Barnardo's cure for problem children

A SPECIALIST primary in Edinburgh with one of the most challenging jobs in education, reinte-grating children with behavioural problems, has received a glowing HMI report.

At a time when mainstream schools are calling out for more help to cope with social inclusion, the report demonstrates what can be achieved with small classes and high staffing ratios.

Blackford Brae is funded by Barnardo's and Edinburgh and East Lothian councils. The maximum roll is 24 and all but three children came from the two authorities. The school has four classes and teachers' aides work in each class. It also has a community support team with a leader and four `social workers. Each pupil had an educational psychologist.

All pupils coming to the school had social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, as well as learning problems arising from discon-tinuity in their education. Almost a quarter were on medication for challenging behaviour.

Two-thirds of children were successfully moved back into mainstream schools. Teamwork among staff was highly praised by inspectors, and morale was high, with teachers taking pride in what the school tried to do for its pupils. Staff also had high expectations of pupils' behaviour and work, backed by the "calm and reassuring manner" of the headteacher.

Partnership with parents was very good and homework was a regular feature of all classes. Local adults acted as befrienders to the children.

Personal and social education was also good. Pupils were engaged in agreeing class rules and had the opportunity to influence school life through a school council.

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