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Small steps to progress

The key to the success of the Supporting Primary School-Aged Children Early project is making small changes and altering the focus of people's thinking, says Graham Haddow, the children's service manager for Barnardo's Scotland.

"When people first come to us they want the problem fixed, which in their eyes is the child and his behaviour. What we're more interested in is the environment that surrounds the child, at home and at school.

"If the environment changes, if the key people in a child's life start to behave a little differently, the child will change too. It's a natural process."

This is why, he says, the Space team of teachers, social workers and childcare specialists takes so much care in the early stages of working with a child to identify and talk with all the key people in his or her life.

"If you listen to gardening programmes on the radio, people phone in to say their plant has just turned yellow and its leaves have dropped off. So the experts ask if it's sitting in a draught or in direct sunlight. They wonder how often it gets watered. They try to find out about the plant's environment.

"But with children the focus is always on them and their bad behaviour.

They are expected to make the changes all by themselves. What we try to do is shift the focus and look at the child's environment.

"Will it help a plant if you look after it and give it the right kind of attention? Yes, it will.

"Will it help a child if you look after him and give him the right kind of attention?' Yes, it will.

"Nobody ever says: 'You've just got a rotten plant there'."

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