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Violence in Schools

Emma's latest blog highlights the impact of violence on children she works with in a pupil referral unit. 

"I stabbed my teacher, you know.  That's why I was excluded from my last school". Rajesh* was grinning.  We were sat around the breakfast table munching on toast.  The others stopped chewing. "You know we can check your file" I calmly replied. His smile broadened. "No miss, I'm only joking". Of course he didn't really stab a teacher. Though he did punch the head teacher.  Every child at our PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) are there because their mainstream schools could not control them. Bragging about stabbing a teacher though in the wake of the latest teacher stabbing was in poor taste.

A woman had died, a family and school was devastated and a young person is going to be sent to prison for a very long time.  There's no winning there, everybody loses and the world loses a good teacher.  Sometimes we have to remind our children, that when they attack us they are attacking a mother, a father, a wife, a husband, a son or daughter.  It humanises us, I think they some times forget that we have feelings too.

I also hear the 'n' word being banded around.  No, not that one.  Naughty.

The issue we have at the PRU is that our children are exposed to so much violence that it affects their sense of right and wrong.  Take Colin* for instance.  At the age of four he's been at the PRU for many months.  His school permenantly excluded him for violence and bad language. He likes to play zombies and talk about death and murder.  He's seen a lot of zombie films and stays up late at night playing zombie games and talking to strangers over his head set.  He thinks zombies are real and struggles to tell the difference between reality and tv.  Or Rajesh* and James* who were comparing notes on Call of Duty 2.  They play it until midnight and come into the PRU with dark circles under their eyes.  I once asked James* who is 8 years old how he got hold of an adult game.  He told me he put it in his mom's basket when she wasn't looking.  When she saw it she said she'd buy it for him.  I really wasn't surprised.  We can't help what these children are exposed to at home.  All we can do is try to re-build and nurture.

There's a programme on tv at the moment called Mr Drew's School for Boys.  If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in a PRU that gives a pretty accurate portrayal.  There was one point where a very articulate boy was arguing with Mr Drew.  "I'm a problem child" he said.  That made me very sad.  I wonder who told him that.  Was it the teachers who gave up on him or his parents who couldn't handle him?  The parents on the show fell into one of two categories.  They either shouted constantly or sat back and let them do whatever they wanted.  To be honest, I'm not sure which was worse.  I'm not a fan of shouting and Mr Drew made a good point.  For shouting to be effective it needs to be used sparingly.  Otherwise you may as well be whispering for all the good it does.

I hear a lot of people my age and older saying they need a good clip round the ear or a smacked bottom. I don't understand the logic though.  How is committing an act of violence on a child going to teach them that violence is wrong? I was never hit and I turned out ok!

I also hear the 'n' word being banded around.  No, not that one.  Naughty.  I don't like that word and I think it holds no place in our schools.  It labels the child just as much as "problem child" does. If they are naughty then that's who they are and they can't change that.  But that's not true, children are not naughty or good, it's their choices that we should label.  They either make good choices or they make bad choices.  And they have the control to make those choices.

We don't have naughty children at the PRU.  We have children who are exposed to violent images, who have violent home lives, who come to school in the morning with one foster carer and leave with another, who have mental health problems, whose schools have given up on them and rather than seeing a vulnerable easily influenced child see a problem to be passed on.  And with all that going on in their young lives is it really any wonder that they make the wrong choices?

*Names have been changed

Have you worked in a pupil referral unit? Would you be interested in blogging about your experiences? Contact our Teacher Services team for more information by emailing

Emma is a teaching assistant who works for Protocol Education in Wolverhampton. She is a regular blogging and recently she has been blogging about her experiences of working in a pupil referral unit. 

Tags: EmmaH, Shropshire, West-Midlands, PRU, pupil, referral,

Category: Australian Teachers

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