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Troubled pupils crave order in their lives

Geoff Brookes' story is from 25 years ago, but it is so relevant today ("Fear gives off a nasty whiff - kids smell it", 7 October). After acting up Lord of the Flies-style in response to a struggling teacher "the pupils asked for a reintroduction of order".

This is my experience of pupils in pupil referral units. They act up and get excluded from mainstream schools, usually in response to deep unhappiness at school or at home - or both.

However, given the opportunity to calm down and do some work and maybe get some exams, they usually take it. They have to know you want to be with them and that you truly care about them. They have to see that in your eyes. Their experiences make them good judges of sincerity; if they don't perceive it, you lose them.

Yes, they can smell fear and management speak and Ofsted-driven target-setting, and it doesn't hit the spot.

Becky Durston, Retired headteacher, Barnston, Essex.

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