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'It was like telling a stranger all your business'

Michael, who is 17, had counselling for his last year at Hackney Free. "My form tutor referred me," he says. "I've got this temper and I can't really handle it. I threw a chair across the room and nearly hit a teacher in the face. I didn't want to go. I thought, 'I ain't a madman, I don't need counselling'. Then I beat up someone else.

"I saw myself getting angrier and angrier, and I decided to see what the counselling was like, just once.

"Most of the time he just listened and I just talked away. I talked about what made me angry, and seeing my parents arguing and trying to stop it. It was like telling a stranger all your business. When I went in, I felt down. But when I came out, I felt high.

"It helped me a bit. In the last year, I ignored anyone who started on me. I wouldn't fight back. I got my National Record of Achievement, and went to church in front of everybody. They gave me a Bible as well.

"I was lucky that I hung on. They used to say that I was the worst-behaved person in the whole school. By the end, no one knew I was there."

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