Are managed moves beneficial?
‘Managed Moves’ have been around for many years but, in recent times, they seem to be increasingly popular. The 2012 Government document ‘Exclusion from schools and pupil referral units in England’ discusses how they can be used by schools for pupils at risk of a permanent exclusion as a ‘fresh start’.
The concept of a fresh start is, at heart, very positive because it acknowledges the need for young people to get another chance within mainstream education. There may be several external factors about a school which have led to a young person presenting with challenging behaviour, such as bullying, which could be helped by leaving the school. Sometimes the young person may just simply unhappy be where they are. I know that I have left a job because it wasn’t the right environment so I can see why that could be the same for some young people too. A managed move to have a fresh start away from such issues seems sensible.
However, what about a managed move when the young person has issues that are internal not external? If moving schools simply means carrying the same concerns with you, then it is a different story unless the move allows you to access the support that you need to address your needs.
As PRUs (Pupil Referral Units) also cater for those at risk of permanent exclusion, I have seen wonderful managed moves where schools have seen the potential in a young person and put the necessary support in place. It has been great to see a young person thrive; never seeing them again is actually a great feeling as it has meant that the move was successful.
A Right Move?
More often, I have seen the opposite. Increasingly I am meeting young people who have been on multiple managed moves before ultimately being permanently excluded. Some young people have attended 4 or 5 different schools and this has served to delay them getting the support they have always needed. When we think about those internal needs, how does this help?
Imagine this scenario:
- You are 13 and are on a managed move to a new school.
- You have SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health) needs and struggle to sustain peer relationships and you find it hard to relate to people.
- You have low self-esteem, are fearful of failure and struggle to take even small risks.
- Added to this you have moderate learning difficulties where you feel constantly baffled by the curriculum and have felt ashamed that you have had to have so much support.
- You haven’t had any referrals to outside agencies.
- You know that your behaviour hasn’t been great but you don’t really see that it is a problem either as no-one at home is worried about it.
- Your current school was near your primary so you moved up into KS3 with the same peer group you had known for years but new school is a few miles away and you don’t know anyone there.
- At your admission meeting your new school made it clear that you were on your last chance; permanent exclusion is hanging over your head like a large neon sign.
Just imagine you are that pupil. You haven’t had the social skills to cope with peer relationships that were familiar so how will your form new ones? You lack the emotional maturity to do cope with this by yourself yet you are being expected to walk in midway through the year and simply fit in. The SEMH needs you carry inside will simply move to that new school with you and, without support to address them, they will probably become issues again.
What Can Schools Do?
Whilst I appreciate that pupils with SEMH cause severe disruption for schools and that managed moves are needed, can we arrange them in a way that benefits the young person too? Here are a few ideas:
- Be honest and open about the young person’s needs. Too many managed moves fail because receiving schools were poorly informed about the young person’s they were taking in. Send all the paperwork including Support Plans which show what has worked and what hasn’t.
- Give receiving schools time to prepare. Surely it is better for them to have support in place, or at least investigated what support there is, before the young person starts?
- Arrange moves that fit in with the school year. Who would ever want to move two weeks into a half term and halfway through a topic?
- Remember that we are dealing with children. We might call them young people, pupils or learners but they are children.
Managed moves should be beneficial to all parties and that includes the young person.