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SNJ - Punitive Approaches

For those of you who don’t know Special Needs Jungle Ltd I strongly suggest that you familiarise yourself with them. They are all things special educational needs; articles, help, social media, a veritable mine of information designed to help and signpost parents and professionals.

Last week they released an article about punitive behaviour management in schools affecting children’s mental health which made me chuckle. Not because I found the article funny but more of weary articulation. When will our ridiculous system recognise that punishment is not akin to positive behaviour. Fining parents for low or non-attendance is not best practice nor does it help to alienate families who are already dealing with a school refuser. In the same way that punishment in the classroom does not always have the desired effect we are carrying out actions better suited to the Victorian times than the 21st Century.

How can we address this problem?

Well, for a start, let’s stop the blame game. I’ve never met a parent who doesn’t want their child to have a happy school experience. From the start they want their child to be happy and safe and grow and thrive in an atmosphere that cultivates their development.

Mental health is at last gaining traction and it’s an open discussion across the board but sadly in schools it’s attendance that plays the trump card. You see, in schools, attendance affects all aspects of school. If attendance is low it affects your Ofsted rating, the amount of funding your local authority releases and your position in league tables. So, yes mental health in terms of getting bums in seats but the actual open table discussion and the nitty gritty of what makes us the complex humans we are and how we tick. Not so important, or at least important as long as we can get our offspring through the door, the rest they say is up to them.

Funding is a topical subject, not a day goes by without some report or story covering teacher pay, strikes and the lack of support inside and outside of the classroom and somehow somewhere mental health is on the agenda. That’s not to downplay the importance of this topic and the very real effect it’s having on children across the UK but until there is a very real and concerted effort to support teachers working on the frontline there is no point addressing massive impregnable subjects like this one.

Funding is needed, extra bodies are needed, trained professionals are needed, the pressure on teachers needs to be lifted. The expectation that yet another job will be heaped on the teacher is just another indication of the ignorance of our policy makers. Does mental health need addressing? Without a doubt. Do punitive measures work? Not with any long lasting effect. Could there be another way other than fining and discriminating against children and their families?

Perhaps a more nuanced approach is required. What are the reasons for children’s non-attendance? What can the school put in place to mitigate more days missed? Parent open evenings with practical strategies discussed. Therapeutic approaches devised and carried out across the school. An open door policy that doesn’t seek to judge, discriminate and punish when children don’t appear at the school gates.

If your child is a school refuser and suffers from anxiety please contact SEND Tutoring. All of our tutors work with children and have great strategies for putting children at ease. They also know learning needs to be fun and tailored to each child’s interests. Contact us at

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