It's made me think, actually it's made me think a lot, about what I want from a school, what I expect from a school and what I don't want from a school.
It comes in a week when I've taken Flossy to visit the school that she is due to move up to in Year 7. An exciting experience for any child but for a child who lives daily with the long term impact of her negative early life a one that is fraught with unimaginable and, at times, overwhelming anxieties and stresses. Why wouldn't this impact on her behaviour?
Later this week I then stood in front of 60 teachers, assistant teachers and lunchtime staff helping them develop their knowledge of the impacts of loss separation and trauma on children. Together we considered the implications for these children in a classroom and school environment. As I described the behaviours and causes I watched teachers nod to each other and mouth the names of children that they teach, support and deal with every day. The feedback was that practice could be changed not to pander to poor behaviour but to divert potential disruptions and help children feel safe, cared for and able to learn.
I'm an adoptive parent and that's my starting position. However, I understand that adoptees do not have the monopoly on trauma, loss and separation. In fact, at the risk of offending, I would suggest that many adopted children have something that many other children do not. They have motivated and articulate parents to advocate for them and support them throughout their school lives. I can't help but think of the children who potentially do not. The children in the Foster Care system and those on the edge of the care system, children living with loss through bereavement and separation or divorce of parents, children with parents in prison, children who experience sexual abuse and those that witness domestic violence or live in homes where it is present. The numbers of these children is staggering and they are represented in every classroom in the land. They significantly outnumber adoptees but they share common challenges. For all of them their lived experience has a profound impact on their behaviour in a school environment and how they respond to discipline and boundaries.
I believe that the behaviour review is an opportunity that we should grasp.
It is an opportunity to highlight the good practice and for it to be broadcast to new audiences. We can highlight the excellent work that is often being done to support our children in their behaviour in school. How to appropriately challenge inappropriate behaviour. The difference between excuses and reasons for children struggling and disrupting classrooms and how to tell the difference. The teachers that go the extra mile, why they do it and what they do. The development and training of staff from the highest to the lowest and the values and ethos that underpin all of this..
How do we influence this?
Well, Tom Bennett @tombennet71 is the Chair of the Department for Education's Behaviour Group and is heading the review. I'd encourage you all to follow him on twitter and share the good, be that articles, stories, excellent schools or practical advice. If you're not on Twitter then write a letter, send a pigeon or draw him a picture. Lets get a hashtag #behaviourreview16 and use it.
Lets be positive and share the positive, let's be kind. We could set the internet on fire with some of the crap that our children have endured in the name of discipline, order and education but that's for another day.
School life is a huge part of all children's lives and good and bad experiences often wash up at parent's doors. Families of vulnerable children live with the impact of good and bad models and methods of discipline on a day by day basis and at times it's overwhelming. I've seen it in my own children's lives.
We have a voice that many don't and if we can influence this review for good then we can benefit not only our own children but also the children that don't share the advocates and champions our children do.
Note: The review is due to be published in October.