Chalk and talk

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
Phil Revell worries about young girls like Holly, who just need some love in their lives.

There's nothing seasonal about Holly. She's three going on 12, and next year she'll be 13 going on 25. Aptly named, she's spiky and attractive, but mainly she's four feet nothing of concentrated attitude.

Do you have a Holly in your class? You'd know if you did. Whirlwind victims usually know what has hit them. Yesterday's terrorist attack concerned home economics, some pizzas and a full to overflowing rubbish bin - which somehow got emptied all over the stairs, the hall and several innocent bystanders.

Asked for an explanation, Holly said she was being bullied, which seems unlikely since most people in the building have a healthy respect for her ability to stick up for herself.

She'd popped her head around the door of a home economics lesson and asked for a slice of pizza. "Asked" in this context could be something of an exaggeration. Perhaps "intended to ask" would be more accurate. Or perhaps not.

Anyway, she was asked to leave, or "thrown out of the room", depending on whose script you are following, and decided to take her revenge on an unjust society by rearranging the contents of the bin. "Everyone knows my mum's on drugs," she says inconsequentially. Which is true, people know this because Holly announces the fact fairly frequently. "And I was hungry." Sadly, this is probably also true.

Holly may be an angry child, but she has much to be angry about. A sink estate. One missing parent and another lost to addiction. A succession of "dads", some of whom take an unhealthy interest in an unprotected little girl. Others just hit her.

Each day, Holly gets herself to school. The one place where life is predictable and safe. And the irony is that her behaviour is so extreme that she could be excluded, left with no sanctuary at all.

So when she sits in your office, spitting defiance and constructing dodgy excuses, your first reaction is to hug her. Give her some of the warmth that she desperately needs. You can't, of course. But whatever you do, don't condemn her. This kid needs all the help she can get.

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