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Sometimes, just sometimes....

Yesterday was one of those days where you realise that sometimes, just sometimes, what you do is worthwhile. I was approached, out of the blue, at the end of the school day in the school where I am currently working, by a student who I didn't know. She gave me the name of an ex-student of my previous school, let's call her Sam, and told me how well she was now doing, how she was back with her mum, in college and in the running for an apprenticeship.

Sam was an excellent student in Years 7 & most of Y8 - keen, enthusiastic, clever. From then on, until the end of Year 11, life went downhill - huge behaviour issues in and out of school, moving in and out of care, serious safeguarding issues - anyone who has worked in schools or social services will understand the picture. She wasn't functioning in lessons, picked and chose who she would respond to on the staff and her attendance was very poor indeed. In Year 11 she vanished completely and we couldn't locate her and when we did no power on earth would get her into school. She would turn up, once in a while, of her own volition. We talked to her, nurtured her, tried to help. We listened to her, modified her timetable, gave her safe spaces. We couldn't allow her to disrupt the learning of others, but she was one of ours, we had a real responsibility for her. We followed all the leads for SEND, intervention and alternative provision - we tried everything....

We should have got rid of her, moved her on, permanently excluded her - found some way to get her off our books, but we didn't. That wouldn't have helped her - we were, in some way, her safe place. She definitely didn't help the school's results, that is for sure!

And yet, sometimes, just sometimes, good things happen. We can't claim all the credit for Sam now being in college and much more settled. There will be a lot of factors in that and I don't know the details, but I know absolutely for sure that the school's consistent relationship with Sam through individual staff care will have helped. We believed in her and cared for her and that matters.

There are a lot of Sam's. Schools which are good at working with Sam, and those like her, attract and keep more young people with social services involvement, in care, with serious mental health issues and from chaotic home lives. It hits their results, hits their Ofsted ratings, and impacts on their budgets, but it is some of the most important work that schools do in our society. Maybe, just maybe, one day it will be valued and the perverse incentives of our current system will stop encouraging schools to find ways of avoiding educating the children who most need us, but who are most damaging to a school's results.

Sometimes, just sometimes, good things happen - I both smiled and wept as I walked home last night.

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