TGIF! The end of the week is finally here (hurray!) and with that is our last extract from Ben Walker‘s and Andrew Stork‘s new book ‘Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor’. This extract is especially exciting because it demonstrates just how interactive the text is! So have a read, enjoy and without further ado, meet Emily!
Pg. 106: CASE STUDY, Supporting Emily
A support manager has received a safeguarding file about one of your learners, Emily, from the school she attended prior to college, and has suggested you read it. Below is an extract from a report in the file.
From Chris Wilkins, Head of Year 12, Shotley Park Secondary School
Emily was removed from the care of her birth parents at the age of nine. This was as a result of reported abuse and neglect. She has been in foster care since that time. There were behavioural problems at school resulting in an exclusion from her previous school. Emily has difficulty with authority figures and in taking responsibility for her actions. Emily’s emotional state can be unpredictable and she can overreact to situations if feeling threatened or overly pressured. The educational psychologist’s report suggested Emily has a younger emotional age than her 15 years nine months. Academically, Emily excels at certain focused tasks, more on the practical side. Socially, Emily can find it difficult to mix with new peers and tends to form separate groups, which can be with learners who are a ‘bad influence’.
Critical thinking activity 7
Read the case study extract and then answer the following.
- What are the key points for your role and how will it inform your support of Emily?
- How do you think other members of staff should be involved and what would you tell other members of staff about?
Safeguarding reports come in a mixture of formats. They can be divided up under topic headings or dates or as continuous writing, as in our example. They may stick to facts or make suggestions about approach. There is a need for you to pick out the key points, and it could be good practice to do this with a support manager.
At first, it can be easy to be daunted by cases like Emily and not knowing where to start. However, you need to remember that all learners, whether they have complex backgrounds and needs or not, all react differently. There’s also a need to not let such information unduly influence your view of an individual. Their past experiences may not adversely affect them in a new environment in which they may, hopefully, thrive. You need to avoid putting this in danger by ‘overcompensating’, and you should strike a balance between being aware of the issues, adapting your approach appropriately and seeing a learner like Emily with fresh eyes and giving her the same opportunity as any others.
A good starting point would be to contact those who know her best, her foster parents, about support and approach.
Unpredictable emotional states
Communication with additional support is necessary. Receiving direct support relies on Emily’s consent, but strategies such as a ‘time out card’ and ‘cooling off period’ would seem to be relevant here.
Difficulty with authority figures and taking responsibility
As we have seen, your positive approach is about the young person understanding and investing in the process of improvement rather than dictating this to them. With Emily, your one-to-ones or PLCs will be important in reinforcing this. Since you are up against a history of resistance, you should not get disheartened if progress is slow and change is incremental.
Academically, Emily excels at certain focused tasks
You need to reinforce the positive with Emily and link that to positive feelings and beliefs in one-to-one meetings and conversations. ‘How can you do more of this?’ is the key reinforcing question to use with Emily when emphasising these positives.
Involving other members of staff
There is not a need to give the specific background details to other staff who teach Emily, for example the details of the abuse suffered. As we have seen though, you can take an advisory role for other teachers regarding teaching and group strategies for Emily and adapting your own group tutorial in a similar way. Additional support staff can aid her. There is a similarity to the additional support issues of the last section: considered communication is everything. Action plans can be drawn up, with additional support and possibly involving yourself, and ideally kept on the electronic learner tracking and monitoring system. This can, in turn, inform disciplinary meetings (where it is not to be used as an excuse for poor behaviour but rather to inform and be taken into account).
A final thought on safeguarding
Finally, these can be emotionally draining issues and you need to make sure you look after yourself. Structured offloading, where you talk about your most complex cases, can be very important in reducing the likelihood of taking your worries about these issues home with you, and to reassure you that you are doing the right things and all that you can.
The personal tutor role can feel all-encompassing, and a dizzying feeling can come from the sense that almost everything in your institution is of relevance to it. Moreover, when we start, not only do we not necessarily know the answers to the questions but we may not know what questions to ask in the first place! This chapter has, hopefully, addressed both of these issues by informing you:
- which the key procedures for the personal tutor are;
- what the procedures are and a good practice model for each;
- how you and others need to operate within the procedures most effectively.
Moreover, you should now have the terminology in order to further understand and enquire about how things work in your institution.
If you want to be outstanding in the role and have ambitions to progress, you need to be a constructive enquirer of those around you including those in more senior roles. You’ll need the appropriate knowledge and language to do this. There will be more on the higher-level support skills to become outstanding in the next five chapters where we also discuss the bigger picture enquiries needed when you’re aiming to be outstanding.