School is North Lanarkshire's primary age specialist
provision for pupils experiencing significant social,
emotional and behavioural difficulties. The school is
now situated in the Townhead area of Coatbridge, having
recently been relocated to larger and more suitable
premises. Pupils attend Pentland School when the supports
and strategies available within the mainstream context
are unable to meet their needs fully and effectively.
promise to pupils and parents
education department in North Lanarkshire has as its
motto 'aiming higher' and has identified raising achievement
as its key policy direction. Pentland School fully embraces
this policy which has, as one of its aspects, an emphasis
on the importance of providing children with environments
and experiences that promote the development of confident
and well-rounded individuals. Pupils can then go on
to build achievements and to benefit more fully from
is especially true for pupils who experience social
and emotional difficulties. It is crucial that our school,
which aims to help children experiencing a range of
achievement-inhibiting emotions, provides them with
an environment and relationships that will help them
begin to address and overcome feelings such as low self-esteem,
hurt, anger, frustration and rejection. Working with
children with very complex social and emotional needs
is never easy. The role of staff is critical. They must
have the skills and knowledge that enable them to become
the catalyst that enables children to change old habits,
destructive responses and maladaptive behaviour patterns.
Children who can be seriously out of control and lacking
purpose in their lives find it difficult or impossible
to stop their downward cycle of negative behaviour.
They often cannot re-orientate themselves unless they
receive specialist support within an alternative to
mainstream environment. When new and more appropriate
responses to their lives are learned, they feel safer
and more in control. Only then can they begin to move
towards more mature behaviour, better relationships
and greater academic achievement.
staff have the privilege of being able to change lives
and give our pupils improved opportunities for the future.
Our promise to our pupils and their parents is illustrated
in our school logo which shows a boy and a girl walking
through the keyhole to Pentland School and towards the
doorway to improved opportunities (see picture 2).
responses from some parents, written on our comment
/ concern / compliment evaluation form which is sent
twice per term to parents, indicates that we can fulfil
that promise (see quote boxes to the right).
positive ethos: the cornerstone of life at Pentland
and maintaining a strong school ethos where pupils and
staff respect each other and work hand in hand towards
shared goals is the bedrock of our life at Pentland.
We are proud of this, while not pretending that it is
always easy. Only when our pupils develop respect and
esteem for themselves and then for others can they appreciate
their interdependence with others. Then they begin to
learn about and fulfil their duties and responsibilities
within the school community and, as they progress, in
society. We have tried to be systematic in building
up our ethos and checking regularly with all the 'interested
parties' - children, families, staff, social workers
and other professionals - to find out what they think
we do well and also in what ways we could improve. Pentland
School was runner-up for the year 2000 Scottish Schools
Ethos Network Award, but that was not all that 2000
held for us!
original school in Chryston (see picture 1) was on inconvenient
split sites and too small for comfort. We were increasingly
unable to accommodate and help the significant number
of pupils referred to us as experiencing insurmountable
difficulties despite the many and varied interventions
tried by their schools. Larger and vastly more suitable
accommodation became available (see picture 3) and we
moved in November 2000. It all sounded quite simple...
relocation, a potential for crisis
pupils are often confused and troubled, struggling to
find their way through an undergrowth of dysfunction.
They need consistency of routine and approach. Even
small changes in circumstances can lead to further distress
and even regression. When children, and some adults
too, are faced with the ambiguity, anxiety and loss
of control that can accompany major change, they can
become depleted physically and emotionally exhausted.
We fully expected our pupils to be anxious and unsettled
during the move and possibly cause themselves and others
distress. We had the potential for a crisis and it was
crucial that the staff were able to minimise the inevitable
trauma associated with our school relocation.
Some people view changes as threatening and are often
reluctant to acknowledge the need for change. When change
can no longer be ignored, they have too little time
left to plan appropriately. They respond in reactive
rather than in pro-active ways. We are fortunate that
all members of our staff work as a team. Individually
and collectively they are 'opportunity-orientated' people.
While recognising the potential difficulties involved
in the school's relocation, they were also able to appreciate
the potential advantages. They have developed and demonstrated
the necessary resilience and skills to deal with inevitable
disruptions. This ability to cope with discomfort comes
from knowing that they do not need to disguise or deny
their feelings, but can rather share their worries by
capitalising on the ethos of acceptance and support
that is available from the team. Our staff were committed
to the move.
was now imperative that both staff and pupils worked
together to plan for the move so that all involved became
aware of their individual and corporate responsibilities
to enable a successful move to be made.
We meet as a whole school weekly for around 40 minutes
(see picture 4). Pupils and staff sit in a circle and
are involved in various activities, all of which are
designed to promote enjoyment, co-operation and community
spirit. Importantly, each week there is a carefully
planned theme arising either from an event during the
week or a sub-topic from our personal and social development
programme. For example, the topic of the summer term
is 'the rights and responsibilities of pupils and staff'.
Circletime also provides an open agenda slot when pupils
can say how they feel about aspects of their school
life. Their views can be discussed. Decisions reached
either in the circle, if appropriate, or by staff later,
are reported in our Circletime log book. Here are some
views about rights and responsibilities recently generated
by our older pupils:
have the right to be heard. We have a responsibility
to listen to others, and not interrupt because it
takes away their right to be heard.
circle is a listening circle where we value and
support each other. It helps us feel good about
ourselves and it makes us feel like a team.
give each other advice about our behaviour and we
always close by patting each other on the back and
celebrating all the achievements we've made in the
play games in the circle to practise our skills
like co-operation and listening.
have clear rules about turn taking.
have a right to voice our opinions freely and expect
to have our feelings protected.
we face up to our responsibilities, we earn our
golden time. We sign up and invest heavily in this.
know there are penalties to pay if we abuse the
rights of others.
2: The school logo
son 'J' has changed from being constantly
troubled and in trouble to being happier
and less stressed...he can now play with
others and attend parties...his schoolwork
has come on by huge amounts...I could not
begin to think what would happen to him
had he not gone to your school.
son 'P' has stopped bedwetting and having
nightmares since starting at Pentland. He
is a lot happier in a small and supportive
am so happy for 'T' now that he is in a
school where people can understand and help
him with his problems.
4: We have whole school, class and staff