When people think about the last day of school before the summer holidays, I’m sure thoughts of kids wearing non-uniform for the day and teachers going on their work do’s spring to mind. For many, the last day for the summer holidays is something to look forward to and celebrate.
If you work in pastoral support, safeguarding, social care ECT things are not quite like that. Now, I am speaking on behalf of thousands of people when I say this, so please tell me if you think I am wrong, but the last day of school is always the worse for us. In fact, the week leading up to the summer holidays is always awful and then the last day it will come to a head. You will get disclosures coming out your ears that week and, for the 18 years I have worked within the safeguarding field, the last day of school is always the worst.
It’s been a bad week this week. I am tired both physically and mentally. I feel angry and frustrated. As many people do who are trying to safeguard children and those most at risk.
I woke yesterday at 5. My eyes just popped open at 5 and my first single thought was “It’s the last day of school”. I just lay there, deciding if my brain and heart could cope with anymore disclosures or conversations around protecting children. I lay there telling myself that it would be fine. I got to work feeling prepared for the day. Early into the day I had to go and speak to a child about a suspected disclosure. Of course, I will not be going into any detail about this. But let me break I down for you best I can.
9:05, sitting at my computer discussing with colleges how the week has gone, trying to get my head around paperwork. Few things had already happened, nothing major. A member of staff informs me off a concern.
9:30 I arrive and enter a room where I need to be to discus this concern with the young person.
10:15 I leave said room. I walk out of the door and hold onto the wall next to it to steady myself. I have been keeping every emotion at bay whilst in the room and now I am outside of the room I feel overwhelmed. I feel sick rising in my throat and I heave. I swallow and push it back down. I feel hot. I almost feel angry that I have walked out of the room and the world is still going on as it was when I went in. People talking and laughing, speaking about what they are doing for the summer. Everything feel surreal and too….bright. I heave again, water filling my mouth. I rub my eyes. I inform the people I need to of the conversation in that room.
10:45 I feel like I need to cry. Have you ever had that heavy feeling? Like, walking along on a muggy day and everything feels rubbish and like your breathing in hot air. I feel like I need to cry. But I don’t. I stare at my computer, but it’s just a blur. The words that were spoken to me just over an hour ago, are not words that I have not hard before. I have read such things in meetings, have discussed such things in professional settings, covered cases where such things have taken place. This kind of thing is not new to me. But the words have never been said to me by a young person before. Whilst they looked me straight in the eye and spoke. Whist they looked uncomfortable and lost, struggling to speak but needing to so badly. “Nothing you say will shock me” I had said. And I had meant it. But I was wrong.
I always have said that the day I stopped being shocked is the day I change my job, and to be fair there has been plenty going on that has upset me. But not like this. This time I was not ready.
I leave work early. Earlier then everyone else. It’s the last day of school for most children including my own. I want to leave. I never feel like that, when we are in crisis I crave to support my team and young people. But this time, I need to leave.
I make my way back. I must be in auto polit because I kid you not, suddenly, I am at my stop on the train and I don’t remember getting on the train. I head towards my own child’s last day of school. There are some fair and such things that happen when little kids finish school. I get to the school gates and must shake off the earlier events.
She sees me, my daughter and comes running over, telling me a million things at once, showing me her pictures. She pulls me over to meet her friends mum so that we can swap number so that they can play over the summer. The mum smiles and we swap number and she says something “I bet you have had fun today” she says this to me with a genuine smile, she is noting that I have a bag full of books and toys that a college has given me for my child. I honestly forgot I had them still. I smile a fake smile and say yes.
I bring my child home after and we sit on the sofa to watch a film. She reaches out to hug me and I hug her hard, smelling the freshness of her hair and the home-made slime she has all over her top. “Mum, your squishing me” She says and gets up to make Caramel tea.
I look up into the air and close my eyes for a moment. I take a moments silence to show how grateful I am that my child is moaning about too tight hugs and where the caramel tea is (Note…Caramel tea was found).
Last day of school is when children and young people know they have to say something if they are going to say anything because the next 6-7 weeks they will be away from people that may protect them. The people that see them often and notice when things may not be going well.
So, after you have read this, take a moment of silence for us on the front line on the last day of school.