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EDITIONS
Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 13:34 GMT
No school is an island
Head teacher Kenny Frederick
Head teacher Kenny Frederick: "We can't do it all"
What head teacher Kenny Frederick says she needs to tackle truancy and discipline problems is more support from other professionals - especially social and health services.

"We have a child who is totally messed up, who twice in the past two weeks has gone berserk, not in control of herself," she said.

Her inner London comprehensive tried to get the girl into hospital but the hospital would not take her, she was in such a state.

"There's a lot of that kind of thing around," Ms Frederick said.

"I don't know why, I'm not a doctor - but that's very different from a kid being naughty."

Mental health problems in students' families are also a problem.

Lack of resources

In trying to create a secure, caring environment for the youngsters, the school works with the social services and housing organisations on a range of issues not directly to do with education but which all affect children's behaviour and attendance.

We are realistic - we live in a society where education and authority are seen as a no-no by many

Kenny Frederick, head of George Green's school

But those other services are underfunded, she says - leaving the school to cope as best it can.

"And you can't do it all by yourself," she said. "Gone are the days when a school existed on its own.

"We are realistic - we live in a society where education and authority are seen as a no-no by many.

"All the time you are trying to give a sense of ambition and purpose to the kids."

Police in school

That is not helped by a lack of stability among the teaching and support staff - currently she struggles with a 30 to 40% turnover each year.

So more money to recruit and especially to retain staff would help.

But one initiative that is making a difference she says is that the school now has a police officer attached to it full time.

He has learned a lot by seeing the children in a different light - and vice versa.

"It helps to build trust," Ms Frederick said.

"He works with some of our more difficult situations, such as hangers-on - people coming into the school who are not in the school.

"Kids get to know him and see the police in a different light. Often here people wouldn't have gone to the police for anything - you just don't get involved."

Parenting courses

And she thinks government can help by highlighting the issues - as it has done - and by requiring parents to learn to be better at being parents.

"Sometimes they don't know how. It can be very difficult to be a parent, if you've got a stroppy teenager saying 'I'm going to do what I like'."

But she wonders if ministers quite understand the real world when she hears ideas such as head teachers' issuing fixed penalty notice fines to truants' parents.

"I wonder if I'd still be standing as I handed over the notice," she said.

"You can only laugh really."


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Truancy fines
Should head teachers be given the power?
See also:

12 Dec 02 | Education
09 Oct 02 | Education
28 Nov 02 | Education
15 Nov 02 | Politics
06 Nov 02 | England
09 Oct 02 | Education
18 Jun 02 | Education
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