By Dr Morris Charlton, Voice Regional Officer (personal view)
On the Fringes: Preventing exclusion in schools through inclusive practice, child centred and needs based practice
By Jackie Ward
Crown House: ISBN 978-178583351-9 Available on Amazon at £13.36 or £10.99 Kindle
This is a book written by someone who is passionate about youngsters who struggle in the “mainstream” school. These are youngsters who adults and teachers struggle to understand. They are high profile at present – mental health issues, gang violence and a host of other issues confusingly well aired in the press and in the media.
This book goes a long way to help people to understand youngsters with SEND along with some of the methods and strategies that need to be put in place to manage challenging behaviour.
The author Jackie Ward, is an ex practitioner in PRUs [Pupil Referral Units] and is now an independent behaviour and special needs consultant. It shows throughout the book!
There are ten well set out and argued chapters. You are made aware that this is going to be a practical book in the preface. The author states that it is necessary to ensure youngsters have an EHCP to ensure that they get appropriate support – and confesses to being a pragmatist in these issues. This is the reality of SEND now and of best practice.
This is a timely book – but it needs to be read in conjunction with the Timpson Review of school exclusions (May 2019) – referred to as the Timpson Review (pdf)
The terminology has now shifted – reference is made in the book to “illegal exclusions” – now referred to in Timpson and the popular press as “off-rolling” (still an illegal exclusion however it’s referred to). Timpson also refers to AP – “Alternative Provision” – this is only touched on lightly in the book. This isn’t a failure of the book – it’s simply indicative of how quickly the world of education is changing. The youngsters referred to like stability – the strategies put forward in the book are all tried and tested – they work!
Chapter One – Exclusion Facts and Figures, has excellent analysis of groups that is relevant to the very up to date graphs in the Timpson Review
Each chapter has bullet points that I would automatically use in Inset delivery to teaching staff and Governors. The chapter endings have helpful references and web sites. All are currently live and useful links.
School governors and senior leaders where off-rolling is prevalent should study Chapter Two carefully – The Legalities of Exclusion. It might help a re-write of policy and practice!
Chapter Three – The school’s view: exclusion v inclusion touches upon funding and SEND.
We are all aware of the tightness of budgets in schools at present, but not so much the pressure on PRUs. As the proportion of monies held by local authorities reduces, the amount available for statutory services diminishes and thus the amount for PRUs. Many PRUs cannot carry out their intervention outreach and inclusive work in mainstream schools, only delivering statutory services.
Chapter Four looks at the view from the PRU after an exclusion. This is a well-constructed chapter and gives a real picture. AP is only lightly touched upon, as are PRUs that are academies and therefore not under the management of the local authority. An unusual dynamic. If you do not know a lot about PRUs and cannot give time to reading the whole book – read Chapter Four; otherwise read the whole book.
Again, the practitioner come out with Chapters Five and Six, on “That Kid and Parents”. Many PRUs and schools need to review their working with parents as more and more young people encounter difficulties in school – we still don’t know where the Green Paper on Mental Health will go yet or how it will develop. Chapter 9 gives a good overview of mental health issues. Chapters Seven and Eight give a good overview of SEND.
The conclusion is in the real world – we need to develop high quality provision that meets local needs. We can’t look for overseas solutions – they are interesting, but we need to build, develop and protect, from budget cuts, our own provision.
The Ten Point Manifesto for preventing exclusion in primary and secondary schools is hard to argue against!
In my already full library, this book would be returned to for Inset, staff meetings and as a reference book. I thought that it would be upstaged by the Timpson Review, but both will remain on the bookshelf and neither will gather dust.
I commend this book to staff in PRUs and AP, mainstream staff and LA officers plus ITT practitioners and students.
About the reviewer
Dr Morris Charlton is Regional Officer for Yorkshire and Humber with a brief for SEND. Prior to working for Voice, part-time, he was a headteacher of residential special schools for SEMH for 30 years. His school had a PRU attached. As a headteacher he was seconded on 11 occasions to schools and PRUs in crisis. He is still inspecting and delivering Inset.