Guest post: Instilling hope and aspiration for the futures of young people with EBD, mental or physical challenges

Fleur Sexton is Joint Managing Director of PET-Xi and her latest guest post she outlines some of her tried and tested strategies for engaging young learners facing physical or mental challenges and ensuring their educational achievement is maximised…

Supporting young people who face physical or mental challenges in their lives is not easy and schools need effective and consistent strategies to engage (or re-engage) pupils, maintain their progress and instil a sense of hope and aspiration for their futures. It’s hard work, like mining for gold you have to chip away at all the obstacles to create an environment where engagement with education is possible.

As a team we work in partnership with schools to support young people around the country and see on a daily basis how it makes a valuable difference to their life chances.

Pupils with special needs and emotional and behavioural difficulties are commonly at risk of low achievement – they may become quiet and withdrawn, uninterested in lessons, non compliant or the cause of low-level disruption. Most children become disengaged from their education because they have not found their own particular road. If they don’t get it we have to try another way.

We also have to acknowledge that unfortunately some young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties are trying to cope in mainstream schools which may not be the right fit for them.

So it’s very important that they have appropriate role models and mentors to provide high energy support and fast- paced lessons using kinaesthetic techniques so that they are bowled along with the fun of learning. By keeping things fast and energetic the pupils experience a ‘quick win’ when they get something right which encourages them to tackle the next stage. Celebrate every success, however small. By following every piece of teaching with a small AFL nugget, teacher or peer assessed, this is easily achieved.

Ensuring pupils have mastered the basics is also key – children who have missed school, perhaps for medical appointments, often miss out on fundamental points and are therefore unable to follow enough of the subsequent lessons to become or remain engaged.

A reduced focus on bad behaviour can also work wonders – that doesn’t mean being a soft touch, it just means being consistent, realistic and practical. Children facing challenges must feel there is hope for the future. If the path is too narrow for them to stay on, find them another path. We have to be forgiving and use our energy to drive them forward until their own drive takes over. Often disengaged young people throw barriers in our way as a method of precipitating what they consider to be inevitable failure. It is important to overcome the barriers, whatever they may be.

Our duty is to integrate and support all young people into a society where they can take their place and have a positive impact – as a society we have a moral obligation to help and support those young people who most need it.

Be patient, it’s like moving mountains, not a single linear journey. For every three steps forward there may be two steps back, but with sensible targets it is possible to re-engage young people and instil them with a love of going to school.


PET-Xi runs special courses for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. For further information on PET-Xi please visit or contact . Follow on Twitter @petxitraining.


See Fleur’s previous guest post: Guest post: Top tips on re-engaging disaffected young pupils


Interesting insights and advice from Fleur – any questions or anything you would add? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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