Angry pupils just part of job

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
Sean signed himself into the mental hospital last week. He knows that he has a problem. He knows that serious things are going on inside his head.

He does not like the person he has become. They say he needs help with his anger management.

I am sure they are right. What his teachers see are great waves of rage that sweep over him - seismic, unexpected, almost unprovoked. He has twice trashed his home, reducing furniture to driftwood. His mother lives in fear that he will assault her again. She called the police last time but what is she to do? He is her son.

As a school we are expected to manage his behaviour. We do not do such a bad job. He is taught by expert horse whisperers, gently nudging him in the right direction. Sometimes it does not work.

Sean will react irrationally over trivial things. He wants to write in blue and we only have a black pen. Or vice versa. His classmates regard him warily. His unpredictable shifts from friendship to enmity make relationships tricky.

His teachers have done a fine job and generally we have managed to keep him in school, but as he gets older his problems become more serious. There was an incident with a knife in the night. Then there was an assault. His teeth are now broken and jagged.

The real damage to Sean runs deeper. A runaway father. He blames his mother but he also hates his father for disappearing. Then he will say that if he had been a better baby perhaps his father would have stayed. He has tried to invent a new surname.

There is just too much anger. There have been exclusions, of course, but we have managed him. Now we are in Year 11 and soon he will not be our problem, Sean will move on.

It always amazes me that teachers accept that they must manage this sort of thing. Non-teachers do not understand what we do. The popular press sees simple solutions to boys like Sean: give 'em a clip. Lock them up. The real world is more complicated.

The school has done its job and Sean will move on to work, in unqualified anonymity. Perhaps there will be redemption somewhere for him in employment. But the signs are not good. And then he will be labelled as another failure of the education system. Another boy failed, consigned to the prison abyss. But we held his demons at bay, if only for a while. We succeeded. Now we must wait for others to fail.

Geoff Brookes is deputy head of a South Wales comprehensive

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