Hidden exclusions need to be brought out in the open

1st March 2013 at 00:00
Teachers are being ignored and presented with useless advice and diktats that leave them demoralised

As a newly retired headteacher with a clear head on the controversial topic of hidden exclusions (TESS, 15 February), which was the main cause of stress in my working life and resulted ultimately in my decision to leave the profession I loved, I feel so disappointed that all these reports and think-tanks only ever scratch the surface of this subject that is so hard for pupils and staff.

During my years as a head, no one from central government listened to what we as a team of professionals identified as particularly concerning behaviour in certain complex pupils. Instead, we were bombarded by reams of advice, simplistic solutions and paper-based assessments along with harsh diktats that we must not exclude.

As a result, staff became demoralised as they implemented all sorts of methodology changes, such as Cool in School, motivational methods and cooperative learning. These were effective for 99 per cent of the pupils but could not sustain the particular children who came with a huge baggage of aggression and caused often daily destruction and fear in other pupils and staff.

In almost all of these cases, the relationship we built with parents was excellent and they complimented us on what we were achieving and supported us as we planned the necessary support.

What always staggered them was that we had so few resources available to us to put into their child's support plan, when it was so blatantly obvious that a bespoke programme was necessary. They knew how much we could achieve together when we could provide that additional support in a consistent manner.

I had often to watch as overstretched staff and management became demoralised and weary and the child lost heart because we were unable to sustain carefully planned programmes, due to cuts.

The problem is one of funding and anyone who thinks differently is covering up because of a culture that won't allow us to speak out against policy that doesn't identify the real depth of the problem.

Money will need to be spent to support the "Getting it right" agenda and meet needs, not cover over the problem and blame the teachers who exclude because there is no way they can retain their sanity or deliver an education to the many when the few are so demanding.

This topic must not go away as simply as those in authority might wish. Statistics can say anything; in this case, they say this is a problem and it needs to be treated with a great deal more real concern.

Elaine Webster, Former primary headteacher.

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