Not rocket science - just taking care of the little details

Karen Thornton

When Sean Wood, advanced skills teacher, turned up on Davy Thomas's doorstep less than 18 months ago, he got the usual response from a teenager excluded from school.

Davy describes that first meeting: "I got a knock on my door, and I said: 'who are you?' He said, 'I'm Sean Wood and I'm going to get you back into school.' I said 'no you're not.'" Two weeks later, he was enrolled at Longdendale high school in Hollingworth, Tameside.

Now 16, he is still talking about the leavers' party held the previous week and awaits his GCSE results. He has training as a car mechanic lined up at Tameside college and would like to work for Jaguar.

Sean, a wildlife writer, artist and father-of-three, has worked with excluded pupils for nearly six years, helping them get back into school - and stay there. He and Malcolm Knight, his boss at Tameside's home and hospital teaching service, claim an impressive 85 per cent success rate.

The way they work puts them in a field many schoolteachers would consider social work. Sean knocks on doors and tries to get to know excluded youngsters, their families and problems, before he even begins to line up a place at a school.

But he believes that being a teacher rather than a social worker gives him more credibility when he goes into schools and advises classroom colleagues on how best to reintegrate some of the troubled youngsters others have rejected.

Davy Thomas's headteacher, Karen Hanks, notes that, so far, all six of the youngsters the school has taken on through Sean have gone on to get GCSEs. "He is the person who builds the bridge between family and school. He keeps the contact with home very strongly. Any worries we have, he's the first point of call," she said.

Sean says it's not rocket science. Making sure new arrivals have their full school uniform, PE kit, a timetable, and know their way around the new school - these are the little details that count towards making the first few weeks a success.

His success at winning AST status means he will have more time to share good practice with mainstream colleagues.

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Karen Thornton

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