Leading in Battle

I manage an additionally resourced provision (ARP) for children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs. Pupils are usually referred to us when their behaviour puts them at risk of exclusion from their mainstream school. We generally take children for a year, during which time we aim to assess their needs and give them the strategies they need to return to mainstream, or recommend a more specialist provision if their needs are more complex and long-term.

All of this means myself and my team work with extremely vulnerable children and families. The seven of us face a number of complex issues and work in extreme circumstances at times. You’re probably thinking you can imagine my battles – but you might be wrong.

The battle isn’t dealing with the children’s behaviour. We’re equipped for that. The skill sets of my team members are different and complimentary and we’re united by our care and vision for the children. And, no matter how challenging their behaviour, the children are never the enemy. The forces against us are different. There’s a flawed bureaucracy that delays judgements and decisions, leaving staff and young people in limbo. Sometimes, even in the same school, there isn’t the understanding there should be of what we do. For example, if I had a pound for every time someone’s said, ‘Oh yes, the autism ARP’, I’d be a rich woman. Sometimes it can feel like we’re battling parents (although they are fighting their own battles even before they come to us), as they and their children have so many bad experiences of school they find it hard to trust. How can I convince them that this is the light at the end of the tunnel, not just another professional judging them?

Which brings me to the real battle. Every time I think ‘How can I…?’ I’ve forgotten who put me here. God has given me this role and the real battle is to accept and remember that in the heat of the other fights and scuffles. When I think: How can I convince this parent? How can I meet this child’s needs? How can I meet this staff member’s needs? How do I show people outside of the ARP how and why we do things?’ I have to remind myself: because God gave you the authority. This year has brought some genuine fears and concerns but the only times I’ve found it really hard are when I’ve started to doubt myself. I just have to remember that I don’t need all the answers. If I’ve pursued every avenue, listened to everyone concerned and put my time into the right things, then I have used my authority and lived the role I’ve been given. Often, when I do remember this and relax, new solutions come to mind, along with a peace which I believe transfers to others. Being successful in my battles means remembering I’m a leader, not the leader and His plans will always see me through.