Our Hero - The boy in the story is Liam, he was at risk of permanent exclusion, he had extreme behavioural outbursts which often led to violent and dangerous behaviour.
The Challenges - He was regularly excluded from school, the exclusions were causing conflict at home. He had moved in with Nan as mum couldn’t cope. There were different boundaries and expectations around behaviour when at home and in Nan’s. He was hanging out with other kids who weren’t in school either. He was bright, really bright but had missed so much school due to exclusions that he had huge gaps in his education, he felt stupid.
The guides - Teachers, peers, me, mum. I started doing some small group work with him and 10 other year 11 students. We did weekly sessions, where he learnt about himself, his developing brain, the opportunity for change that teenage brain development provides, root causes of his behaviour, what was going on in his brain when he was triggered, what his triggers were and most impactfully; how to put things right when things went wrong using restorative practice. As well as weekly sessions with Liam, I did whole school training with staff, and small group sessions with his Mum.
The plan - We created the conditions for Liam to be the best version of himself. We created a plan for conflict which used a shared language that all of the adults around Liam AND Liam understood. We learnt some tools to use to get calm and taught him how to express his feelings in words rather than through his behaviour. We facilitated a difficult conversation between him and his mum to start afresh.
We walked alongside him - We reminded him that he was not his behaviour, we reminded him what an amazing kid he was, we picked him up each time he stumbled and helped him to learn from each fall.
Success - Liam sat his GCSEs, all 8 of them!
"The proudest moment for me was when he came rushing to find me to tell me about an incident at home, He said, me mum was nagging me to do something and I could feel myself getting wound up, I said, Mum you’re challenging me too much and not giving me enough support, and she said You’re right son, let’s try that again - he said, “That would have been two weeks at me Nan’s” Liam's Head of Year
Introduction: We were approached to support with a serious allegation of a class teacher head-butting a student in year 10. The police were involved. The boy and his mum wanted him sacked. The teacher was a foster carer and was set to lose everything. He had worked at the school for over 20 years and had a proud collection of thank-you cards over his back wall of his classroom.
Challenges Faced: The challenge was that the case had become stuck on the detail of whether the teacher's head actually made contact with the boy's. The boy was adamant it had and the class teacher that it hadn't.
Training Experience: Using skills developed in conference facilitation and risk assessment, we worked with the class teacher, the student and his mum to find out their versions of what had happened. We became curious as to whether a restorative conference could be facilitated without agreement on whether actual physical contact was made based on what the student (the victim) needed in order to move on. The student had expressed a need to have an apology from the staff member and a reassurance that nothing like this would happen again. He wanted to move on from this situation as it had happened months earlier and everyone was still talking about it.
Application of Restorative Practices:
During the preparation meetings with the class teacher it became clear that he had been using his power and physical stature to try and control the boy's behaviour. He described stepping into his space and ordering him to sit down. He explained that he had been tasked with bringing the students who were failing maths due to their behaviour, up to their expected levels. He told us he was given this role every year and described how he came down hard on him in the first few weeks to 'manage' their behaviour and how he would then soften and they would get on really well. He had always done it this way.
Personal Growth and Development:
During the conference the class teacher apologised for trying to intimidate and assert control through fear. The student shared with him how that felt and his mum shared some stories about how this experience had linked to some early childhood trauma for the student. The student spoke openly about how scared he had felt and broke down in the meeting. The moment that happened was the moment of connection. The class teacher shared that he didn't have any other tools in his toolkit to deal with this challenging behaviour and that being physically dominating was probably why he was chosen to work with these groups. He shared that he had never stopped to think about how his aggression may have been experienced by a young person. He apologised and accepted that whether he made contact or not was completely irrelevant as his behaviour was unacceptable and aimed to intimidate. He promised never to do that again.
Impact on Others: The boy decided he would like to remain in the class teacher's form group as he actually did want to do well in maths. The boy's mum was pleased her son's voice had been heard. The class teacher was given a disciplinary sanction for his actions but remained in post.
Measurable Outcomes: The young man passed his GCSE maths.
A selection of tools and further reading to enhance knowledge and understanding of key elements of our work