'I was a real ogre. I didn't enjoy it, but I terrified her'

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The Independent Online
The youngest child, who was excluded by Jan Paul, head of Crawley Green Grant Maintained Infants School in Luton, was in the nursery.

"She was four when she came into the nursery at the beginning of the September term and she was immediately difficult. She was an only child who had never been to play group or had any other kind of pre-school experience and she had not learned to share.

"If another child was building a tower out of play bricks, she would knock it down to get the bricks. If another child was playing with a toy she wanted, she would snatch it. She was well-built for her age and other children were simply pushed and shoved out of her way.

"Then one day, still early in term, she flew into a tantrum over a toy and attacked another child. The class teacher talked to mum to try to establish whether there were any difficulties at home. Mum said there were none, so the class teacher gently asked her to reinforce what the school was trying to teach about the importance of sharing.

"A few days later she went for another little girl in her class in an unprovoked attack and scratched the child's eye. She was sent to me.

"I am strong on discipline. Usually a raised eyebrow is enough to make them behave, but I was a real ogre this time. I didn't enjoy doing it, but I terrified her. By then, other children were frightened of her and parents were complaining. She cried and promised never to do it again.

"I wrote to her parents and said I was very concerned about the child's behaviour and that I would exclude her if there was another incident. One week later, there was another unprovoked attack.

"The governors and I had already discussed the case and we excluded her for a month. Two days later, her mother and father arrived with the child demanding to see me.

"I said I would not discuss the issue in front of the child, so dad stayed outside with her while mum came into the office. She said we couldn't exclude her daughter but I explained that we could because she was under statutory school age.

"She was effing and blinding and threatening. She said you could not expect a four-year-old to control her temper. I said I was not surprised she found it difficult if this was the behaviour she saw at home.

"She went through the roof and said she was going down to the four-plus unit to see these children who were telling lies about her daughter. I said if she went near them I would call the police. The caretaker escorted them off the premises.

"I went back to the governors and I wanted the child excluded for the rest of the year and they backed me. I presume the mother got the girl in somewhere else because she never came back when she was five, even though we were her catchment-area school.

"We've had other children throwing tantrums and kicking staff, but if you have the co-operation of the parents at this early age you can sort it out.

"Parents these days go on about their rights and forget their duties. There is a lack of parenting skills.

"In the past, heads might have been inclined to turn a blind eye and contain these children but perhaps now they are getting cheesed off with the attitude of parents which says that it's all the teacher's fault. But you can't really blame a teacher for a four-year-old who has no social skills."

WB

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