Violent behaviour makes mockery of inclusion

5th December 2003 at 00:00
The recent fatal stabbing in Lincolnshire could have happened in any school in the country, and very nearly happened in mine last term - due, in part, to what I believe is the misguided policy of socially including pupils who cannot cope with mainstream education.

We are a large middle school of about 560 pupils, with an area special class (ASC) attached. Ofsted has praised the way we care for our pupils, but our job is being made needlessly harder by the fact that the LEA insists on placing more and more children with special needs of various sorts with us, including many children who have been excluded from other schools. At present, in my year group alone, there are about 12 children in mainstream classes with a statement of special needs.

In the incident I am referring to, a Year 7 boy (let's call him Rob, not his real name) joined my year group at the start of the term, after being excluded from another middle school for disruption and violence against pupils and staff. Things went reasonably well for a term, although he had to have a learning support assistant with him all the time and was often removed from lessons. He couldn't handle group work, or work which was not tightly organised.

His behaviour deteriorated around the end of the first term; he was becoming more verbally aggressive, to the extent that one pupil in his year group was frightened to come to school. We decided, with Rob's parents' approval, and against the wishes of the LEA, to put him on a three-day, part-time timetable. We paid for his taxi home at lunchtimes ourselves, as the LEA refused to. But his behaviour worsened. He once came into the Year 7 assembly after being sent to the ASC, and refused to budge. We had to cancel the assembly and send the classes back to their form rooms. Rob's LSA then managed to convince him to go to the ASC.

On another occasion he was brought into school by a parent who'd seen a particularly violent incident before school. She was so shocked that she returned to school later, just to talk things over with staff; we were effectively giving her trauma counselling.

The final incident which led to us excluding him was after an argument with another pupil. The fight was not his fault and I told him that the school would not take any action against him, as he'd been provoked. I was in the playground before school the next day and saw Rob when he came in. I saw him draw a 12in knife from his bag - he'd taken a bread knife from home the night before - and I had time to yell a warning, yell to one of the children to get help, and jump in between the two boys. I manoeuvred Rob into a corner - where we stayed until colleagues arrived and an LSA managed to coax him into school. We escorted him to the ASC and waited for the police.

Rob will obviously have to go somewhere else to carry on schooling. And as long as the policy of social inclusion - marvellous in theory - is carried out without adequate support and resourcing, all schools are at risk from a variety of incidents, including knife-related crimes. I'm not claiming that inclusion is the cause of all such incidents, but that it is one more strain on overstretched schools and staff.

(As an aside to this, today I've been bitten three times while attempting to restrain a pupil who was attacking another at lunchtime. Both of these pupils have difficulties coping with mainstream schooling.)

The writer teaches in East Anglia. He wants to remain anonymous

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