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SPOTLIGHT ON SEND


Making summer manageable for


vulnerable children This month, in her regular column for Education Today, DR ASHA PATEL, CEO of education not-for- profit Innovating Minds, offers some pointers for schools concerned about vulnerable children coping with the long summer holidays.


Summer holiday clubs are a lifeline for families, especially those who do not have much money and may not be able to take their children away for a break. Harefield is a 300 place village school


which has an increasing number of children with ADHD and autism. Michelle Connolly is a learning mentor at Harefield Junior School in Hillingdon. Her job is to help children who need extra support. Sometimes it might be practical


help, in other cases she works in a pastoral and mental health role. At any one time she has a caseload of 30 and works with parents, social services, educational psychologists, therapists and counsellors. She worries about what happens to children over the long summer


holidays: 'While social work support carries on, families will be left without school support.' The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger published a report in


2017 called Hungry Holidays with first-hand accounts of the problems: mothers trying to save for an extra box of cereal to give their children lunch, parents who are not paid over the summer and who fall into arrears with household bills. Their report painted a picture of families, 'already facing many challenges, struggling to make ends meet, maybe suffering with mental health and wellbeing issues. When the children are at home all day the cracks really begin to appear.' Their evidence was backed up by research from Northumbria


University based on 17 holiday clubs across the North East region that provided over 600 children aged 5-14 with more than 3,000 breakfasts and 7,000 lunches, as well as offering a varied and stimulating programme of activities. The issues are not just about food and childcare. Summer can be a


struggle for children. After nine months of structured days, being part of a big group of children of their own age, they may suddenly find themselves alone, unsupervised and lonely. Some children may be staying with relatives who they are not especially close to, vulnerable children might be bullied or targeted by gangs and older children might be put in charge of younger siblings. It is a toxic mix. Free and low cost holiday clubs offer three key benefits to families


and communities: • Safety - Children are safe and supervised, not on the streets and


at risk. This reduces parents' anxieties • Food – Food banks are already making preparations to hand out


more packs over the summer. Schemes often provide healthier food – fruit, vegetables etc. that families already struggling with low budgets find it hard to afford • Opportunities to socialise – Children get to try new activities,


meet new people and have fun. Parents were less stressed when they had the chance to get out and meet other families and Hungry Holidays reported: 'when you actually see kids sitting, eating, and socialising with their friends, they're happier and their esteem gets stronger.' These days schools can be pressurised environments. We need to


make sure that the holidays are not the last straw for stressed families but provide a chance to meet new people, try different activities and enjoy some free time.


June 2019 Managing ADHD in


school Regular Education Today SEND contributor KATE SARGINSON, Assistant Headteacher and former SENCO, turns her attention this month to the sometimes controversial subject of ADHD.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a diagnosis that continues to cause controversy. Understandings of it range from being a legitimate neurodevelopmental spectrum condition worthy of tolerance and treatment, to it simply being an excuse for kids being naughty. Debate surrounds the use of medication in the management of ADHD. Prompted by the news that the use of commonly prescribed drug ‘Ritalin’ has more than doubled in the past ten years, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector,


voiced her concerns that children’s bad behaviour is being medicated away as a result of over-diagnosis and a lack of consideration being given to underlying issues. Spielman compared the use of medication to a “chemical cosh”. There is concern that the UK is on a worrying trajectory. Is there any truth in the perception that poorly behaved children are simply just being drugged? Is it fair that ADHD seems to get such bad press? ADHD symptoms include feeling restless or fidgety, talking a lot


and interrupting, being easily distracted, finding it hard to concentrate and saying or doing things without thinking. Scepticism is common, as these often impulsive, inattentive and silly behaviours are classified by teachers, and pupils alike, as naughtiness, within the child’s control and deserving of punishment. The behaviours result in frustration more easily than sympathy from others. But advocates for ADHD claim that pupils with this diagnosis may be unable to connect cause and effect, and it is therefore not the pupil’s choice to behave the way they do or be defiant. There are other effects on children that are less well known.


There is an increased risk of mental health issues developing. Estimated by the ADHD Foundation, as many as over 40% of people with ADHD have problems sleeping, experience anxiety disorders and depression. There is also a greater incidence of self- harm and eating disorders. It is also likely that a pupil with ADHD will also have a specific learning difficulty. It is clear that having ADHD can have a negative impact on academic attainment in school, and profoundly affect relationships with peers and self- esteem. ADHD medications have been considered a safe and effective


way to relieve symptoms and provide hope of a more positive outcome in school. Just as wearing glasses aids pupil’s eyes to see, taking medication has been argued as an appropriate intervention to aid pupils to pay attention in school and regulate their own behaviour. It should only be prescribed in the most severe of cases, and should not be at the exclusion of other approaches. The mass medication of children is something that no educators want. Suggesting this is the case casts doubt on the expertise of those in the medical profession to make an appropriate diagnosis and prescribe medication – an action that’s usually accepted unquestioningly. ADHD has acquired a negative reputation which often fails to


acknowledge the impact of the condition on, and the views of, the person. A pupil taking medication does not negate the responsibility teachers have to recognise all the behavioural and learning difficulties that pupils experience, and respond with understanding attitudes and supportive strategies.


www.education-today.co.uk 19


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