What you say

19th November 2004 at 00:00
* "Prevention is far better than the cure. Why is the child behaving like this? All behaviour has a purpose. What is he trying to achieve? Having worked this out, you need to teach him alternative ways of getting his needs met. The teacher also needs to be able to predict outbursts and try to prevent them: distraction, praise, rewards, changes to the environment, and so on. Above all, consistency is essential.

"I agree that this five-year-old needs help now. All too often I have seen primary schools manage difficult children well, and keep them in school, only for them to get to secondary school and be permanently excluded within the first year. It's not easy dealing with a disruptive child of any age in a classroom of 30. In an ideal world, I would remove all the other children, and have two adults in the room with the child: one as an observer and the other to deal with the situation.

"Decide on a request - for example, 'pick up the books' - and keep quietly repeating it. Don't enter into any discussion. You can vary the request with, 'I understand you are upset but I need you to pick up the books'.

Eventually, the child will start to co-operate. Praise him, offer to help.

You might only get a token, but it's a start. Then the talking can begin.

"And don't forget that after an incident you, the teacher, need time to recover too!" cuttlefish

* "As a head in a school with a number of 'challenging' children - some as young as five - who exhibit similar types of behaviour, I recommend the following:

* Early intervention. Children will not "grow out of it" without the help and intervention of professionals.

* Multi-agency support from local authority specialists to health professionals and other children's services.

* Involvement of parents from the start.

* Carefully structured programmes designed to teach the behaviour skills necessary to enable the child to access the curriculum.

* Clear, precise boundaries understood by all staff and children - and an understanding that the issue is not the child but the behaviour - alongside high expectations and procedures that are followed when things go awry.

"For the past four years we have had a nurture group for foundation and key stage 1 pupils who display similar problems. It operates for 50 per cent of their time in school and is a place where they work on social interaction skills and meaningful attachments, as well as practical curriculum activities.

"But there is no magic wand. Challenging behaviour requires a variety of approaches, dedicated and caring staff, commitment from all staff and governors, and support from the LEA and other agencies." r.lacey

* "Until this child is in a 'fit' state to educate, why tie up the resources (teacher and teaching assistant) at the expense of those who are ready to learn? Doing so may actually deprive him of the help he needs.

"We have to understand our limitations. Just because it's school time doesn't mean that we can or have to cope with every event. The others in the class may be the health professionals of the future who have to care for the boy or man some time down the line. If we neglect them he will no doubt suffer." Boristhebad

* "It can be traumatic for a five-year-old starting school. He or she goes from play group, where they were possibly popular, to a school with quite the opposite set-up. They feel dumped by parentscarers and have to fend for themselves. One aspect is the school and home link: it is essential to keep parents informed and show each child that he or she is loved by everyone. In time that child will grow out of such a cry for help, which is what I think this behaviour is. But I do feel that the main problem is that we send our children to school too soon. Some countries send their kids to school at seven. Why do we do it at four and five?" d.orourke If you want to contribute to next week's behaviour forum, go to our website: www.tes.co.ukbehaviour

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