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Another True Story

By litherlandb, Aug 24 2015 12:16PM

One of my many schools had a centre attached where children were educated who could not be placed within a normal classroom. The centre rarely held more than a handful of children at a time. Often there were severe behavioural issues and, very occasionally, restraint was required to ensure the safety of the child, other children and (occasionally) staff.

There was one boy – let’s call him Peter – whose moods varied according to factors which were difficult to establish - the direction of the wind, the phase of the moon, what he ate for breakfast, or something that settled across his mind the moment he awoke in the morning. You never knew what would arrive through the door, a good natured nine year old heavyweight or a creature from the bowels of hell.

After a number of staff absences brought on by stress I bought a couple of receiver / transmitter devices so that I could be on call in the event that Peter went out of control or took off on a dangerous trajectory. Now, when the device buzzed to warn me of an incident I would trot dutifully down a corridor and take control. There would be weeks when nothing occurred and then a sudden flurry of activity. Then things would settle down again. It was working well.

Then came an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools. The Centre was inspected and received appropriately high praise. The main school inspection followed. Peter, as usual, spent half an hour each morning in a mainstream classroom. The first two days went well. Then, at 9.10 precisely on the third day, I received the call. Peter was in the doorway of the classroom. He was out of control. He was swearing and lashing out and threatening everyone.

I found him standing in the doorway snorting like a bull with his fists clenched having provided himself with a total exclusion zone just beyond which three teachers were standing. They were speaking calmly, softly encouraging him to either step into or out of the classroom. He was having none of it.

Peter saw me coming and realised the endgame had arrived. He hurtled towards the nearest teacher, fists flying, frothing at the mouth and glowing red like something unpleasant about to boil. I stepped in and, from behind him, caught his hands and crossed them in front of him. I then stepped slowly sideways and backwards so that he lost his footing and we both sank to a sitting position against the wall. I held his flailing legs flat using my own leg to restrain him. In this strangely relaxed position we remained whilst I spoke quietly and slowly calmed him. I indicated to the teachers to return to classes and centre. Peter and I were okay. We were following a well rehearsed path. Give me five minutes without disturbance and we would be ready to continue with our day.

It was at the moment that the three inspectors rounded the corner and walked towards me. Peter was leaning against my chest, throwing his head backwards to try and remove a few of my teeth. At the same time he was spitting upwards with remarkable accuracy and emitting a stream of abuse.

‘You’re hurting me!’ he screamed. ‘You’re hurting my wrists.’

It’s not really what you want an HMI to witness.

I looked up as they approached.

‘Good morning,’ I smiled through globules of spittle.

‘God morning,’ they said.

They stepped over our combined tangle of legs and continued along the corridor and disappeared.

They never mentioned the incident, not one word. It was as if it had never happened.

Five minutes later Peter and I were walking down the corridor, hand in hand, and he was telling me about his favourite vehicles, his main interest. We spent half an hour in the centre, sitting on a sofa and reading stories. It was as if it had never happened.

I looked at the teacher. ‘It did happen, didn’t it?’

She shrugged.

‘I’m not sure any more. Perhaps not.’

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