At risk of exclusion? Young people have a say

Here, a group of young people who go to the Inclusion Unit at Dunfermline High in Fife talk to Reach about how it has helped them keep learning.

The unit is for pupils who have been excluded from school or who are at risk of exclusion. The unit helps and supports them to either go back to school or stay at school.

The pupils talked about why they were excluded, the kinds of work and activities they do in the unit, and the support they get from the staff there.

They also talked about how attending the unit has changed them for the better, and give some good advice to other young people.

Their advice includes:

“Think about what you do before you do it.”

“I used to be a proper eejit. Now I’ve grown up a bit. Now I would talk to teachers more.”

“The only one that can help you is yourself.”

Reach: I’m here today in Dunfermline High School talking to some young people who attend the Inclusion Unit. Can you tell me the kinds of reasons a young person might attend the Unit?

Pupil 1: For bad behaviour in school like fighting, swearing at teachers, being aggressive towards others and loads of other things. If you’re getting bullied then you can go into the Inclusion Unit and they’ll try to avoid you from being bullied and help you out and talk to you about the bullying.

Reach: So the main reasons are behaviour in school that has been a wee bit challenging and also if you’re under pressure in some kind of way.

Jade: You get all different kinds of reasons. You can get folk with problems who’re not having good times in classes or at home and you get people who’ve been excluded who go in the Inclusion Unit for a certain amount of time.

Reach: Can you tell me how much time you actually spend in the Unit?

Sarah: I’m only in 3 periods a week and there’s a drop-in thing at lunchtime and break time that you can go into. Or if Lynne’s got somebody else in, like a visitor, she’ll ask me to come and help her.

Pupil 1: It depends what you’ve been bad for. The most you get up for is 2 weeks and you start at 9 o’clock and finish at half three.

Linda: So you can be in full-time but only up to 2 weeks but the Unit’s not there to take you out of class on a long-term basis. Can you tell me about the kinds of things you do while you’re in the Unit?

Pupil 1: You can get work brought to you and when you finish your work you get inclusion activities that involve problem solving, drug and alcohol abuse. If you need to talk to Lynne from the Inclusion Unit about problems in or out of school then she’ll help you.

Jade: If you’re excluded and you’re in there, you’ll go to your classes and get work so you’re not missing out on anything. But if you’re in there for problems you’ll talk to Lynne or you’ll just have a nice calming period and just sit and relax and talk about it if you feel comfortable to.

Reach: So it’s there to support you with your schoolwork but also look at broader issues that might be important in your life. On top of that you get support from the staff. What do you like best about coming to the Unit?

Pupil 4: You can have a one-to-one with Lynne if you have any problems at home or if you’ve got any problems with someone else at school or the teachers then you can get it sorted out. That helps.

Jade: Loads of my friends go there as well and we all just have good chats but it’s not like a youth club. You’re there for a reason and that’s to help you.

Sarah: It’s more like you’re freely open to say what you want to say to Lynne or Kelly or Mr Gardiner. Sometimes people feel more comfortable with not so many people in your classroom. It’s more like you could have a friendship with them rather than just a teacher/pupil. You can be more open. More yourself.

Reach: And that you’re really listened to as well. What’s the hardest bit about coming to the Unit?

Pupil 1: Not knowing what to expect. When I first came into Inclusion I thought it would be a walk in the park but I got a big shock. I found out how it works.

Reach: So they expect quite a lot of you.

Pupil 1: The only thing that can help you is yourself. I came along a big step and I’ve changed quite a lot.

Reach: How would you say the Unit has really helped you?

Pupil 1: The Unit’s helped me because I used to be a proper eejit. I used to always get kicked out. Now that I’ve went into the inclusion Unit I’ve got a lot more mature. I’ve grown up a bit more and now I could talk to teachers if I had a problem instead of taking it out on folk.

Jade: I had a lot of problems with skiving and I got put in the Inclusion Unit for a few days. It put out a sheet for me. It asked questions why I was in the Inclusion Unit. After I came into Inclusion my behaviour changed and I wasn’t so much skiving anymore.

Pupil 4: From first year to halfway through third, I was really wild. I didn’t really bother about school. You just get in trouble too much and then I was Inclusion. I was in for the wrong reasons and then I managed to change. I’m now in there as a mentor for the younger ones to show them and tell them how to behave.

Reach: If you could give any advice to another young person who’s maybe been excluded from school or may be under threat of being excluded, what would be your best advice to give them?

Pupil 1: If you get excluded and you go into Inclusion and you come back out of it, it’s not like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get excluded again to get into Inclusion because it doesn’t work that way. And you’ll just get a bad reputation. A bad name to yourself. And if you be good, you’ll get more opportunities with teachers and they’ll look at you as a more sensible child instead of a daftie.

Jade: Change your behaviour right now because you’re not going to get anywhere in your life.

Sarah: I’d tell them to think about what to do before they’d done it ‘cos when you be excluded it’s on your record and when you grow up that’s handed into college or whatever, but then you miss out on so much. Usually when you’ve been excluded you go into the Unit and then it’s a difficult thing for some people because some people are not as open as other people. I would say to people not to do what they were going to do. Just to think about it before they done it because being excluded is really stupid. Just stay in school. Do what you have to do and just get your head down.

Pupil 4: Get a different group of friends. Friends aren’t really friends if they’re getting you in trouble and getting you down the wrong path. And if you are going down that path and you don’t want to change your friends then really just knuckle down. Dinnae be the stupid one’.

The Inclusion Unit is run by Apex Scotland.