Thank God it's Friday

9th July 1999 at 01:00
MONDAY Shakily and shyly, a small bespectacled boy brings me a cup of coffee. I keep the morning's lessons unusually brisk, expecting things to deteriorate at any moment. This is, after all, James - the demon excluded from school, banned from all public transport, whose teachers speak of his dreadful deeds in hushed voices. We get through mountains of work, punctuated by his requests of "I must go and do something very important" - fetch me a biscuit, show me his hamster. He has attentional difficulties, but enough to warrant his permanent exclusion from school?

TUESDAY Sandra, a 15-year-old with learning, emotional and behavioural difficulties, is now a mum. Her mother phones me with the news and shares more details of the birth than I would wish to hear before breakfast. Meanwhile, my seven-year-old's attempts to cope with life at his new junior school grind to a halt. David dives under the duvet, sobbing that a. he never gets any team points because the work is too hard; b. his teacher shouts; and c. I'm cruel for making him go to school when his tummy ache is getting worse. I'm frazzled by the time I reach our team meeting to discuss "Newstart", an initiative aimed at re-engaging disaffected 14 to 19-year-olds. Wouldn't it be more productive to tackle the causes of disaffection at a younger age?

WEDNESDAY James is desperate to show me his coin collection and completed homework. His mum reports that he is isolated and lonely, having been out of school for six months. Labelled a naughty boy from the age of six, he has been bounced from one professional to another, spent days on a diet of rice cakes and water to test for food allergies and been placed on medication which has restricted his growth. Not once has he been offered additional support in school to help him modify his behaviour.

Progress on the home front. David reports that his teacher whispered in his ear "Wouldn't it be lovely to have a class full of David Harrisons?" Wonderful woman.

THURSDAY A supply teacher takes over David's class for the day, and he is distraught when he comes home. He says he worked hard all day to earn a team point, which was given but taken away because "Soo Yen, who only started school today, talked to me in quiet time and I told him to be quiet and Mrs B took my team point away".

FRIDAY David tells me he plucked up courage to tell his teacher about his tummy ache, and spent the afternoon in the medical room. I sense the emotional blackmail waiting for me Monday morning, and resolve to start listening in my "Newstart" meetings.

Laura Harrison works as a home tutor

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