children are going to specialist high school provision and I went with them on a recent visit. I saw some ex pupils whilst I was there…some are doing well, others are not….I know one of our boys will be exactly in the right place but I know one will struggle to fit in….and they know it too. It depresses me to see what happens outside of the mainstream system and brings home the reality of how excluded our young people actually are despite lovely modern buildings and superb facilities.
The child who will fit in has many problems at home despite a loving family and is getting into a lot of trouble at the minute…..he is very easily led….he is really unsettled in school and constantly appears at my door ‘telling’ me things bless!! I am really worried about him. The child who won’t fit in has the potential to be lovely but is scarred by a life in care…..I am really worried about him too. I find myself welling up at unexpected moments and am choked in meetings….people stare at me!!
For the first time this year we have had to open an overflow group in a tiny room and then move to offering off site provision as we are so full. I have had to deal with the wrath of parents because of this…..one mum said to me ‘call yourself a teacher’ when her Y6 boy couldn’t get a place with us! Fortunately the provision I arranged worked out well and mum is now delighted! I am so happy…it is hard to turn children away….hopefully his transition anxiety will be lessened due to support from a lovely lady teacher!
We now have a week and a half left before we break up and it is one day at a time for our pupils. Our leavers’ service is going to be very emotional and the day they finally pass through our doors will be tough for all of us. There has been a lot of talk about respect recently but that manifests itself at our school in trust. Relationships are paramount ; recently one of our most difficult boys said he never wanted to leave us. The atmosphere in school is thick with anxiety mingled with fear for the future but we can only do our best to try and minimise these. Our transition procedures are robust and several pupils will get some support from staff at the beginning of next year. I know mainstream schools have their standards and procedures but I hope they will exercise a little tolerance for our children. Their futures depend on it.