Education in Spite of Policy
Troubled and Vulnerable Children: a practical guide for heads
Shelagh Webb, 1994
Croner Publications Ltd
134pp £9.95 paperback ISBN 1-85524-275-3
Review by Derek Gillard
© copyright Derek Gillard 1995
Ask any head teacher and s/he will tell you that the number of disturbed pupils in mainstream schools has been rising dramatically in recent years and that the severity of disturbance is also increasing. In many cases, problems at home - often the breakdown of relationships between the adults - is the cause.
But educational policy and provision have made the situation worse: One of the most unfortunate consequences of the 1988 Act has been the rise in the number of such children who are failing, or being failed by, the school system. Under the pressure of the new financial arrangements many schools are increasingly unable to help, or even keep, those children who are expensive in resources and teacher time. Permanent exclusions rose from just under 3000 in 1990-91 to nearly 4000 in 1991-92 and was over 3600 in one term in 1993. It was pointed out recently in a House of Commons debate that up to ten per cent of today's children suffer a significant degree of emotional or behavioural disturbance during their childhood.
Shelagh Webb has written this book for Croners' The Head's Legal Guide in an attempt to help Heads and other teachers to understand what is going on and to offer practical suggestions as to how schools can help.
Areas covered are: family difficulties and bereavement; homeless families, travellers and refugees; child protection and children in care; children as carers and poor attenders; children in need and children with special educational needs; working in partnership with parents; and children's rights in education.
In each case, Shelagh Webb describes the sort of problems children can encounter and the symptoms which they may display in school and then offers suggestions as to how the problems may be sensitively approached by the school.
The book ends with a section listing a large number of agencies who may be called upon for help and advice, and prominence has been given to organisations which have local branches or which are also available outside London.
This book is written in a simple, straightforward style and contains much good common sense and essential information for Heads and other staff. It will certainly find a valued place on my shelves and I commend it warmly to all who are concerned about the appalling situations in which so many of our pupils now find themselves. Shelagh Webb says it is a modest attempt to offer hard-pressed Heads and teachers some practical help in meeting the needs of their neediest children. It is Shelagh Webb who is modest: her book is an important contribution at a time when schools need all the help they can get.
This review was first published in Forum 37(3) Autumn 1995 94.