Social outcasts

8th October 2004 at 01:00
Mike Kent is a Friday columnist and head of Comber Grove primary school in the south London borough of Southwark "We come across one or two cases like this every year. I appoint staff who are prepared to spend a lot of time sitting and chatting to children, who enjoy children, are fun to be with and act as a good role model. A good class teacher will weigh up relationships and move children around so they get the chance to interact - or not - with certain people.

"We also get to know the parents. They often have similar problems. We had one young girl who was unkempt, a bit overweight, difficult and isolated.

When we met the mother we realised what the child was up against. Her use of foul language was incredible. So I made sure I was always around when she dropped the child off and picked her up, letting her know gradually through general chit-chat what we expect at Comber Grove.

"We had one lad who was very stocky, a bit of a bruiser and hard for the other kids to like. We found out his father had taken up with another woman and the boy didn't get on with her children. He was told to play in the street, so life for him was tough. We create a calm and sensitive atmosphere so children have a chance to settle, and he did - with the occasional explosion. Children see my staff getting on with each other, having a laugh together, and that sets a pattern for their relationships."

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