So many times I have heard it said to me ‘we are doing ok, we have a learning mentor’ or ‘we have a nurture room‘ or ‘we have a child and family support worker’.
Even if it is not said specifically in those words, I have had more conversations than I want to count where the implied message is ‘we are doing ok for our children’s emotional needs, because we have a person in school who deals with all that’.
In other words; we have that box ticked.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am all for a school having as many people as possible available to support children. I am also FULLY committed to the fact that some children need specialist therapeutic support (from additional trained and qualified therapists). What worries me is the attitude: the MINDSET that ‘we have someone who deals with ‘that‘ ‘.
I have been working closely with 1 particular school for a while now and here’s the thing.
They don’t have a learning mentor.
They don’t have a nurture room, they don’t have a rainbow room or any other kind of special room.
They don’t even have as many TAs as the vast majority of other schools I’ve visited,
and yet I believe, their children are safer emotionally now than they ever have been. How come?
Precisely BECAUSE they don’t have any of those other things!
Through the vision and determination of insightful leadership, all the staff in that school have been trained; the teachers, the dinner staff, the TAs, the SLT (caretaker and office staff are on the journey too). It is not an easy catchment. ALL the staff now understand more about where their children are coming from; what trauma does to children and how best they can help rather than hinder. The entire SLT has up-skilled themselves with better communication skills (others to follow) and everyone is on a journey of becoming more effective professionals.
This is a school where ALL the staff are part of dealing with ‘that’. The whole school culture has changed and no-one is in the position of just not liking a child’s behaviour and being able to abdicate by simply handing them over to the ‘assigned emotional person’ to deal with.
Instead they are all now taking responsibility for and wanting to understand that behaviour. Everyone has learned, everyone is growing and everyone understands ALL the adults are part of the team that creates a school environment where children feel safe, understood and supported.
I know they long for a bigger team to support the children and families… And when that day comes, those additional roles will be able to slot into working with a staff team who already know:-
- there is always more to behaviour than ‘just being naughty’,
- they often affect a child’s behaviour,
- trauma changes a child in ways they cannot control,
- and one size does not fit all.