Blondy’s People …. Steve Warner
Welcome to episode 11 of Blondy’s people and I hope people are starting to see where this is all leading. If not…don’t worry…. all will become clear at the end of Blondy’s people.
I forget what stories I have told or not along the way so you will have to forgive me if you find me repeating myself….
I need to set the scene for this part of the blog.
Blondy, aged 14, has not been in her education setting for 4 days. This was not unusual, what was more unusual is that she had come in on a Friday. Not been in all week but had turned up on a Friday. The “Normal” pattern, if any, would be Monday…no Blondy, Tuesday…maybe in the afternoon. Wednesday, maybe with her mum bringing her in and lots of arguing…. Thursday, maybe but she would be gone by lunch time…. Friday, no way. Never.
Blondy did not like school. I could go in deep on the reasons why, but we will save that, but let us be sure that she did not like to attend school and she never attend on Fridays. Ever. If her mum for some reason demanded she went in and drove her to school, Blondy would simply wait for her mum to leave the school, and then Blondy would walk out the door and would not return home for several days. Blondy’s mum started to realise that if she made her daughter go to school on a Friday then she would not know where her daughter was for several days after, so stopped taking her in on a Friday. I tell you this in this much detail so you understand that the first mistake school staff made in the story I am about to tell you is that Blondy had come to school on a Friday and they was not concerned.
Blondy arrived at school on the Friday at about 9:45. She was late. When you arrived late, you had too right down the reason why. The receptionist barley looked up at Blondy and just pushed the book towards her and pointed to where she had to explain why she was late. Blondy wrote her reason and the receptionist buzzed her in…never looking at the book.
Blondy went into the school and to her class. As she entered there was a hushed silence. Most of the kids looked at her and then either whispered to the person next to them or said nothing. The teacher, who was not a nice lady, said something along the lines of “Oh look who has decided to join us”. The teacher either did not notice or did not care to notice that a class full of hyped up student went quite when Blondy entered the room. Another mistake.
Blondy said nothing but lowered herself into her chair, flinching as her back mad contact with the back of the chair. She lent forward on the desk.
It was mid-June, A hot day. Blondy had on a hooded long-sleeved jacket and jogging bottoms. The teacher never asked her to remove her jacket or showed any professional curiosity as to why she had this long sleeve coat on in a very warm classroom. The school had stopped challenging Blondy around Uniform months ago. Another mistake. Blondy would no longer come to school in uniform but would often come in expensive clothes and lots of jewellery. Never challenged. Never questioned. Except by one history teacher.
Anyway, this day, the Friday, the lesson continued and when the teacher went round to check the work and came to Blondys’s desk, no work had taken place. Blondy had just sat there. Not making a sound or disturbing anyone. The teacher sighed and said, “What the point in you being here” and walked away. Blondy watched the teacher walk away from her. Her head was still ringing, had been for hours, after being repeatedly punched and kicked in the back and the back of the head the night before and the words ..”Don’t mark her fucking face, she’s got social” being shouted as she was hit. One of the young people sitting next to her, a friend, whispered “Blond, are you Ok…I heard what happened”. Blondy just stared at the young person.
Think what I just said…. Why would a child as troubled as Blondy come to class and just sit there, not saying a word and not doing any work? That for me would ring alarm bells.
The next lesson was with the history teacher Rob. Blondy liked Rob. He sat the class down and gave them the LO for the lesson. This was a specialist school. A PRU. So, lots of shouting and protesting about the lesson but eventually they settled. Then Rob came over and asked Blondy to come outside the classroom which she did.
He bent down to her level and looked at her. “What happened” he asked. Blondy just looked at him. Unsure what to answer. What ever that answer was it would not be the truth. So, she shrugged.
Rob looked at the makeup covering the black eye she had, that the receptionist and the other teacher and TA had not noticed. Had not cared to notice.
Rob got cover for his class and walked Blondy to the deputy heads room. The deputy head asked some questions and tried to establish if Blondy was OK. Whilst Blondy was in the room the deputy stepped outside with Rob and Blondy could here Rob say to the deputy “Why the hell would they not come and tell us she is on a Friday!! We have discussed the risk to this child a million times!! They have not even raised that she has a bloody black eye and £400 watch on for fucks sake”.
I went to school that day because I needed help but didn’t know what or how to. I couldn’t tell any adult my truth because I knew I would get in trouble. Even if you say “I was made to take Heroin to Brighton” the fact is…you still took Heroin to Brighton.
I remember one teacher, not long after that…probably one of my last days saying quite loudly as they walked past me “Rob keeps saying she is a victim but I don’t get to swan around with gold chains round my neck and a new jacket each week”….I become confrontational. Asked her who was she speaking about like that. I threatened her. I told the Head what she had said about me but that was never considered. Just my behaviour. Not seen as a reaction to a comment, but a threat to a member off staff by a “Troubled child”. The teacher’s comment had made me feel…. dirty. I knew what I was doing was “Dirty”. I saw the way people looked at me. And the only way I knew…at 14…to deal with that, the way she had just made me feel, was to get angry. And I was excluded, and I think I only went back once after that. When my mum was called in to discuss what happened Rob met her at the door. He was not part of the meeting but made sure he was there to see my mum. He told her that He was worried about me. That she should be concerned that if I were not in school then I would be out on the street. He told my mum that staff members didn’t really get what was going on. I was there when he said all that to her. In the meeting, 5 minutes later, they were calling me word like “Unlawful” and “uncontrollable”. My mum raised the points that Rob had just said to her and they were ignored.
I hope the above highlights the difference life can make when a school cares. No…it’s not the school’s responsibility to keep children safe from county lines and youth violence…. but they have a part to play.
If the receptionist had been bothered to read the book that I signed in it said, “late because no one gives a fuck about me”.
Today’s Guest for Blondy’s people is Steve Warner, A deputy head who does care.
Steve wrote me a blog called “What did you eat for Breakfast?” a while ago and it received a mad amount of attention because people wanted to hear what schools had to say about their stance on county lines and youth violence.
Steve openly says t hat some schools are not doing enough around this but has also come up with a way to support this with “Beyond The Gate” which you can see HERE which is a tool kit addressing youth violence
Steve wants it to be mandatory that school staff receive good training around understanding and spotting the signs of county lines and youth violence. He wants all staff members in school to know what this looks like. He wants schools to stop being afraid of the stigma that is attached to saying “Yes…county lines affect our school…and…youth violence is an issue” and instead work together to try and reduce this.
Steve is looking for a long term, holistic whole school response to county lines an youth violence that needs to include students, staff, parents, the police , youth workers, health ,social care, family support, offender support and other outside agencies and partners. Funny that…. Because Blondy’s people may just have the answer.
Steve Warner is one of Blondy’s people because as an adult, I see someone who like me, wants to just work on a solution rather than find blame. Someone who sees that it takes a village to raise a child and that as professionals and agencies we need to stop being precious.
He is also one of Blondy’s people because I think he would have asked Blondy why she was at school on a Friday instead of being angry she didn’t do the work……