Just Plain Tough

I doubt those supporting vulnerable children, in schools, up and down the country, know what feeling truly isolated in life feels like. To have a sense that no one wants to stick their neck out and actually give you a little support. It must feel so warming to go along in your life, knowing you’ve done your job for the day, looked after “those difficult children” but thank goodness, that you can now return to a normal life with a normal family.

The safe structure of your school rules, inflexible and heartless, giving you the backbone to stand by your every judgement and ruling. Happy to take the supporting, whole, not just a hand, of a parent who only wishes to have her children understood, seen with compassionate eyes and given the break that they dearly need. But when you turn your back and announce school rules for the meaning, there is no need to think about them once again. No you don’t have to consider the way your actions may ripple through the family’s emotional wellbeing. You don’t have to worry about the doctors appointments required to increase medication, mood moderators, tablets to support you through those endlessly sleepless nights.  The cancellation of activities that aim to offer a level of freedom to some who are chained to their family, through love, dedication, necessity.

It’s ok that the chain extends as far as the school, that way this parent can always be there as and when you need, when you can’t do your job, can’t support these children.  You assure me you are trained and experienced in dealing with attachment, where is the attachment focus in the sentence? “We don’t have time to get to know your son” .

That’s when you enjoy pointing your gnarly little finger and poke at the already vulnerable people, that you know can’t retaliate.

“You are the parents, this is your fault, we of course did nothing wrong”.

Oh don’t worry, you are not the first, I’ve seen that finger repeatedly over the years, when you don’t really know what to do or say, it’s easy to see why you would point the finger, yes because it’s easy for you to do.

You load the isolation onto that family, keep on going; they are not quite broken yet. You could always reel them in again, pretend to care and then stick your middle finger in their direction, just when you think they might finally be trusting of you, again. That should do the job, if not this time, the next or the next or the next. Who said adoptive parents are some of the most resilient folk around? No school is, stronger, harder, we will break you.

Yes my children will be well educated by you; they will receive the education you so dreadfully feel they need, that I’m not providing. They will learn that the system is always punitive, you will comply or be punished. “I’m really sorry I choose to not recognise your needs.”

In life adults have the right to critise you, but you can never say anything in your defense, that is considered rude and is not tolerated, please tell your parents this rule applies to them too.

Finally, don’t ever expect empathy from this system. This is not tough love, no this is just being tough, the word love does not get used in this system of education.

“Your son is a nightmare” you tell me.

“Why should we move him into a different science lesson when he can’t even behave for the teacher he already has?” you question.

Your son, who has high anxiety around school, he’s not allowed to be late for school or we will give him a detention and you will be in trouble with the LA.  No, all the psychological reports attached to his EHC are not sufficient evidence, but if he colour codes his timetable, red, amber, green, got the idea, that will explain why he doesn’t like school. Ofstead will approve. Oh, and can you do this for us because we don’t have time to spend with your son, getting to know him and helping him to trust us.

Is it fun to see a parent contort themself around your mixed messages and lack of understanding?

Your language and actions speaks volumes about the culture of your school.  A culture where it’s ok to label a vulnerable child, “the worst kind of child” and smile smugly in your arrogance of being right, whilst you do it.


  1. Mrsnige November 4, 2015 / 7:47 pm

    oh my heart bleeds for you all. Massive hugs, I have no other words.

  2. Alisa November 4, 2015 / 9:16 pm

    My first reaction to reading your post was, if I am honest, anger. I am both a Headteacher and an adoptive parent. I spend all of my days getting to know the pupils in my school, spending hours talking to parents, seeking their input, thinking long and hard about how we can better meet the needs of our pupils and provide the support they need to feel happy and safe and ready to learn. Admittedly I work in a special school for pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, admittedly I have had significant training and a wealth of experience but I work hard to understand the pupils in my care. I then read your post again and again and am no longer angry. I am sorry that you and your son are not getting the care and support that you need. But not all schools are the same and not all teachers are the same. I go home every night and still worry about the children. There are no adopted children in my school but there are a high number of children in care. We do everything we can to provide with stability and constancy (our preferred word rather than consistency). We do not believe in punishment but do have consequences. I hope that you continue to fight your battle for your son and that school start to listen! No parent should ever hear the words ‘your son is a nightmare’.

    • thepuffindiaries November 4, 2015 / 9:26 pm

      Thank you, and I’m glad you are not still angry. I do get how hard it is for schools. this piece is very emotive, something I had to get out of me today, fueled by frustration. I’m actually in no way upset with the actions the school took over his behaviour. He hit someone, that is serious. We have talked about it and there are sanctions at home to support the school. What I’m upset about is the way the school expect me to do so much for them and yet are able to heavily criticise and label my children through ignorance. Ignorance is not an excuse to be unkind to those that truly deserve kindness. It is also not an excuse to shut down communication with a parent who is upset because of the way things have gone. That is what I’ve experienced today, alienation.

      • Hyacinth January 12, 2016 / 7:18 pm

        I’ve loved reading The Puffin Diaries. As a mother myself, I have felt empowered by the understanding and unconditional love you have for your sons. Even though emotions run high, the determined honesty is clear.
        And Tink, I met him too and can say, though the education system in which I found myself employed, for a short while mainstream when normally not, was trickier and more confusing than I’d hoped. But well, Tink was never the nightmare. He was in fact, the inspiration.
        I saw a bright and amazing youngster, full of potential. Undoubtedly challenging. Clearly loved by his family. A young man to be heard, understood and encouraged to believe that the world is a better place than he was determined to believe.

        • thepuffindiaries January 14, 2016 / 8:26 am

          Thank you so much for your comment, it means so much that you have met my boy and can see such a positive light. He has now moved schools and is getting a much greater level of understanding and support and whilst it is all new and he is a little wobbly, I know long term he will be much happier. Thank you again for your kind comments.

  3. Ron B November 5, 2015 / 2:49 pm

    Just read the above and especially Alisa’s comments which set a standard that “Special Needs” Schools should look to emulate.
    Look, I’m the Grand Dad and Father so could be seen as biased in my opinion. I’ve been told all my life that having a level of discipline is important in all aspects of society to retain a level of peace, order, decorum and sanity.
    In this case, the peace was broken by one party and it seems to me that in dealing with the breach of the peace the powers that be when facing the need to restore peace did not apply the other tenants with the same rigour they set the rules for peace in the first place.
    You see, science and nature (S&N) tell us for every positive there is a negative – equal and opposites – something trying to make up for the lack of something else – level playing fields. The consequences, in S&N, will always be to try to restore the original situation. When we break or seek to interfere with this balance we know the consequences. Ignorance of them can have a devastating result.
    Back to the school…..
    Has the balance been restored here?
    I’m not sure we can say that Tink’s behavior, unacceptable as it was, was met with an appropriate response because ignorance of the consequences to its pupil and his family, who it has a pact with of due care, did not seem to be important to establishing the status quo.
    The only order shown was to follow the rules to restore the peace. What do the rules say, “no exceptions”. Lack of discipline in the rules then?
    The decorum displayed or lack of it seemed ignorant of the family’s needs. No discipline here
    Sanity, the schools, is that all that counts.?
    I count Tink as one of my best friends, yes, a grandson too, but this boy is not the boring Mr Average, his school would no doubt like. He is extraordinary with a mental and learning capability way beyond his age. He is getting a grounding at home that seeks to give him the basis of growing into a society that is ill skilled at dealing with exceptional capabilities in youngsters.
    “Special Needs” seems to be geared at those who fall short of their contemporaries what about those, given the right forum who excel?
    The School could do well to look at the forum(s) it has created for its “Special Need” children and assess whether they cater for their NEEDS.

  4. anna November 22, 2015 / 10:33 pm

    I am just staggered by the way they have dealt with your son. To back someone into the corner and shame them like that in the classroom, so many adults dealing with one child – anyone who wasn’t anxious before would be anxious after that.

    And not making any allowances for his anxiety leading to lateness. If anything he should come in in at a low arousal time when there are less people transitioning into school. Children like rules but they want them to be fair.

    Have the school read The Explosive Child yet? Even a child without early trauma can act in the way you have described, without the right strategies.

    I am also staggered that they are treating you like a naughty child to be patronised and dictated to.

    I home school my son now who has ASD but is not adopted; he is 13 now, and Year 7 was difficult. We left. Things are much better, a lot of his anxieties have gone now, anxieties caused by school “rules”. Yet the teachers never once behaved as they have behaved to you. Was that because they had the right label for my son, and in your school they haven’t yet had sufficient understanding of early trauma or training to deal with it? In which case they need for your son’s sake and no doubt many other children who may yet present in the same way as him to LEARN NOW.

    We are thinking of trying to move our son to a small specialist school. Have you considered this? I know all the attendant difficulties of actually getting a place in such a school, but might the present situation be good evidence for it – could you use these incidents to your advantage and get a review on your EHC?

  5. Roselle November 24, 2015 / 9:28 pm

    Thank you for this. I totally feel your pain. My daughter has been almost destroyed by her ( previously very supportive) school’s response to an allegation made about her by another child/family that no-one really believes but ‘the system has to be seen to act’, procedures have to be followed. I am full of fury that my darling 7 year old who was cruelly abused in her first family has now learnt that lots of adults are untrustworthy even those she had come to trust and respect at school. THEN they tell me her behaviour in class has become ‘unacceptable’ and needs to change. Last year she was the star pupil despite her visual impairment. I lost my pieces in a meeting and told them they had to apologise to her and that I was inches from pulling out to home educate. I had the asst head in tears and she did later apologise but it is torture all round. Hoping things are better at your end. x

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