Pupils I'll never forget

30th April 2004 at 01:00
Christine Taylor recalls an able boy who never managed to overcome his difficult background

I arrived as head at Beechwood several years ago, when David was in Year 3.

His attendance was about 30 per cent and he was frightened and nervous. I understood why: at that time, Year 6 children ruled the school. They intimidated the teachers, so a little boy - and David was small and thin - was bound to be frightened of them.

When you talked to him you would get little back. He always looked sad. His mum was schizophrenic and a drug user. But he was intelligent; if you asked a question, he'd answer it while the other children were still struggling.

There was something about him that stood out.

We had been working with education welfare, knocking on doors, threatening parents. But threats weren't working, so we started giving points for every day children came to school, which they could cash in for pencils, rubbers and sweets at our attendance shop.

Gradually his attendance went up to about 70 per cent. We had a special assembly and gave him a prize. We played the Mission Impossible theme tune, and all the children whose attendance had improved came in dressed as agents.

You could see him get happier and his confidence growing. But he never found the motivation other children with his ability would have had.

He got level 5 in all three of his Sats, but he nearly missed one. We waited until about 9.20am and he hadn't arrived. I raced round to his house, and eventually he appeared at the top of the stairs, yawning and in his pyjamas. He got his clothes on, we got him back to school, fed him some biscuits and a drink and shoved him in the hall. He smiled when he got his results: he knew he was clever. But he never used his potential. He'll end up in an ordinary job; he won't go to university and he should. He had so much ability, but he lacked determination. If he had come from another kind of home, he could have done whatever he wanted.

Christine Taylor is head of Beechwood primary school, North Huyton, Knowsley, where 80 per cent of her 190 pupils have free school meals. David is a pseudonym. She was talking to Karen Gold. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email sarah.bayliss@tes.co.uk

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