The abandoned child

31st March 2000 at 01:00
It's half-an-hour after school and there's an anxious-looking six-year-old in the entrance hall who hasn't been picked up. What do you do?

* Be glad she hasn't gone off on her own. That's because you have drilled into the children that they come back to a teacher if their pick-up doesn't arrive.

* Wait outside with the child for 10-15 minutes - chances are it's a traffic jam or minor crisis with a younger child.

* Give reassurance. The child fears being left alone in the building. Explain clearly that this will not happen.

* Use the standard contact phone numbers provided by parents. Be thankful that they are up-to-date andaccessible in the school office.

* Don't let the child go home with another well-meaning parent. As long as the child is with you at school, you are in fail-safe mode.

* After a while you can try taking the child home by car. If there's no one there, bring her back. Tell neighbours where she is.

* If time goes on (6.30pm is the latest I have heard of) clear your own arrangements - ringing your partner, reorganising your lift. Stick with the child. Even if there's a dire emergency in the family, sooner or later someone will come or phone. Until then, they trust the school.

Next week: the pupil who's sick in class

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