SPOTLIGHT ON SEND Guide to gangs

Thismonth, in her regular column for Education Today, DR ASHA PAT

ATEL, CEOo f education not-for-

profit InnovatingMinds, offers some pointers for schools concerned about vulnerable children falling into gangmembership.

According to the Children’s

Commissioner there are an estimated 46,000 children in England who are involved in gang activity which some commentators equate to 50 young people in a typical secondary school. In the past it was seen as a city issue, but recent reports of “county lines” show that gang culture has now moved into rural areas as well.

The Children’s Society says gangs are deliberately targeting 'vulnerable children – those who are homeless, living in care home or trapped in poverty. These children are unsafe, unloved, or unable to cope, and the gangs take advantage of this.'

They suggest teachers and parents look out for these signs: • Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work • Unexplained money, phone(s), clothes or jewellery • Increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour

• Using sexual, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know

• Coming home with injuries or looking particularly dishevelled Zoe Cross, clinical psychologist at InnovatingMinds, believes young people who are bored and looking for excitement may feel attracted to the status and power of being a gang member can give them, while others join due to peer pressure, debts and bullying. Gang membership can also make a child feel safe: 'One student lives in a violent household. He is at risk but he won’t leave the family home because he is very protective, especially towards his mum. He was approached by an older boy who knew of a good place to hang out. He was made very welcome by the group and has a sense of belonging. It is hard to see why he woul d turn away from that.'

Hopefully this young man will do well in his exams this year because he has the chance of an apprenticeship which will give him money, status and a career path - but other young people do not have these choices or access to support and feel that they are better off staying in t he gang .

Five questions schools should ask themselves

difficult or vio recruit childre

Five questions schools should ask themselves

1 Are you aware of the dangers of excluding children? Often gangs ps have a solated.

lent home background and are very i n who are absent from school, perha

2 Do you work with other local schools and share information? Schools often operate in a bubble. Share concerns and intelligence and pass concerns to the police.

3 Do you have a policy for working with children at risk from gang culture? Try to promote activities which motivate and interest young people e.g. sporting and arts opportunities where appropriate that might give them status and pleasure. If there is a teacher who the student responds well to, they should be the one to approach the young person to identify what is going on.

4 Do you bring in outside experts to talk to children? Some schools bring in Police Community Support Officers but many schools are reporting that bringing in ex-gang members who can speak from their own experience can be even more effective.

5 Do you nee d resources for staff and t d Gangs and young people; Brent

personal acco for.pdf. TES a

resources Apri l 2019 2019 s u en st ? Try th NSPCC's e

https:///w// lso links to some useful TrueTube resources including unts https:////w/

Using animals as t herapy

Thismonth, in her regular Education Today column on all aspects of SEND, KATE SARGINSON, Assistant Headteacher and former SENCO, examines the beneficial role animals can play in a SEND environment.


Assistance animals have been used effectively with people with sensory impairments for decades. Guide dogs support their owners with sight loss since the organization began in 1934 and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People was founded in 1982. Could there be a role for animals in supporting pupils with other special educational needs in school?

Dogs are particularly well known for their affectionate and social natures, which has made their remit for working for people with a range of

disabilities widen. Increasingly dogs are being used in rehabilitation and strengthening activities, such as h si

p y o and occupationa l

therapy. Petting or grooming a dog can build up dexterity in children with neurological conditions such as Cerebral Palsy. More recently animals have been found to make a positive contribution in educational settings. Charity ‘Dogs for Good’ launched a community Dogs for Schools programme where dogs provided intervention work in specialist schools. Research has found that children with Autism can benefit from animals in a number of ways. Playing with

a live animal compared spending time with

to a toy resulted in an improvement in social behaviour, albeit temporary.Where a pet was present in the family home, children’s social skills were found to significantly improve. Children can form speci al bonds and both receive and show physical affection tha t may not be paralleled in any human relationship. A special connection can develop between children and animals, and many can become more relaxed, calm and communicative in their presence.

The use of animals has widened into the mainstream sector, with dogs being introduced to help reluctant readers, acting as a non- judgmental audience member. Overseen by a teacher, and accompanied by the owner, specially trained dogs visit schools for pupils to read to them. Barriers can be broken down as reading to a dog is non-threatening and their presence in the classroom has been found to reduce nerves.

Focusing on the dog makes the pupils feel less self-conscious. Li teracy skills have been said to en hance as pupils are more relaxe d and confident doing something which was previously difficult and stressful. Reading levels, word recognition, the desire to read and also write are all reported to increase.With the presence of an animal, reading allowed can become something that pupils look forward to, rather than dread.

Recently, the Secretary of State for Education, Damien Hinds, has commended the use of dogs in schools to help to address growing concerns about pupil mental health and well-being. However, the Department for Education is unaware of how many dogs are currently working in classrooms, and it may be surprising that schools are currently not required to register or train their animals. Safe guards would need to be in place carefully considering bot h the welfare of the animal and the sensitivities of the children. There seems to be a growing evidence base of the many benefits of having animals in school, which are more pronounced with children with special educational needs and disabilities. It may be worth further investigation and investment.

, wwweducation-toda www. 19


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