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What you say

* "School should be the place where someone who feels they are an outsider can feel safe. Even if other pupils do not mix with them much, it is definitely a part of the teacher's role to ensure that they are included in every lesson. All pupils in the class should feel they are on an equal footing." Fernhill

* "I'm not sure about explicit social skills training, but certainly I think that such skills can be nurtured. Sometimes, all it might take is an opportunity to take on some kind of responsibility - library duty or reading with younger pupils, for example.

"In more difficult cases I like to take the 'circle of friends' approach in which a group of children from the same form or teaching group work together to come up with strategies to help an individual pupil. Not only does it strengthen the links between group members; it also helps to give those chosen to take part vital experience of community involvement and citizenship." Kitcat

* "Social skills training is important. But, for it to be effective, many teachers need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of the outcast.

They spend so much time planning and teaching that they have little time to recognise what's going on their classrooms. Social skills, building confidence, creating an environment of safety, needs to be a major focus of today's curriculum, not just half an hour in circle time. To change cycles of behaviour, including bullying and isolation from the group, whole-school policies on how staff talk with children (and each other), and how they resolve issues, need to be developed. Recognising the right of the child and the staff member to feel safe in school needs to be paramount."


* "As an inclusion manager, I deal with lots of 'social outcasts', including school phobics and autistic children, as well as kids who lack social skills. I start off having them with me at breaks and lunchtimes, as this keeps them away from the playground bullies. Nearly all of these children now have a close friend as they have found someone with a problem similar to theirs whom they would not have met otherwise. Often their friend may be in a different year group.

"They now go out at breaks and lunchtimes and mix. Although at times they may still experience a little name-calling, they feel more able to cope. My room is always open at lunchtime, however, if they want to be on their own." ebd25

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