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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 12:50 GMT
School gets tough on behaviour
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

Rachel Turney
Ms Turney was one of 52 applicants for the post

When Ofsted inspectors raised concerns about pupil behaviour and absenteeism, the management at Burleigh Community College, Loughborough, decided to get tough.

They advertised for an attendance and behaviour manager.

"I wasn't really looking for a new job - I was actually flicking through the paper for my sister because she's just finished university," says Rachel Turney.

"And this job just leapt out at me and I thought it looked really interesting."

Ms Turney was one of 52 applicants for the post at the school, which takes 1,400 pupils from 14 to 19 years.

They come from all walks of life, such as people working for foster homes and adoption agencies, classroom assistants and youth workers.

We couldn't do the depth of work we wanted to do without skilled people
John Smith, school principal
Ms Turney, an English graduate, had been working in a private children's home with young people displaying particularly challenging behaviour. Before that, she worked for a fostering agency.

"I thought about social work, but I couldn't afford to re-train and I wanted to work with children, while social workers tend to work with families.

"I didn't want to teach because both my parents are teachers and I prefer to work on an individual basis - with 30 children you can really only scratch the surface."

This was precisely why the school management decided to advertise for a specialist worker who could devote all their time to helping pupils with behavioural issues.

pupils' feet
Pupils are already responding to check-ups on attendance
Ms Turney, who started work at the school five weeks ago, is initially following up on pupils who have been missing classes.

"It's about having a presence in school and saying 'If you miss school you will be caught and your parents will find out'."

She will also offer support for pupils with particular behavioural problems, for example running workshops on anger or time management.

And pupils who she feels would benefit from some outside input will be referred to local schemes offering specialist help for vulnerable young people.

"It would be impossible for me to see everyone, but it's about finding the right thing for them."

Pupils positive

Before Ms Turney's appointment, pupils with problems would hope a teacher would take an interest in them and offer them some one-to-one time.

Rayhan was regularly getting into fights with other pupils, with racial tension causing some bad feeling.

Rayhan says the new appointment will help people like him
Vice-principal Christine Horsfall was about to expel him when he told her he wanted to study maths at university and this led to some detailed discussions about how to try to resolve his problems.

"It's a very time-consuming thing to do - you can set a detention quickly, but talking through what needs to be done to improve their behaviour takes time, time teachers often don't have," says Mrs Horsfall.

Now a model pupil and studying for A-levels, Rayhan, 17, welcomes the appointment of a specialist to tackle poor behaviour and attendance.

"To be honest, it's a really good idea and they should get a couple more."

Steph, 15, is another type of pupil the management at Burleigh Community College hopes will benefit from a specialist member of staff on site.

Steph was often in trouble with teachers and was only attending about two in five lessons.

Steph is off to college next year to study hairdressing and beauty
A teacher taking a special interest in her and the threat of being taken away from her foster home saw Steph turning herself around.

"I realised I wanted to get a job and make something of my life. I don't want to be like my mum was - she had me when she was 16 and all the rest of it as you can probably imagine," says Steph.

And she is upbeat about the school's new appointment: "I think it might work very well - one-to-one helped me a lot."

Paula Radcliffe image

"When people imagine Loughborough, they think of Paula Radcliffe and a nice leafy university campus," says college principal John Smith.

"But it's a northern working town with a university and it's a divided town and we have our problems."

John Smith
Mr Smith hopes to take on four attendance and behaviour workers
Mr Smith estimates that the free school meal take-up at the school should be around 20%, with many pupils not taking the offer up.

In total, 25% of the pupils come from ethnic minority groups and many of those are first-generation immigrants, thanks to a large Bengali population in the town.

With a typical array of social problems to deal with, Mr Smith had budgeted for Ms Turney's job and plans to build up a small department of four attendance and behaviour workers as soon as possible.

"We do see this as a growing area and we're monitoring it to see if it works in school.

"We want better attendance, fewer exclusions and a better attitude to education."

Mr Smith says asking teachers to deal with youngsters with specific issues is not the best use of their time.

"We couldn't do the depth of work we wanted to do without skilled people.

"Teachers are well-paid now and their work is in teaching. And of course, Rachel's skills are not necessarily identifiable in all teachers."

College seeks behaviour manager
23 Jul 04 |  Leicestershire
Breaking bad behaviour habits
15 Jul 04 |  Education

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