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Name, Shame, Blame, Repeat!

An article in the Sunday Times caught my eye, written by their education correspondent, Sian Griffiths, under the headline, ‘Stressed heads exclude children as young as three.’ Sian subsequently tweeted, “I found this an upsetting story to write.”

In short, more children under the age of seven are being excluded according to figures quoted from the Office for National Statistics this month, indicating a rise in the number of exclusions involving primary-aged children. In her article, Sian also mentions a documentary that will be screened on Channel 4 on Tuesday 25th July – Excluded at Seven.

This doesn’t surprise me, but only further saddens me that children are excluded from school. Exclusion only adds to their trauma/anxiety and doesn’t help to give them the tools to self-regulate their behaviour and emotions. Imagine what it must feel like for these children’s self-esteem and self-worth to be excluded at such a young age?

Children who show behaviour that may be a cause for concern are doing so to communicate that something is not right. We need educators who are turned on and tuned in to children’s well-being, welfare and emotions. If an educator’s first default is to exclude, shame and punish children, what hope is there for them in their later years as children, young people and adults? This only contributes to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On another note, we must also discuss the pressure on schools regarding targets, assessments and standards, which I believe has added to the level of exclusions and the mentality of only wanting ‘perfect’ children, who will fit in and conform. There may also be a possible impact on PISA on children’s learning and development, in the near future. Some environments are not suitable for children’s unique learning and development and we are still seeing a ‘too much too soon’ approach in some schools (although there are also some excellent examples of a child-centred approach), which does not mirror children’s natural development and they are expected to do too much in terms of learning and development before they are ready to do so. I have always said there is a reason why babies are not born walking! Indeed, if children are hurried and forced to reach their developmental outcomes this can have a negative impact on their behaviour. We need to keep on sharing with schools, and to reflect on child development and neuroscience.

Two years ago, I received a speculative email from a parent:

“Dear Laura, I came across your website whilst looking for information on behavioural specialists or groups. I have a four-year-old boy who just started school, but is finding it difficult, he’s anxious and responds by screaming and shouting, running around the classroom and he hit a TA. I was very distraught and if he continues he will be excluded at the age of four! I was wondering if you could help or at least point me in the right direction.”

I spoke to this parent, who was very emotional, and I recommended organisations that could help and also that she should speak to the school. Subsequently, due to pressure from the school, the parent removed her son before he was excluded. The school in question was an Ofsted outstanding as well as a faith school. My reflection on this was that it shows the pressure on schools to weed out children who do not fit into their idea of perfect and I wondered whether such actions went against the Christian ethos of a faith school. I know too, that parents feel concerned and are frustrated at not knowing who to go to for impartial and practical help.

I also reflected on my own son, who at 21 was finally diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. When he was in his Early Years/primary school his behaviour was a cause for concern and mirrored that of ADHD. However, as an expert in autism recently mentioned to me, he was more than likely reacting to the environment and his behaviour was that of “I can’t cope” and “this is a sensory overload”. I remember, at four, my son missing out on a number of break times because of his behaviour, which is one of the worst things one can do for any child, much less a child with SEND.

It made me think about four-year-olds and issues with transitions and what might be going on. I remember the SENCO asking me if my son’s behaviour was due to me working!  That’s another point, we must stop blaming and shaming parents.

Another ongoing debate is the urgent need for a play-based approach, for children up to the age of seven.

We also know that when children who are traumatised display behaviour that may be a cause for concern, they are trying to tell the adults that something is not right and please can you help me.

To quote my colleague, Jane Evans, the internationally renowned trauma and parenting expert: “Children are attachment seekers, not attention seekers.”

It is only when we include trauma, child development, anxiety and neuroscience into initial qualifications and ongoing professional development that we will be able to fully respect and fully support children with their holistic needs. This needs to be appropriately funded by the Government and importantly must include Government understanding of why development-appropriate practice is so important within the Early Years.

I discuss this and more during my bespoke helping children to self-regulate their behaviour course, date of next course Saturday 24th February 2018. To book, please email: admin@LauraHenryConsultancy.Com

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Twitter: @IamLauraHenry

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  • Kathy

    Hi Laura
    It breaks my heart when I read articles like this, I couldn’t agree with you more re only wanting ‘perfect’ children; I see this far too often. Sometimes we are too quick to blame the child without stepping back and looking at what we are doing and why we are doing it and that the problem could be us!!! Why do we send children to school at such an early age, children should be allowed to be children for as long as they can. There is way too much pressure for children at such a young age to be able to read + write, perform so school results/targets look good without recognising what this is doing to our children. More often than I would like we are saying goodbye to children who are leaving nursery to go to school and they are just not ready. How do we get people to recognise that children learn by first hand experiences, being allowed to get it wrong and supported to find ways to get it right. Are children given time to enjoy what they are learning before they are expected to understand and write about it. Who’s benefit is this done for? Is it done for results or for the child? Think we know the answer. Let’s remember young children are not mini adults, when you’re three you’re three not nearly four or will soon be going to school. Let’s stop putting pressure on young children let them be who they are CHILDREN. I had a lovely experience the other week when a young man knocked at the nursery door, I didn’t recognise him so went and opened the door. He greeted me with a huge smile and said ‘I wanted to come and show you this’. He then handed me a picture of him graduating and then handed me a picture of him when he was leaving nursery to go to school. We had a long chat and I was amazed at how much he remembered about his time at nursery. When he left he gave me a big hug and said ‘I knew you’d want to know how well I am doing and thank you’. I’ll never forget this and it has fired up my passion even more to ensure that we give all the children the best possible start where they can be children and learn while having fun and creating long lasting memories.

  • Jools

    Laura, this blog just resonates on many levels; as a mum, foster parent and retired head teacher. As a mum, it is terrifying to think that their child who is actually screaming out for help gets punished for not fitting in to a shape which is determined by adults with little time or compassion for challenging children. As a foster parent, I struggle every day trying to help our boys make sense of their non sensible world and have to fight for their rights to react and respond to attachment disorder. As a HT, you get so bogged down in demands and swamped by paperwork and hammered by budget cuts that unless you make the brave decision to invest a sizable amount of your spending on training staff for the things they weren’t taught in uni then the downward spiral is imminent. I love this article, it touches so many aspects and I agree the bottom line is having well trained compassionate staff who are free to embrace the truly unique child. Likewise I understand that without proper support having children who are carrying trauma around with them on a daily basis does challenge the classroom environment. So we need to alter the environment, invest in our staff and make all schools ‘special’ and stop bowing down to suits making judgements which let’s face it, only reflect data. Sorry rant over 🙂

    • Laura Henry

      Thank, you so much Jools for sharing your unique experience. Please watch this space for a special announcement this week.

  • Jutta Hepworth

    We fail our children over and over again. Just look at the current lack of funding in the education system, or the fact that the amount nurseries are paid by the government for the 15 or 30 free hours does not reflect the actual cost. Too many children spend too much time with not enough staff or space in early years settings or schools. They start school at too young an age despite all evidence pointing to the fact that a later school age is beneficial. It´s a ticking time bomb and something has to give before we do massive damage!
    Children are a country´s most important and precious resource and we should be throwing money at their care and education and at the training and levels of pay of those who look after them. Instead we have an arrogant and irresponsible government who finds £1.6 billion to pay the DUP to keep themselves in power – go figure!

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