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Reflections on a PRU

Emma is a Teaching Assistant who works for Protocol Education in Wolverhampton. Emma has had a range of experiences while working through us and she shares an insight into working in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

Reflections on a PRU

So, for the last half term I have been working at a PRU (Pupil Referral Unit).  It really does take a special type of person to work somewhere like this.  The children are a mix of the permanently excluded and respite.  Their behaviours are often volatile; expect profanities, personal insults and violence on a daily basis.  Needless to say you need very thick skin to get by.  You can't let any of it get to you and believe me they do and say a lot of hurtful things.

In my short time there I have been punched, kicked, sworn at, insulted, head butted, scratched, screamed at, bitten and had things thrown at me, most notably a table in my first week! This is the kind of behaviour that would send most adults running in the other direction.  So, how do I remain so calm and upbeat? Each morning on the way to work I put up my shield.  In the same way the Enterprise would engage its shield in Star Trek.  Yes, I'm a Trekkie and proud to admit to it! I mentally prepare myself for the day ahead and imagine that I am surrounded by an invisible impenetrable barrier.  To date only one comment ever got through and that was only because I forgot to raise my shield to other classes than my own.  That hasn't happened again since.

What matters more is who they are now and who they will become when they leave to rejoin mainstream education.  

I didn't ever think I could be the kind of person who could ever work in a PRU. I once cried because a child hit me.  It was such a shock.  I never imagined that when I left for work that day I could be assaulted by a child.  My defences were well and truly down.  Oh, but how I have changed! I still have the skills I had before though, I couldn't work without them.  I am extremely patient and these children who are so easily distracted and frustrated need patience.  I am very caring and nurturing.  Some of these children sadly lack this at home. I am full of praise, I build up the damaged self esteems of those who have been abused, neglected and bullied through their short little lives. 

Each child at the PRU has their own story.  Often their home lives are tragic and that lead to their behaviours being so drastic that their schools could no longer handle them. But unless it's necessary for us to know the mistakes they have made, they all start here with a clean slate.  What matters more is who they are now and who they will become when they leave to rejoin mainstream education.  And they all leave, eventually. As my colleague is fond of reminding them, this is a short stay school, no one stays forever.  Some go back to their old schools, with new strategies put into place to better support them.  Others move on to new schools, new friends and new teachers.  Whilst a few, who have inconsistent and difficult home lives move on to residential care.  But they all leave.  Some after a few weeks and some, tragically, after a year or more. 

It's not just the children who leave though.  Since I joined a week before Christmas I've seen two TA's and a deputy head leave.  With another TA threatening to quit in a teary rage.  I don't think she'd discovered my trick of engaging her shield. It's not an easy job, no.  But with a patient, calm and caring attitude it is a highly rewarding job.  But a thick skin is a definite advantage!

Have you worked in a PRU? Would you like to share your experiences? Email Megan at for more information on becoming a Protoblogger.

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Tags: EmmaH, West-Midlands, supply, support, experiences, PRU, excluded, opportunities, attitude

Category: Australian Teachers

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