Do you know what was one of the biggest failings was for me growing up?
I mean to be fair, the list is pretty endless, and I am confident in saying that I was failed by many different agencies, individuals and family members time and time again.
But one of the biggest failings for me was the impact on my education once society and professionals decided that I did not fit into main stream education. I have spoken before about some of my experiences in a PRU and I am very vocal when I deliver training about the impact the a PRU can have on a child and young person.
Many of the young people that end up excluded from main stream education or stay in main stream education but struggle to access the learning, have a back story. In some cases, a young person may just become disengaged or an event may take place that means they start to struggle at school. But usually, there is a story that makes you think …ahh… should have seen that coming.
For me, school was not always a issue. I can remember enjoying school a lot. The smell of a new work book, the little bottles of milk at break and story time. Early primary school these memories are. Things started to change for me outside of school. My childhood was becoming fractured day by day and by year 5 I was a different child. That’s not just me saying that the school reports in my loft show that.
All of them, up to year 5 have the same sort of pattern… “Kendra is a chatty member of the class” “Kendra is a popular member of the class” “Kendra has many friends”
Year 5. Everything seems to change. The school report is brief and states that I am not joining in class discussions. I seem to have few friends. My attendance is low.
I had started fighting both in and out of school. A lot of stuff had happened and now.. I would fight almost anyone. I had a couple of fights leading up to the point where I was removed from mainstream education and placed in a PRU. Aged 10. I can remember my last ever full day in mainstream education. I was 10. The week before I had a … nasty fight… with another girl. It had resulted in me receiving a 5-day fixed exclusion. 5 days of no boundaries. 5 days doing what I wanted. My mum may have tried to keep me in, but I would have drove her mad until I would be sent out or I would have climbed out of a window to get where I needed to be.
So, it was a Tuesday. Here I was, in the school playground. I already felt, at that young age, that I was too old to be there. That school and playing and assemblies… they were for kids. I was not a kid. Not anymore. They had told me the rules. No fighting, no hitting, no verbal aggression.
I had no idea what “Verbal aggression” was. I was 10. Anyway, here I am, waiting to go into school in the playground. One of the boys started winding me up. Whispering things behind me. He was my friend, but kids will be kids. We started bickering. He was as involved in the street life ads I was. No one was going to back down. I can’t really tell you what happen next, but we started fighting. I really marked his face, I remember that. He was bleeding. I was dragged to the head teacher’s office and sat outside… waiting. Waiting for them to call my mum, waiting for her not to answer because she was on so many sleeping tablets that mum would not open her eyes until 12 and even then, she would have several panic attacks before she would be able to think about what I was doing.
Waiting to be blamed. Waiting to be shouted at.
I sat outside his office until 3. From first lesson to 3. My mum got there at 3:15. It was clear she had just woken up. I was so angry at her because I thought she looked messy and the kids would say stuff about her. Again. I didn’t even listen to what all the adults were saying. The usual “Kendra is out of control” I had to listen to many times. Then the atmosphere in the room changed. I could feel it. I started to tune back into the room.
“So, you understand Kendra” the head was saying “You are no longer allowed at this school” I just nodded. Now, as an adult, the atmosphere had changed in the room because people felt relief. They no longer had to deal with me.
I did not attend a single day of education from that day until I was 11 and a half. I did not attend any form of education for 14 months. Nothing. I just ran away. Then at 11 I was placed in my first PRU. I think attended about 6 in total. I’m not sure. PRUs were a place for me to make friends. Most of the teachers did not care. Apart from one history teacher. But that’s for another day.
Can I tell you about my last ever day in education as a young person? Me and my mum were called into the PRU. I had found out I was pregnant. I was 15. They said that I had to leave. That I was a danger to myself and to others because of the things I was doing and who I was doing them with. That they felt that I would fight even though I was pregnant and that they would not be responsible for that. It was the day before the April half term. I asked if I could take my GCSE’s. Just come in for them. They said no, that they would try and sort somewhere else for me to go.
And that was that.
There is a whole lot of story that goes with the above. We will cover it all one day. But the fact that by year 5 I had changed so much, is that not something that they should have looked at. Instead of looking at my behaviour as a issue, maybe see what had created such anger. The PRU did. A lot of assessments and a few psychologists… we will come back to that. Missing out on a good education had a massive impact… no.. has a massive impact on my life. I struggle with things that others do not. People say things like “Capital of Canada, didn’t you learn that in school?” No Jeff, no I did not. What I learnt in school is that if you are bad enough, people give up on you. Even if you try.. they will still remember the bad. You want to know what I learnt at school? I learnt that I was so bad, so disgusting, such a burden, that I was not good enough to be with my peers. That I had to go to a place that could “Cope” with me. So, no Jeff, the capital of Canada was not something I know about.
Being taken out of mainstream school had so many adverse effects for me. School was sometimes the only place I would get a hot dinner. School was sometimes the only place I could be left alone. I am not saying school is some kind of support network for a child or young person….oh hang on… sorry… that’s exactly what I am saying!!
It can’t all be about results and exams. It can’t all be about figures and outcomes. What about the individual. Young people are at school 6 hours a day or more. Schools see kids more than the parents sometimes. So, when a child is excluded from that, what are we showing them? What lesson are we teaching them?
See me.. I will fight as hard as a I can to keep a child in school. I will put every bit of support I can in place. I will reach out to their families to get support. Sit in class with them if I have too. I have literally had to put a young person back together this week (with the help of others) so that they could access an exam.
Knowledge is power, this is true… but we need to support these young people to have healthy attitudes, bodies, minds and relationships so that they can access the knowledge… just saying