I had written half this blog when I read a moving post called The Outsiders by @dutaut ….beautifully written and linking forgiveness amidst the pitiless horrors of terrorism to a child’s reality of exclusion and separation from his peers. Now my other blog was moaning (again) about budget cuts, rising permanent exclusions, disrespect for the work of our PRU ….all well-worn themes….but this post gave me pause and I pressed the delete button.
Instead I want to focus on what is actually happening in our schools and what we are doing to our children. It is right we should respect and mourn senseless atrocities and deaths of the innocent but I am bewildered by what we are willing to do to innocent children in our society, in our schools because we don’t know what makes them tick and don’t have the money/ time/ inclination to try!
Exclusion isn’t killing but it is a slow death of all we hold dear, nevertheless. If we turn our faces away from children because they cannot or will not conform and tell ourselves that we have done all we can, wash our hands free of guilt, say they deserve it, blame their families….then can we be absolved as professionals? Is it our duty to only care for those who give us our SATS and our GCSEs and ensure we are good/outstanding and that our schools are free of the autistic and the ADHD and the ODD and the SEMH/ SEN who disrupt our safe spaces? Can we console ourselves when these children are sent to our pupil referral units and alternative provision that they are going to the ‘right place’? What if, in our broken system, there is no ‘right place’ any more? What if the axe falls on this expensive provision and our excludees are left to teeter on the edge of a precipice where all safety nets have been cut away? What then?
They say evil flourishes when good people do nothing and I can see its black shoots pricking amongst the consciences of the great and good who are normalising what was once unspeakable. From the government to OFSTED to county to the community there is now a wider acceptance that some children need to be out of mainstream provision. In the past PRUS only had permanent exclusions in the most challenging circumstances; we mainly took children on respite and after a short time sent them back to their schools armed with strategies and self respect. When did it become respectable to press the exclusion button so readily and with such self justification and self righteousness?
And if we are so vital why were we closed in such numbers in the recent past? Why is our funding being cut? Why is OFSTED so focused on meaningless data when very lives are at stake? Because make no mistake they are! Is it now the new grey for children in our green and pleasant land to be allowed to hover on the fringes of society without hope or prospects, to drift on the edges of criminality and find refuge in our young offenders’ units and prisons?
Am I being overly dramatic here….’over egging the pudding’? Of course no head would exclude unless he/she absolutely had to….would they? I give you these recent snapshots ….
….the summer born 4 year old who was permanently excluded for ‘damage to property’ who just wanted mummy to take him home
…..the headteacher of a 5 year old SEN child threatening to exclude because she couldn’t afford his one to one support even though it was working and they were collating evidence for an EHC Plan
……the social worker urging a school to permanently exclude a child so that he ‘would get the help he needs’
…….the looked after child who was removed from a school where he was happy and well managed, against advice, and then promptly sent to us when his new school couldn’t manage him
…….the school threatening to exclude 10 to 15 children because they were ‘struggling’
Now obviously there is more depth to these stories than I have shown and the thread that runs through is lack of funding to effectively manage inclusion. However I know other schools who have extremely challenging intakes who somehow make it work for all their pupils! Heads new to post have itchier trigger fingers than more experienced colleagues but exclusion is definitely the buzzword of choice in all quarters, from nurseries to colleges.
And the effects? Well, we are a small unit with 32 places serving a community of nearly 160 primary schools….as our translantic cousins would say, do the math…We are overwhelmed by need, by poverty, by crime, by mental health… all compounded in a stew of rejection with a dollop of worthlessness on top! Is it wrong to draw parallels with the disaffected, angry, drug addicted jihadists who are wreaking havoc in our once safe homes and cities and holiday resorts?
This is what can happen when we lose sections of our population to alienation and segregation….one of our young boys…aged 9…wants to be a gangster when he grows up! Enough said!
And then there is the scandal of our special needs children…we are full of autistic children whose schools couldn’t cope with them! We have a little boy who is operating at the level of a 2 year old.
Yes, say the heads, we know you are not the right place, but what else can we do? Where else can they go? Yes, say the SEND office, we know they need specialist provision but it’s all full. Yes, say the LA, we know there needs to be more provision but there is no money. Yes, say the government, we know there needs to be more funding but there is still no money.
And the units close. And the children wait. And so it begins.