Costly failure to cope with able wild child

His teachers thought that Darren would be bright enough for higher education if things worked out. But he never made it to secondary school, let alone university. At the age of 10, Darren (not his real name) got himself permanently excluded, the result of his wild and uncontrollable behaviour.

Judith Elderkin, the headteacher at Marlborough Road primary in Salford, says she had no choice: "He was a lad whose behaviour was extreme, and violent and disruptive. He was constantly shouting out in lessons, swearing at the teachers, fighting in the playground. A lot of it was fairly violent disruptive behaviour. Hurting other children, hurting the staff. Swiping things off desks. Throwing furniture. It was frightening."

In 20 years at the school Mrs Elderkin has only permanently excluded one child: Darren. "He was clever. He knew that if he went so far, I would exclude him for two days," she said. "So if he had a new programme for his PlayStation, he would deliberately get himself excluded.

"I pleaded with the local authority to get some help, urgently, but it fell on stony ground. I felt members of staff were at risk when he lashed out and threw things around the classroom. Finally I had to admit that the resources I had in school were insufficient to meet his needs. And sadly he ended up in local authority residential care."

Even when he was excluded Darren managed to destroy things. He crept back into school during a festival and took the opportunity to vandalise the redecorated toilets with black marker pen.

Now he is in a residential special school at a cost, says Mrs Elderkin, of up to pound;80,000 a year. Far more than the price of additional help at the time she asked for it.

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