Last term we held an intervention evening for the year 11 students, who we thought as a school were in the ‘danger zone’.


You know the ones, the quiet kids, who are below their target grade because they don’t know how or are too scared to ask for help.

The noisy bumptious ones who can’t sit still and be quiet so never complete the lesson work, forget their homework, but  are good to have in a class because they aren’t afraid to speak up, share an idea, ask a question.

Then there are ‘those’ kids, the ones whose name is always mentioned at staff briefing and have been since year 7, always  get the blue slips to see the pastoral team, or the white slips for the lunch time detentions. They are late every lesson and walk in like its a badge of honor with the retort ‘I was with miss!’ No apology, no explanation.

We sent out letters for the parents to book appointments with the teachers who have concerns, and we all mustered at our various tables,evidence of infractions, books identified,  battle plans prepared for what needs to be done to improve, war was to commence.

The parents arrived one by one, looking worried, concerned, each 5 minute appointment became 15. Some parents I’d not seen at a parents evening before but had spoken to them on the phone numerous times before.

Some were ready for the war, to lay all the blame at the schools door, ‘you haven’t done enough to support my child with their English’, ‘I’ve asked for help but no one has come back to me.’  ‘What are you going to do between now and the exam to make sure my child achieves?’  These are the parents whose child doesn’t speak up, sits quietly, wishing they’d stop talking, as they know that we are doing every we can to help them, but actually they need to ask more, do more in lessons.

Next are the parents who come in knowing that no matter what their child has done, if only we understood them more, had more time, gave them more resources they’d do better. They are waiting for the school to do all the work.

Finally there are the parents who have spent more time in school since they left school, then they ever did when they were supposed to be there. They sit there apologizing to me for the behavior, attitude, but ‘there are issues!’ They are pleading with their child to realize their mistakes before it’s too late, willing them to do better, not repeat their mistakes or those of others they knew.

Explaining that they are at war with their children. They don’t listen to them, don’t respect them, are drinking, possibly doing drugs, on their gadgets for endless hours and when they aren’t they are out late when they should be revising. Their child sits there, slumped in the chair, sullen, refusing to make eye contact, not caring whether they are causing their parents pain, worry. Not wanting to be in school because ‘it’s boring’.

They are looking to me to provide the answer, not to give up on their child, because they need to believe that I care and that somehow I can get through to them. Make them see that education is the key to a bright future. It isn’t about the grades at this stage. It’s about relationships, understanding and making it through to the end. Surviving the dog fights, to prove that they are capable and worth something more.

I help by giving them the strategies to help with revision, the apps that might engage them, the revision sites that tell them everything they need to know to make it to the end. Parents thank me, leave with their heads low and furrowed brows, waiting for the next battle when they get home.

As the teacher I sat through this evening listening, understanding, reassuring  these parents. But, I was struggling with my own situation.

For some of  you, you are aware that I have a son ‘with issues’ and this year,  more so than others these issues have caused us not only to enter the ‘danger zone’ but be living in it continually.

I look at my now 18 year old son, who, for reasons to many to share has disengaged with education, family and society to some part. Which has led me to be ‘That’ parent, looking to the college to provide answers, support, guidance on what I can do to help, change or prevent total melt down.

But we are only human, both as parents and teachers, sometimes there is nothing more we can do, we have provided the framework of a good home, manners, respect, responsibility, we have scaffolded the learning so that each year they built on their knowledge, expertise. We have modeled the behavior that society expects. We fed, clothed, helped with homework, put plasters on knees, lent them the car when theirs was in the shop, loved them.

But there comes a time when we have to step away. We have to let them be who they are. Allow them to stand in their own skin.

Ultimately its’s their decision.

So as a parent and a teacher I won’t give up. But I won’t take on their issues, the excuses anymore. Now is the time to be counted. Interventions are part of what we do as professional teachers, but as parents sometimes we have to stop, walk away. Hope that all we have done is enough and that somewhere inside the right decisions are made in time. That they reengage.