(UK) "Tens of thousands of children" start school already damaged by parents at home

Mar 31, 2019, Schools Week: These children need more than a system of escalating consequences …This is a reality that faces education professionals every day. Tens of thousands of children arrive in school with essential building blocks of their development missing. Before they learn their first letters, there is a gulf of disadvantage between them and their securely-attached, school-ready peers. In the classroom we might see speech and language delay, physical delay, hyper-vigilance, poor impulse control, sensory processing difficulties, and a tendency to jump to flight-fight-freeze responses at the slightest provocation. There may be diagnoses of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Reactive Attachment Disorder, or Complex PTSD. Many quickly earn a notorious reputation which can follow them throughout their education. The new draft Ofsted framework explicitly recognises that care-experienced children (including adopted children) constitute a group that is ‘most disadvantaged’, and rightly so. … We carefully and patiently teach children to read. If they do not learn at the same pace as the other children, we seek to discover the causes of that, and find solutions. This is a teacher’s bread and butter. Behaviour is no different. In an ideal world, we might expect parents to have already taken care of it. Sadly, many children do not live in an ideal world. Schools are complex systems, and all children need to feel safe within them. This is not about letting children ‘get away with it’, but if we are really going to change the trajectory of our most challenging children, we need to think seriously about the complex drivers of behaviour.

Children whose brains have been damaged by pre-natal alcohol exposure, or who have been wired for survival at all costs by their earliest experiences will need more than a neatly-crafted system of escalating consequences. They will need patient, supportive adults employing a range of strategies to help them to overcome their difficulties. …