Girls with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties are often overlooked
By John Galloway, Consultant on ICT, SEN and Inclusion
It might be a cliché, but no-one seems to argue with it – girls with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties are often overlooked. This could be because they seem to be holding things together. They are the quiet ones at the back who seldom say a word and keep their heads down, even outside of lesson time. But even the noisy ones who let rip, can somehow still manage a grown-up conversation when you explain the impact their actions on others. Boys tend to be noisy, attention-seeking and immature. So they get the attention and the resources, and the girls get sympathy and good intentions that never quite result in actions. Although, what might those well-meaning ideas look like if they were put into action?
One mixed comprehensive school in London’s east end asked Claudine Rausch, a teacher from the borough’s Behaviour Support Team, to run a girls group a couple of times a week in key stage three. There were no particular criteria for involvement, no referral route, just that their teachers had some concerns and thought they might benefit.
The girls weren’t always sure why they had been asked if they wanted to attend. There might be vague ideas about being in trouble, or, “it’s because of the way I speak or something,” or more specifically, “My form tutor said I am very up front. Sometimes that can appear rude and abrupt.” Others seemed unusually withdrawn, or had problems at home, such as being the main carer in the family. Generally, though, the reasons weren’t something they gave a lot of thought to.
Neither were their particular expectations for the sessions about addressing issues and solving problems. For Claudine it was about, “Expressing themselves how they want to be; reflecting on and challenging negative perceptions about being "too loud" or "too quiet", articulating ideas and opinions: Putting assertiveness into practice.”
The group provided opportunities to talk about issues in school, and what they might do to address them. Beyond that there was also a focus on perceptions of women, and the pressure to conform to particular identities, often propagated by the media.
One activity was to make short “talking heads” videos expressing their personal points of view on a diverse range of subjects. Each of the nine girls involved would make a series of short statements to camera which could then be mashed together, either as a focus on themselves; a bringing together of views for a single issues across the group; or a diverse selection to represent the breadth of opinions of contemporary teenage girls.
A video camera was set up, photo-booth style, for each of them to sit and record their statements without influence or interference from the others. A series of sentence starters were agreed, ranging from the deep and serious, “Life is…,” “Politicians should…,” to the reflective, “Friends are…,” “My family…,” to the more lighthearted, “Shopping is…,” “Shoes are…” A computer suite was booked for a couple of afternoons so that once the footage was all recorded each of them could take the collected thoughts and create their own film.
After recording everyone’s views, the next step was to give the girls the skills to edit videos. These aren’t particularly difficult to learn with drag and drop editing, cutting unwanted sections, moving bits around and even copying and repeating them. After that there are the transitions, the changes between frames, and the effects – such as sepia and slow motion – then adding titles at the start and finish, or even as captions throughout. And after that editing the soundtrack and even adding sound effects. Plenty of things to try out. Which they certainly did.
Where the teachers were looking for thoughtful, reflective films offering an opportunity to tell it like it is, the students took this as a chance to put together fast paced, pop style videos making full use of the tools available. Faces morphed, heads juddered as phrases were rapidly repeated and lurid colour filters transformed all the speakers into anonymous, psychedelic wraiths. Vortexes spun and flashes appeared.
They had done what they were asked but their way, and made it their own. It was a tangible example of "pupil voice" as well as genuine collaboration. An opportunity to have their say became one to have a light-hearted afternoon out. Building social ties, making decisions, putting their stamp on a task.
Much more than that other cliché: Girls just want to have fun.
Follow John on Twitter @JohnGalloway