The challenge of difference

Recently I have come across children who are not managing to (a) stay and (b) progress in mainstream education. There is an Eastern European girl who hardly comes to school and when she does she cannot connect with what is being taught and she cannot cope with the complex relationships that a class of 30 presents, she just doesn’t come to school. There is another girl who cannot cope with the fact that she must share the attention of adults with her class. This leads to poor behaviour.

I hope that we provide a quality education that is stimulating and engaging but some children just aren’t ready to be here. Instead we struggle to hold them in school fighting a battle that we don’t always win.

I am becoming persuaded that what personalisation means for these children is not to review how we teach or find ways to meet the children at their point of learning. These are valuable for many, but for some we need new places and new approaches to meet the chidlren at a place where they are ready. For the most part these places are for the behaviourally challenging – PRUs or units. If a child isn’t behaving too badly they can stay in mainstream even if they aren’t learning and they aren’t happy. Where are the small scale settings where other children can be supported with their difficulties?

“One argument is that public services simply need more money and staff. James just needed a better school, with more teachers and perhaps a more inviting environment. But James was starting from the view that school wasn’t for him, that he would never fit in there. It’s doubtful whether or not greater investment in the same services would have done anything to help him.” Learning about personalisation: how can we put the learner at the heart of the education system? Charles Leadbeater 


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