When Should A School Stop Caring?

There have been many discussions, at both a strategic and an individual student level, about when the school should stop providing the primary care. It was completely understandable that a number of staff felt the whole discussion was wrong, that no student could ever have an issue that the school wasn’t prepared to handle. I disagreed – would you?

My perspective centred around 2 main thoughts: Stop sign

  1. The school had limited resources and its primary focus was education and
  2. The school offered general support not specialist care.

Whilst understanding every school will have different staff with different skills, it is important to discuss and acknowledge your limitations – your strengths and your weaknesses. Let me put some scenarios for us to ‘debate’ together.

  1. The student that struggles to attend school due to socially triggered anxiety. They are most vulnerable at breakfast and struggle to get ready and to catch the school bus. Would the school be willing for you to drop by the home at 7:45 am each morning to offer encouragement and support? If not drop by then give them a call? How about, when they do arrive at school, they have a daily appointment with you before assembly?
  2. The student with a suspected eating disorder. Their friends have been to see you because they are concerned. You have spoken to the student who says there isn’t a problem. Do you monitor the situation yourself? Speak to the parents (I understand that sometimes speaking to parents is dependent on the age of the child as well as the topic).

The crux of the debate is when (maybe even if) do you refer on to someone else, a specialist, outside of school – this would be done in full consultation with parents. I think it is quite acceptable to say either

  1. I have only a limited amount of time and have to carefully consider any long term intensive support requirements for any individual student. and/or
  2. I have limited expertise in this specific area and feel that you would be best served by referring you to a specialist service. [For me this would be things like psychosis; eating disorders, sexual abuse – to name but a few)

Of course I would continue being available for catch ups or emergency situations but I wouldn’t be the primary source of care and support. I don’t think that’s a cop out – just the opposite. It’s about giving the student the most appropriate level of care.

Do you get where I am coming from? Do you agree or….? Please comment below.

when should a school stop caring

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  • Kylie

    Refreshing Nigel. Schools are expected to be and handle such a complex web of issues these days on extremely limited budgets and time constraints… ultimately we are there to educate and inspire…. specialists are so important and linking with external agencies needs to be made easier for all. Budget cuts, families with limited financial resources mean that many schools have to take on these issues…. teaching is a tough gig but so so rewarding.

    • Nigel

      Thanks, Kylie. I agree with the thought that it is sometimes very difficult to refer a family to an outside agency when you know that could create a financial burden. There are tough calls to be made – I just know that sometimes I wasn’t always the family’s best solution.