‘I was in more pain over this exclusion than any other’: a headteacher’s grief

The Guardian has a moving account from an anonymous headteacher of having to suspend over a knife incident a child who, when younger, had witnessed his own mother being murdered.

When David was nine he had to watch his mother being murdered, beaten to death by her boyfriend as David was hiding in the corner. He’d seen his mum being beaten by this man, and others, plenty of times before. David remained in the kitchen for hours, waiting for his mum to wake up, before his aunt arrived and discovered what had happened.

When I met David he’d just joined our school in year 7, the murder case had run its course, and he was living with his aunt. He was not listed as a “looked after” child, which would have put him firmly on the radar of social services. When one of my teachers visited his primary school to prepare for the transition to secondary, staff there told her his mother had died in tragic circumstances – that was it, no detail. When we visited his aunt at home we asked: “Is there anything else you need to tell us about David?” The answer was: “No”…

He broke the rules a lot. Often these were small rules – he wanted to wear white trainers, not school shoes, and would often “lose” the shoes his aunt bought him. He didn’t like his school tie either. Nor his school bag, or books, or pens … he became choosy about which lessons he was prepared to attend, and attendance did not guarantee he’d do any work. We stuck by him anyway…

One day he arrived in school with half a bottle of vodka and a packet of paracetamol, sat in a toilet with his feet against the door and refused to come out “until I’m dead”. Over an hour later he emerged – sober, the tablets still encased in plastic. Even now his aunt would not let us refer David to services that might have been able to help…

At the end of year 9 David walked out of a Spanish lesson, secluded himself in a far part of the school and used a kitchen knife to carve violent threats into the wall. Our CCTV cameras tracked him in and out of the room, but not the act itself. When we caught up with him he was not carrying the knife but had £300 in cash and some drug paraphernalia. When his aunt arrived to collect him, he denied all of it, including the drugs. She believed every word.

Permanent exclusions are essentially the moment when a school gives up on a child it should otherwise protect, nurture and develop. I was in more pain over this exclusion than any other before. I could not rid myself of the image of a small David waiting in the corner of his kitchen for his mother to wake up. I simply had no other options left…

More at: ‘I was in more pain over this exclusion than any other’: a headteacher’s grief


In the full article – well worth reading – the head goes on to say that society, rather than any one individual or organisation, has failed David (and it is hard to disagree).

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  1. TW

    Not entirely clear that there haven’t been all sorts of breaches of safeguarding procedures here, either by the school or the local authority or both.

  2. peterabarnard

    SchoolsImprove Yes, that’s waht exclusion is…! So…? No-one gets killed. The school ensuresit protects, nurtures, develops the rest…!

  3. MalcolmWilson01

    SchoolsImprove I was expelled from school. Years later my Head told me how hard the decision was and how pleased he was with my success.

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