I spent the day on Thursday last week comforting my 16 year old daughter after she opened her GCSES results. I know it’s not an uncommon occurrence to feel disappointed at the results you may have received when you feel you did your very best, but it is just another indicator of how difficult our educational system is for vulnerable young people.
If you’ve been following my posts for any length of time you are probably aware that my adopted daughter shows signs of an avoidant attachment style, which basically means that she can be very compliant at school. The more anxious she feels about anything the more she doesn’t want people to know, so will do whatever she’s told. Of course, some of you are thinking, isn’t that good? Well no it isn’t. Not if that means a child who is really frightened, anxious and confused doesn’t let anyone know that, but instead struggles to focus or concentrate and in turn doesn’t learn.
What has really narked me about my daughter’s experience of secondary school is that after struggling to get through every day in survival mode she’s now finished with nothing to show for her efforts. Of course, we’ve talked about the fact that results don’t define you and about all her strengths etc., but at the end of the day she feels a failure and so do I.
But what of the school? What about their responsibility to our daughter’s education? This is a difficult one to answer as I know there’s only so much a school can do if a child will not tell them when they are finding things difficult. However, really understanding the avoidant young person is a start. We seem to find it easier to focus on the more ambivalent (attention needing) or disorganised (unpredictable) styles of attachment as we can’t ignore them. We can however ignore the avoidant child as they dissociate and seem to just be plodding along. They are very anxious and not learning if they don’t feel calm and safe.
My daughter had five years of on and off bullying from a particular child that never was dealt with effectively. Continual worries around friendships and fitting in. Subjects that covered topics too triggering for her such as domestic violence and abandonment. Various teachers who didn’t take the time to get to know anything about her, and hundreds of missed opportunities to help her progress in her learning.
Don’t get me wrong they are a good school and not uncommon to most secondary schools with lots of other distractions and targets to be met. Of course, if they had been able to connect with her a bit more earlier on, then she may have contributed more to their overall results!
We have a long way to go before our schools are trauma informed as they need to be to make sure every child has the opportunity to do their best. My daughter now wants to go into schools and help them to understand how difficult it is for children with her background – so maybe something good may have come from her experiences. I’m only sorry she had to experience the last 5 years and then seemingly end on such a low note. Let’s hope college will be more fulfilling!! – Watch this space…..