Today’s question is “Why do some kids misbehave?” and I’m in conversation with Meic Griffiths who leads the primary and secondary response to behavioural management for the Royal Borough of Greenwich – providing assessment, outreach and nurture throughout the primary phase and the main SEMH provision for some of the most vulnerable pupils both within and across boroughs. In this episode we explore the reasons that underpin distressing and challenging behaviour in children and young people.
Reducing Exclusions Through a Trauma Informed Approach – on demand course
Create an Effective Culture of Behaviour Management in your school – on demand course
Turn Around the Behaviour of a Tricky Class – on demand course
Prevent Poor Behaviour by Motivating & Engaging Pupils – on demand course
Please note that the transcript is auto generated
Meic Griffiths: I’m Meic Griffiths, and I have the most ridiculous. Job title of being an executive head teacher of the Imperium Federation. I run both Waterside with crime rate for SMH children, which means social, emotional, mental health. And I also run King soak, which is the secondary version of water site. I run all the exclusion six day provisions for the bearer.
I also ran a complex ASD unit and I run an outreach service that goes into every primary school within Greenwich and works with children by trying to help them stay within mainstream. Settings before their behaviors become really interesting. They have to come to one of my buildings.
Pooky Knightsmith: When do you sleep?
That’s a lot of jobs.
Meic Griffiths: I don’t, I, I’m not a big fun, but there, there is, there is some parts of me that are very much like Margaret’s Archer. And I have, I survive on about three and a half. I was asleep a day. Any longer than that, I become quite irritable victim to sleep well. Don’t come looking to me for a liar and it doesn’t work.
Pooky Knightsmith: And in fairness, I think I’ve kind of noticed that because I do see sometimes responses to you on Twitter at those silly hours in the morning. When I expect only to be speaking to my friends in foreign lands. But there you are. Um, did you. Kind of, you know, was this the dream? Did you growing up think, do you know what I’d like to do all day work with really what’d you call them?
Meic Griffiths: Go into the arts. Um, I wanted to, my degree was in linguistics originally and I wanted, um, to go and become a translator. Um, I had this giddy notion that being, um, able to speak millions of languages and sit in a box somewhere and talk to high flying people was interesting. And then worked out that, talking about the common fisheries policy really wasn’t that interesting.
Um, so, um, I fell into teaching, um, mainly inspired by my art. Um, could have been ridiculously my head teacher when I was in middle school. Um, and discover, deliver primary. I really enjoyed earlier years and this was at a time when foundation phase, as it is in Wales. Um, was starting. And I, I grabbed that with both hands because at the time we met or primary teachers were really fighting year six and they didn’t have them in early years and I want it to be different.
And I really wanted to learn how children GaN their career in education. Have they learned to read because by the time they got to me at the end of their journey, most of those things have been done. And, um, and that started me off. Um, and then ridiculously became, um, a deputy head without trying very long story.
So we’re not going to go into stuff, but I can say I was sent by my damn head teacher to go for an interview as a practice. Way up to the County so that if I made a fool of myself, nobody would know, and they gave me the job.
So that was, that was not expected. Um, and I became the head teacher at that school very shortly after becoming deputy, um, not through design. Um, but then my career sort of meandered by going into different people’s schools and making them work. And it was just by chance that I’d seen Waterside advertised a few times.
So it made me think that they weren’t going all they wanted. I didn’t know what it did. I didn’t know what it was. Um, and I turned up here and the board wouldn’t mind me telling you this, but they didn’t show me the children and they didn’t show me the building and they didn’t show me the stuff. Well, when you came
Pooky Knightsmith: to see it, where you came to see it, what did they show you?
Meic Griffiths: So I’m showing the next door school, which was a mainstream school. And I didn’t know, I, you know, I’ve been a head for a long time. I know it’s difficult to believe looking at this very useful face. Right. But I had for a very long time, um, I didn’t, I didn’t think that was unusual that I, you know, I took my lesson observations in a mainstream setting and, um, it was only on day one when they allowed me to come in that I recognize that five-year-olds running Gemesis is done.
The court offices. Is that me and screaming, obscenity teeth, not where I’d come from,
but now no, I wouldn’t change it for the world because I I’m in all of my head shapes. I, I think I’ve made a difference in, in the vast majority of the places I’ve been to, but I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough to see how the work we do here and now at the secondary really does impact on. Not just the child, but the family and the community and give some life chances of, I didn’t expect them to have before.
So I’m, I’m, I’m really proud of that, even though I’m tired. I am really proud of it. So how long have you been there towards the flight in 2015? Um, Waterside was not the building. It is now. It was very different and children weren’t in the best spaces that they could be. And they would end up in a position where, um, they weren’t really educated.
Okay. Very well. And there wasn’t an expectation for them to do very well. Um, but do you bring the first two years, um, we managed to turn the building around. We started to return children back to mainstream and they’ve been very successful. They’re doing their GCSE and, and doing incredibly well, um, or they’ve gone into vocational training.
Um, and then two years ago I was given the secondary school. It w it had a different name when I was given that, um, it had been in requiring improvement for a long time into special measures. And in three and a half terms, we turned it into Goodwill. That stunting features. By not sleeping. That’s basically it.
Um, I think the methodology that I introduced here, it worked really well, which was that you have the same expectation if not higher, um, of what children can do, um, that there is consistency with behavior and how you deal with behavior and that you make them believe and feel that you are there for them, that they are held in mind with you all the time.
And the secondary model is exactly the same. So a key stage three, um, it’s run like a primary school. So they, they stay mainly in their one classroom with their teacher and the TA. Um, they go at Stu food, tech, science, and PE, but the rest of their day is mainly within their classroom. And then key stage four.
Um, which is your, uh, nine quotes. They go and do all the options like they were doing the mainstream secondary. They have a uniform. Um, the expectation is really high. We do subjects that, um, our main student colleagues have dropped because of link table issues. So we will still do statistics in math, and that’s a really complicated thing to get GCSE.
And we succeed at GCSE. Why do you do it to prove a point more than anything else? Because the sorts of children that I play with, uh, already removed from the system, not expected to be part of anything. They’re always going to be on the outskirts of the world and also their families. So they will have found the primary school very interesting and not, not, not where they should be.
Um, if they haven’t come to Waterside, they’ve more than likely been excluded quite a lot. Um, if they’ve managed to go to a mainstream secondary. Then most of them want to survive, um, past autumn one in year seven, perhaps they will get to the end of year seven, just don’t knew. Right? And then they fall out of education and they go to alternative providers or they don’t go to alternative providers and then finding a pathway that you don’t really want them to find.
So bringing them in and giving them the, the power to choose their learning and tell you, you know, this is what I’d like to learn. This is what I want to become. And then actually providing that for them, that, that gives them a bit of power and a bit of kudos. And, you know, in the two years that we’ve been there, my head of school and I have gone from having no data to report at the end of key stage fall to now having GCSE grades as an equivalent, if not better, in some cases than the mainstream counterparts, Moving on to training, they’re going on to further education, um, and their families are settled.
And during this entire pandemic, it is, I don’t know how prime time is supposed to be this Brian really proud of it. And not one of my families were referred to central K and not one of my families referred to the mush process and not one of my families have been in trouble with the police during the entire lockdown.
So private to them, how proud that’s made me because two years ago they wouldn’t have been in that state so that, yeah, we’ve worked hard.
Pooky Knightsmith: You’ve worked really hard by the sounds of it. Do you have a kind of typical child or family that ends up with your school or is it very diverse?
Meic Griffiths: I think once people would like to think that they are wiped British.
Boys in the main, um, where men is either a single parent or a single parent and where they may not have training or education to a level that you’d hope, or they may not be in employment. Um, I do have some of those families. Um, I also have families where mainstream have failed them dramatically, and that’s a mixture of both the mainstream setting and the family, no one wanting to engage in it, being part of that certain pitch of social care, um, being on things and not on things, et cetera.
Um, but I do have middle-class families. Who’ve got children, who’ve got interesting behaviors that need to be helped and supported. So it is quite diverse. Um, the vast majority of the secondary is, um, bang. Um, But that’s, that’s changing more in the past two years, we’re getting more, um, white, British through the door.
Um, but it’s the first time in that school’s history, um, where parents are actively choosing them to send their children to mainstream them fail they’d rather than come through our system and then succeed. So. Wow.
Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. And so the thing that the children who are schooled with you have in common is perhaps that mainstream isn’t the right place for them, for whatever reason.
Tell me more about that. What, what, you know, in what way you talked about mainstream failing, some of these kids mean, what does this look like? What, what state are they in when they get
Meic Griffiths: to you? Um, it depends. So if I take it, if I try to find the typical child, which is really difficult in SMH, because they are all really interesting, um, they will, if they are in primary, they will usually have got to about uniform, um, where.
School of tried everything. So let’s, let’s presume the school is given full, full weight behind what this child is displaying. So they may be uncooperative. They may have been destructive. They may be violent. Um, they may be a bit sweary. Um, they may have enjoyed tipping tables over all sorts of stuff. And they’ll have been given short, fixed term exclusions of one, two, three, five days.
And then somebody will have recognized that this isn’t settling down and then usual routes for them. It’s usually that they, they, they bring up two magical words. So they bring out ADHD, ASD, because that covers absolutely everything that explains every child’s game. Yeah. And actually it doesn’t because an ASD child’s behaviors, it’s very different from an SMH behavior.
Um, there are some overlaps, but you can normally spot when it’s linked to their ASB and when it’s not, and then they usually go on a treadmill for an HCP. Um, and then they usually end up being given one-to-one support, which doesn’t work because you shutter that port TA’s life by giving them that one very interesting person for day in, day out, or they ended up coming our way.
And, um, actually what they need to do is to intervene earlier, cause that child will have displayed behaviors in reception, in nursery, um, and getting professionals involved at an earlier stage. The vast majority them can be settled unless they are really diagnosable behaviors. And if it’s stuff that’s happening at home, then you’ve got a chance to work with social care and work with the family to get things changed.
But the older they are when they come to us, the more complex it takes. So we, we estimate that it takes between six to nine weeks for us to one pick one type of behavior. And that can change. As we are picket. So we couldn’t, it can take a year to unpick two behaviors quite easily, and to make them settled.
Pooky Knightsmith: What kind of behavior, when you say unpick a behavior, what sort
Meic Griffiths: of thing? So if they are, if we go to the extreme, so I have, I have behaviors that most people would hope they would never see in the classroom. So if you’ve got children who will. Go from naught to 100 for no apparent reason, but there is always a reason, um, and they become hyper violence.
So that might be that they will bite kick punch spit, turntables, throw things through windows, attack, teachers with scissors or whatever implements they have for us to work out why they do that. We have to unpack that behavior before it starts. So we need to see it. No. When somebody tells me that they’ve got the worst child to ever, I’ve got an entire school of the worst children ever, allegedly, but that my children are in at this precise moment.
And there’s a classroom behind this wall and you can’t kill them, but they’re all in. And I haven’t put them in gauges. Um, We then have to unpick it. So we watch why they did what they did. And the reason we are a success at this is because we consistently and methodically track every single element their day.
So if, for example, there’s a young man who’s next door. Um, one of his, his towels that let you know that his anxiety level is rising. If the fact that you’ll get his pen and he will take the lid off and click it, it clicks it only an odd number of times. So if he does fall, nothing’s going to happen.
Nothing but three, you know, the T starting to feel a little bit anxious. If you don’t pick that up, then, then he moves on to tapping something three times and then it goes, so you have to click that twice. So once you get to twice. Ooh, what can we do to help you now? What am I going to do to stop this game to a point that you’re going to get interesting.
And what you need to do is unpack it to the point that they start to feel what they’re feeling. Because a lot of our CMH children can’t really differentiate that the good feelings that you want them to have, as opposed to the negative ones, it all feels exactly the same. They’re just enjoying that heightened state.
So you need to work out how to get them to understand that that’s a point for them. And then they get to a point that they can ask you and say, I need help before it gets to that bit. And so the young man next door has been with us since September I’ve locked down in between, but we’ve worked with them consistently throughout.
And here’s the last interesting moment was in January. Oh, wow. Wow. And he’s now on a pathway to going back to mainstream in October. You would have had him in, in September, but unfortunately we’ve not been able to throw him into anybody else’s schools, but he’s going, he’s going back in October because as you
Pooky Knightsmith: read that transition has to be dealt with really carefully.
Meic Griffiths: Yeah. It takes seven weeks for us to transfer them in successfully. If we go too quick, it goes a bit wrong. Um, we have a set plan per child. It’s very individualized. So we, we work out what they mean strengths are, and we put them in those lessons first so that they feel that they are an expert. And then we put them in the things that they are not that comfortable with.
My stuff will go with them for the entire seven weeks. Wow. And then that school who’s been kind enough to take one of mine back, both at primary and secondary get, um, my senior leadership and my support for a year free of charge. So if that child wobbles, before they exclude, we demand that we are contacted and then we arrive.
We help reset the behavior. We sit in the meetings so that the payer and into the child know that there is some do understands and listens and isn’t against them. And then we can normally put it where it should be. Wow.
Pooky Knightsmith: So talk to me a bit more about what, what is happening with kids who are arriving with you, whose behavior is interesting.
I mean, why does that happen? Why, why are some kids naughty?
Meic Griffiths: I’m going to stop you with that word. Let’s say that that word is a naughty word. Naughty is when you’ve told everybody you’re on a diet yet. And you go into the staff room and you eat five biscuits and don’t tell him you, it really naughty is when you go into the stuff from the entire pack.
And then you go back in later on, go, which grade you pick is ignoring behavior. Isn’t naughty because I’m not a big, the fun of seeing that behavior communicates all the time can do. But sometimes, you know, as a grownup, I can make myself interesting just because I feel the urge on that day. You know, I want to be grumpy cause it’s giving me that feeling.
So it’s not communicating. I’m just making myself feel that way. Um, for children. I mean, there’s, there’s some research that was done in MSU by, um, and she came up with a whole method, which was that you could categorize behavior in four ways, which was that most people demonstrate to behave as if they’re hungry, angry.
Lonely stroke, bored or tired. And that’s a good simplistic because I can be hungry, but I will still be quite a nice person. You know, I can be bold, but I will sit through it and look place it’s because I’ve learned social convention. So I can understand why that research took flight, because it was used quite a lot recently in America, um, because it sort of gave people, um, a rationale for why they were being less tolerant and more irritable.
Um, but actually in children, I think there is this, this, that bit doesn’t quite work so well because they haven’t got the experience level on either. So a child may be hungry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their behaviors will alter. Um, they just may continually argue for food. I think you have to look wider than that.
Um, and I think that’s down towards the system. Some of you see. And I’m not saying that behavior has changed dramatically since the 1920s, 1930s, but I think what has changed is how society deals with children. So you go from a model where children were seen and not heard to a model where children’s opinions are the center of everybody’s world.
And then there’s no crossover, there’s no Venn diagram. So you’re either quite, you’re quite bindery on that. I think to simplify it, I think when they, through my door, it’s quite easy for me to work out what type of parent I’m meeting, um, and where the behavior may be starting to be ingrained. So if we take up the diagnosable stuff, so if we put that, the things that, um, odd ASD, ADHD, all of that, if we take out of the way it’s normal misbehaviors, um, sometimes it’s them to children not understanding what you’ve asked.
And that can be either deliberately not understanding or the fact that they, they really don’t understand. So that could be that the parent has made a sentence so complex when they’ve asked them to do something that they don’t know where they started. Um, children are really good at being rewarded for their misbehavior, and I find parents get that really, really wrong.
Um, so take the sticker charts such a way, but if I was your child cooking and I wanted a snack, for example, I may not be the sort of child that would write to rational arguments and present that to you. I may be the sort of child that would knock the knickers off a nun at you when you. And I will. I’ve learned from looking at the world around me, that effecting nag and in fact to newly request.
And if I continually wine, eventually you give in and get what I want. And so you’re rewarding that behavior. And so once that behavior has been rewarded once, then they know that they can get away with it again and again, and again, that’s why, when you see, um, toddlers lying down in supermarkets, kicking and screaming, they may not really know what they’re doing, but they do know that by doing this gets the reaction that they’re looking for, which is I will get full attention and I will get something that then translates further and further up as they get older.
And so they learn that they can control and manipulate grownups. And if they can do that to their, their parent or their guardian, then they can do that in class because the class teacher will have 30 of them. Yeah, and it’s not going to be prepared to deal with somebody whining and winching it all day.
And why would
Pooky Knightsmith: they not just ask nicely?
Meic Griffiths: Okay. So, you know, we would all like to think that children are given clear role models for language and behavior, but actually they’re being given so many cues at the moment from both home life, social media gaming systems. And I’m not laying the blame at ma at media in any shape of yeah, but children now have far more social cues than we did.
So if you take back to my generation, you know, I have four channels on my television. Um, eventually there wasn’t a lot of interaction. They didn’t have computers, whereas now they are bombarded with, this is how you behave. This is how you get this. This is how you get that. And so they’ve learned these things.
And so I think that you’ve got a consistent parenting model at home where that parent has a very. Set guidance for them. So, you know, you will get this. If you do this, this will happen. If you do this, I will not accept this. Or you will have parenting that wobbles between it, or you are parenting at the other end of the scale where they’re just giving entirely.
You’ve also got that whole toddler bed that some children don’t grow out of and some grownups, and I’m certain, you’ve met them as well. Okay. Who tests your boundaries on a daily basis? And some people really do get off on just testing boundaries. They really enjoy that feeling of watching another person have to manage it and deal with it.
And they are getting feedback on that because they’re getting the control back. They’ve made you do that, and then they, you, they are making you tweeting more and ridiculously the thing that people either jumped you first, or they forget. So depending where your brain needs, it’s about trauma. And a lot of our children have experienced trauma.
Now we’re to a level that they’ve never experienced in history. And I’m very guarded with the word trauma because we’re in a trauma informed school, but there is a level of where their anxieties have become learned to be behavior as a response to that anxiety. Um, then they will have attachment issues, um, because they’re looking for somebody to keep them physically and emotionally safe.
And they may not be getting that from the people that they live with. They may not be getting that from the class teacher. They may not have got that from the school that they went to. And so that all builds up into a pattern of, I can now do this in order to make myself safe. I can do this in order to control the world around me.
And if we’re all honest as grownups, we still all do those things. It’s just that we’ve got some level of social convention that makes us realize that we shouldn’t lose ourselves on the form of the supermarket. Um, there’s some times I feel I should just
Pooky Knightsmith: it’s tempting, isn’t it? Yeah. So it sounds like there’s a lot here in terms of what we’re seeing in, in, in children’s behavior that comes back to parents.
I mean, are they the key influence here or what role does early schooling have to play
Meic Griffiths: in? I think, I think parenting is important and it can’t be negate tips because there was some experiences. Our children will have witnessed a tone that I would have hoped nobody would have ever witnessed. They will have witnessed domestic violence.
They will live, they will have witnessed drug abuse and substance abuse. They may have witnessed self-harm. They may have witnessed suicide. They may have witnessed not having what their friends have and watching men or the guardian go out to get it in ways that you and I would hope that we would never have to accept that another adult will do.
Yeah. And so they, there are things that you can’t control. School can be the one place for those sorts of children where they can behave and be safe. And for them to recognize, and to notice that there is a different type of adult and a different model. And that’s not judging that parenting, but that’s just saying that there is a grownup who is safe, who is secure, who listens, who isn’t going to hurt them, who does what they say they’re going to do, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
If you’ve done something wrong. Then there’s a consequence, but they will be the same consequence regardless of who you are. And sometimes school is the savior for those children. Am I, I see currently my outreach service, which only has 10 staff. Um, we did start off with 23 when I came in 2015 and now due to funding, we’re down to 10 and we see 174 children a week.
So we had to reduce the term because funding stopped dramatically. Um, but the need hasn’t changed, unfortunately. Um, and so we now work with over 174 children a week. I might take on the more complex cases along with, um, my head of school of the primary, but we are noticing that children need an adult.
That holds them in mind. And so I would train me now is all about getting them to see nurture, not nagging, um, and how they can help these children through these interesting behaviors. Because if you can unpick them early enough, then the vast majority don’t need any HCP. And the vast majority of them don’t need to come in to specialist provision.
They will need checking in. They’ll need people who will pop in and say, how are you? I notice things are a bit wobbly, but they’re not going to need that full gamut of specialist intervention, which will free up the system. Because, you know, at the moment, um, water science has a waiting list of over 70 to come through the door.
Um, at the secondary, we, for some unknown reason, we have a pellet of 30 year Eleven’s that are waiting to come through the door. Um, and we can’t, we can’t work with them. We just don’t have the facility, but, um, Yeah, it’s it’s the, the, the need is there, but actually if we were able to intervene a lot earlier, those sooner lessons wouldn’t be where they are
Pooky Knightsmith: now.
And you talked before about having an interest in what happens from the very early years and how that shapes, you know, how a child learns to read and so on. But presumably that’s very much the case here as well, in terms of assessing those only behaviors.
Meic Griffiths: And I think that’s dumped at school. He felt some behavioral policy.
I think, I think there has to be a shift there’s got, and I’m hoping I’ve said this ridiculous time that we’ve been in people’s attitude towards behavior is going to alter because some people’s behavioral policies are very punitive against the child. And what you need is a behavioral policy that supports the child.
It can’t be, or singing all dancing and fluffy and light with no consequence because people need structure and children have routine children structure. Um, they may kick against it every now and again, but they do like to infrastructure and I’m hoping that the pandemic has actually unleashed something within most schools to say, actually how our planning for this doesn’t work, you know, a sticker chart isn’t working, um, a rewards thing isn’t working.
Um, why am I, why am I excluding children? Because they’ve, they’ve voted. Why they’re unhappy? What can we do better? And I think what changed at Waterside and at Kings Oak with the mindset from the staff. So instead of blaming the children for the behavior that they were seeing, we blamed ourselves because we needed to work out why we hadn’t spotted it.
That’s our job. So as
Pooky Knightsmith: Paul Dix would tell us when the adult changes,
Meic Griffiths: I mean, it works. It’s it’s, it’s, it sounds really simple. And some people come on that journey really readily some don’t and some of you have to lens, but the reality is if you can’t sit down and go, Oh, I’ve really made that difficult for you today.
I know you find math difficult. So why have I given you this, in this format? And now I know I’m cleaning up a table and having to ring your mother and having to do lots and lots of stuff that I didn’t need to have to do if I’d worked beforehand. Um, which is why our consistency without trunking through each child works.
Um, when we go into a mainstream setting, we asked them to do it for their interesting child for fortnight, because over the fortnight, you will see the behavior pattern quite quickly. And then you can say to them, well, when you’ve told me there were no triggers, you’ve shown me them. So is
Pooky Knightsmith: that like, when you’re doing that tracking, is it that you’re noticing that these are the warning signs that this child’s behavior is going to escalate?
Or is it saying, Hey, do you know what this child tends to go into meltdown in maths? Because they find that hard.
Meic Griffiths: So for it’s different to the, to the model, we use both the special schools, but what we will give out to a mainstream school. So mainstream school, we ask them to show when that child’s behavior escalates, because we’re not going to expect them to unpick it all in one go.
And we have to remember, they’ve got 30 children in a classroom. So it’s a lot for them to deal with rather than just that. But we’ve made it really simple. So it’s color coded and it’s tappable so they can have it on any device. They don’t have to do anything complicated. The document is shared between the school and myself and my head of school.
So we monitor it. Um, after the first couple of days, we will then ring them back and say, we’ve noticed that whatever you’re doing at period three, Is when things start to go a little bit interesting. And usually they tell you, Oh, well, weeks due to them.
Well, okay. I have worked. Yeah. Um, and then we can design our training to help support them. So for sort of like, um, primary, it can be as basic as how a child goes into a hole, um, you know, going into the hall for assembly, which they’re not going to have to do for awhile. So that’s going to really negate it for some children, but going into the whole assembly can really be a big trigger because they go from being in a small confined space where they feel fairly secure.
To then go into a larger space where there’s a lot of people and they can’t level out there on site.
Pooky Knightsmith: That’s not just kids. I struggle with that. Like as an adult, who’s
Meic Griffiths: autistic. I mean, you’ve seen me, you’ve seen what the RCFL conference and I was triggering continually during that because it petrifies me going from being in a small contained space where I feel I’m in control to suddenly having an audience.
And they’re waiting for me. It’s only I can do that in assembly with my children. No, no drama at all. You could have everybody in there. No problem, but probably in front of my peer group. Yeah. Quite interesting to play with. And so we teach them how to role play that and how to rehearse it. So that that level of behavior comes down.
It won’t go away immediately, but you, you lower the anxiety level and do it on days when you haven’t got the victory. Because that’s usually when things go really
it’s usually when you’ve got somebody who doesn’t normally deal with children in that way, certainly have the, you know, I’m the tension level of every member of staff. Knowing that that interesting child is in that room, who could blue the most beautiful, beautiful sentences of obscenity to some who may be quite shy.
You know, the tension level goes up and the children feed on it. And if they are already anxious and they can see you’re anxious, that just escalates it. So you need to role play that to bring it down. It’s the same. It’s bringing them in from playtime. You know, if you know, they can’t learn that. Then why are you making them line up in that way?
Why have new work besides if they can’t stand behind somebody, then don’t let them stand behind somebody, bring them to the front so that they, they are standing in the front or put them next to somebody who, you know, won’t react so quickly so that they can start to lower their expectation and anxiety level.
Pooky Knightsmith: And that’s not kind of pandering to them or
Meic Griffiths: no. I mean, we, we, I get it. Some people are going to be saying, Oh, well you just move them around two pounds. Just that job. I get that. But then would you say the same if you were doing it for maths or during the same frame English. So if that child couldn’t manage number bonds to 10 and you’ve given them solid devices for them to countries, are you pungent to them?
Because they couldn’t do that. You’re supporting and scaffolding. They’d be there. They’re learning. So if you’re going to support the scaffold, their learning, why aren’t you supporting and scaffolding their behavior? So if that child needs to have a couple of steps taken back so that they can then work forward, then, then that’s no different to doing that with their spelling, their phonics, their handwriting, their maths, their science.
So if you treat behavior as a normal national curriculum subject, then you’re not pandering. What you’re doing is making them realize that this isn’t the right way, this isn’t the right lightweight for you to do it. And we’re going to keep doing it this way so that you will get used to it, and then it’ll become normal and your anxiety level of job.
Pooky Knightsmith: So do you think that all children can learn or most children can learn to behave in a socially acceptable way? Or are there exceptions
Meic Griffiths: there aren’t exceptions. Um, but the vast majority of us have managed social interaction quite well. You know, most, most of us are fairly decent at knowing that it’s not the time to go into say Selfridges and start screening sanity’s at people because you’ve had your kid, you know, most of us have quite good at working at what’s socially acceptable.
We’ve read those cues. Well, most children’s behaviors can be adjusted. They can’t be fixed. Cause if you’ve got. Behaviors that are ingrained. You know, if you do certain things a certain way, my OCD, for example, it’s never gonna change. You know, you have no idea how calm I am at the moment. Groupie looking at your bookshelf that says lowered my temperature.
No, no end
Pooky Knightsmith: the older books, you know, there’s a funny story about my colored older books, and then we’ll come back to you. I is one of my, yeah. People mentioned it a lot. And it’s a, it’s a bit of a figment of fun. However, it is something, if I’m, if I’m anxious actually thinking about the order in which those colors are just helped me.
And it’s a really calming activity for me. Um, and when I get a new book, then, uh, one of the great joys is thinking, well, where does this go? Um, and I had one recently where I’d got this book and I just, I was just having quite an anxious day and things were quite tricky and that makes it harder to work this stuff out.
Right. And, um, and I’m going well, is it going to be green or is it green or blue? I don’t know. I don’t know. Um, and the book breaking the cycle of OCD,
Meic Griffiths: I can give you a, I can give you a download for that. There’s a lovely app that you can put on your phone. If you scan it, it tells you exactly what color it is.
Unleashed my world and lynched it. I color-coded my entire library in the prime rate. Oh no,
Pooky Knightsmith: I’m going to have to reorder my books again.
Meic Griffiths: Well, it’s a joy to do cause you sit there going really that’s that’s Oh, it’s amazing. And it’s the Pantone color. So it’s. It’s
Pooky Knightsmith: actually genuinely send me that anyway, back to yes.
So he was talking about, so some, some behaviors will, uh, be triggered them and that, that kind of almost endemic. Um,
Meic Griffiths: and then we’ve got some behaviors I’ve done to diagnosable issues. Um, and that can be from a mental health perspective that will either not be fixable because you can’t really fix behavior.
You will always, if you’re normally a happy person you normally are, because normally it’s not a person you normally, but if you’re, if you’re on society levels mean that you do certain things, then you will normally fall back into that pattern of behavior until some DS cut that cycle. But it will, it will happen.
You never going to get past that, you know, if you, if you would normally get a big shape T. Yeah, you probably will get bit shouty when your anxiety level is built up to a point I can’t stop, but there are some behaviors that don’t talk, sir. Um, because of the diagnosis, you know, if children have got certain ASD traits, they can be mimicked to fit in with society a bit more, but they will always be there.
And it’s our job as the practitioner to work out how we accommodate for that behavior and how we mix, make that child feel comfortable about, you know, if I’m going to display it, today’s the day I’m going to display it. I’m in a safe space to display it. And I’m not going to be put in, in shame for displaying that behavior.
Y’all gonna help me fix it when I’ve got, got it wrong when it’s, when it’s gotta be put back together.
Pooky Knightsmith: So it’s about adapting the environment rather than kind of trying to change the child sometimes.
Meic Griffiths: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, for ASD children, I mean, my, my, my complex ASD kids are probably the most interesting I’ve worked with in my career.
So they will present as far as the scientists concerned, they present as average happy go-lucky looking children. They are hyper-intelligent. Um, we have one young man who, um, isn’t allowed access to the internet, um, anymore, because he reprogrammed his entire school from a Kindle, um, crying to my building.
Pooky Knightsmith: I could do with that kind of brain,
Meic Griffiths: honestly. Um, he is ridiculously fascinating to play with because he doesn’t know that it’s wrong and he doesn’t know that what he’s doing has. Consequences. He’s intelligent enough to understand that there’s a consequence, but he just, it just does. It’s not working in his head.
That’s just not going to work. So if you say to him, you want to, I don’t have to reprogram some of these lights at home from a distance. It would take in about half an hour and he would be able to control everything in that house. Um, to the point when in his previous primary school, I mean, he reprogrammed their website to display some imagery of, um, stuff that wasn’t particularly pleasant and lovely.
And he changed all their biographies and it took the web company three weeks and then they had to ring in because they couldn’t do what he did,
Pooky Knightsmith: Joe. I shouldn’t laugh, but
Meic Griffiths: wow, well, no, I honest with you. I found it quite hysterical cause I kept thinking these are people you’ve paid a fortune for, but I’ve got an 11 year old child who in four taps and a couple of clicks managed to run into everything he’d done.
But they couldn’t do that. And he’s, he’s going to going to a specialist probably bit education because, um, he really definitely to have that gift looked at. Um, but his behaviors will never officer, you know, he he’s going to always be fundable because he doesn’t have that filter that he would, that we all gain at some point that people may not tell you the truth and that the world isn’t in black and white and he will find the world very complicated.
And so however much I’ve altered my environment to support him. The rest of the world is never going to be able to change. And we’ve tried over the course of a year and a half with him now to try and get them to understand how different the world is going to be. He’ll, he’s always going to find that typical, some of my children will look that up, but he, he will.
Pooky Knightsmith: And you talked before about how you think that the current situation, the pandemic, uh, is likely to influence on how schools generally approach behavior. Um, can you talk a bit about that? Like why do you think it will change? What’s happens now that’s making people rethink stuff.
Meic Griffiths: I think I I’d like to think.
I think that’s a better start to the sentence. I’d like to think that people are going to be more kind. And so that they’re going to understand the children coming back into school, um, are going to have anxiety and are going to feel stressed and it may be their own level of anxiety may be assimilated from what’s happening at home.
And that may alter behavioral patterns. So those children who you would normally expect to be interesting, certainly become interesting. Um, From looking online, um, you know, and seeing what interactions have been going on with other schools. We’ve had a lot of traction from mainstream to us. What can we do?
And what, what routes would you offer? Um, I think people are more inclined to think about the mental health aspect of it. And hopefully that will mean that they will hold onto some of these children rather than push them down a pathway that they don’t really need to be. Yeah. I w I’m hoping that they’ll engage with services.
Like how was it like yours so that they will, they will manage to see that there is a different route and that route may not work for every child. And if it doesn’t, this is what you do next, because you’ve got to try it first, but we’ve been doing some, um, trauma practice with some of our mainstream colleagues during the pandemic and.
So far only one school has excluded a child. Wow. And they had to exclude that child. There was a really, not that I’m a big advocate of exclusion, but there was no other option for the school at the time. Um, but they’ve worked hard on changing how their staff deal with behavior and how they staff are more tolerant of what’s coming their way.
And they’ve learned some of the things that we’ve talked during our Julie Andrews training, you know, about how, how to be more confident, how to be more nurturing and not nagging children, how to simplify what your requests are, how to, um, give them the, the expectation that you will still be there. Things may be difficult, but you will still be there.
This is how it’s going to Spain. And that seems to really load that temperature. And we, we are offering our training, um, currently free. Two people, um, who wants it because we believe that if the social, emotional, mental health, special schools are not internet girl. So what the return after a pandemic will look like, then what would we fall?
No, I’m not here for naughty children. I’m here for ensuring that children and staff have access to the very best quality mental health practices that they can, they can access and, and support families and children rather than be punitive because we are going to be in this for awhile. So you might as well start changing how you are.
And a lot of schools are overloading services like yourself and they’re overloading trauma informed schools. Um, and you know, if you look on Twitter, I think edgy Twitter is swamped with hashtag mental health. I’m just hoping that they’re not going to do it by playing lip service to it, but actually taking on board those trainings and altering their practice at a culinary thoughts.
Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah, I hope so too. And I think it, yeah, I guess only time is going to tell really here isn’t it, but certainly, um, I’ve had a lot of really good conversations and much more widely than I would normally expect to I’ve come into contact with all sorts of people who normally wouldn’t cross my, um, my path.
And I think there is much there that’s encouraging. Um, but then you never quite know because sometimes it feels like you’re living in a, in a bit of an echo chamber and maybe that academic got a bit bigger. Well, I don’t know, but we, we shall see, um, there’s a couple of things that have come up a lot of times, uh, in this discussion and one is around, um, anxiety and one is around play.
And I just wanted to pick up on, on, on both those points before we kind of wrap up. So it, you know, anxiety seems to come up again and again, is that kind of a key reason? Do you think a key thing underlying a lot of the issues that we see?
Meic Griffiths: Yeah. Because children, children don’t know if children’s behaviors are interesting.
They don’t know why. They’re interesting. Well, they know is it gets a reaction. And sometimes their behaviors, as we said earlier, these to get what they want. But sometimes it’s because they’re reacting about a situation around them and that could be within class, but that also could be outside of the building as well.
And what we’ve noticed of the past five years is that children are hypervigilant and hyper anxious, quite a lot and willing to change. They worried about what will happen if, and it’s a bit like that developmental stage that a toddler goes through that when they shut their eyes, they believe that the world really does disappear.
And then when they open them up again, it’s a surprise. Well, it’s a bit like that for the anxiety level for some of my children, because I think they believe that they think they’re controlling it. It can’t be controlled and then they all go wrong. We have to get them to a space where they believe that school is safe and this school is secure and that, you know, nothing has gone wrong just because they not there.
Everything is fine. Everything is the same. And if there is something that goes wrong, there are people who are going to help you put that right now. And I think that’s about the adults taking their role really seriously. You know that you are, you, aren’t just saying part of information, you are a role model.
You know, they need to know that you feel anxious about stuff that you are comfortable to tell them when you are scared about things, but the world doesn’t fall apart because your scapes, the world falls apart. If you don’t tell somebody your skate, you know, you need to share how you’re feeling and being emotionally literate.
It’s a really complicated phrase for some people, you know, some people think it’s all about, you know, sitting on a bean bag and like ting, Joss sticks and being all in touch with yourself. Whereas other people just think it’s about recognizing that, that person’s a bit wobbly and I’ll let Northern, because I’m not going to deal with them today.
But the vast majority of us are emotionally literate. We can tell when somebody is happy, we can tell when some dissent and it’s about showing that to children and showing that to their parents. You know, if, if that kid has had a really interesting day, then you’re not blaming them for their behavior.
You know, you’re not ringing up that parent, your child has done this and it’s your fault, the way they’ve done it. No. You know, it’s, it’s saying you’ve, you’ve got to turn that around and say, look, we’ve made a mistake today. It’s going a bit wobbly. They’re coming home. They may not be so chatty with you today, but if it comes up, why they’ve done what they’ve done, I’d be really grateful to know because they haven’t told me that that yet, but we’ll reset it and we’ll start again tomorrow.
Well, now we know that we can’t do that, and that takes all the blame out today. It takes all the, all the, the pressure activate deflates, that balloon, and then people are happier to shake. So
Pooky Knightsmith: we’re inquisitive rather than kind of punitive and just, you know, as you’re talking, it’s making me think a little bit.
And I think sometimes when there is that kind of anxiety or worry going on, um, for whatever reason, whatever the Genesis is there, that in my experience, it tends to go one of two ways either it’s, it’s out and it’s big and it’s loud. And these are our kids who are throwing stuff and kicking stuff and shouting, and the kids who may be end up with you.
And then there are the kids who I ended up, um, kind of supporting directly or indirectly who are turning it in on themselves. And we’re saying, Oh, self harm or eating disorders. And, and that kinda thing. Does that kind of fit with your understanding of it too, or
Meic Griffiths: completely because I’m re um, it’s, it’s, what’s been very noticeable is how many boys are changing towards that internalized harm rather than.
Exploding. So they, they, you know, they’re, if you look at behavior across primary, you are more likely to watch a board’s behavior than a girl’s behavior. Well, it’s a very good to being loud in both stress. And they usually physically very big when they, when they lose their temper girls usually contain it more and are usually a bit more slight for want of a better word with their behaviors until they get to about year seven and year eight.
And then it becomes really big for those girls. Um, but what we’ve noticed is that, although it’s still happening, that boys would be more noticeable as they get older, they are turning that behavior in signed. And so instead of demonstrating it by being violent outwardly, they are hurting themselves. I I’ve been, I’ve been really shocked over the past five years about the amounts of young men who have real Cynthia difficulties with their Intune.
Um, and self-harm. Um, real, really difficult conversations to be hard about the amount of self-harm that they are masking and hiding from the world. Um, and when I say this out loud and I’m certain, you won’t judge me on it, but, um, well you may do. Um, but I’ve always found it a real honor when they let me in.
And I discovered that that’s where they are. And I am, there were bits of me that become very humbled, that they’ve allowed this ridiculous human being to be part of that journey. And then there’s a bigger part of me that is annoyed that I didn’t notice it before. And it hurts me that I’ve allowed them to hurt for that long.
Um, and so as part of our methodology now the secondary, because it’s normally around year seven to year range that we’re seeing more of that. The way our PSEG curriculum is really reading delving into those behaviors and making it normalized to talk about it, but how you doing it anymore? You know, saying that, you know, we all controlling aspects of our lives.
This is a different level for you of control, perhaps that secret, um, and stuff have been, not all the stuff I can’t, I can’t blanket it with that, but some of my staff have been very open about how they allies were. And that’s really unpicked quite a lot of it for us because it’s, again, showing you were emotionally open and literate that, you know, you’re not standing there presenting as a robot.
You’re standing there saying I’ve been through this, I’ve done this myself. And I’m not telling you that it’s wrong, that you’re doing this. I’m not telling you it’s right. That you’re doing this. I’m just letting you know that there is some details in this room or in this building have been there. Yeah.
And that’s been very powerful
Pooky Knightsmith: that’s yeah. And I think it’s, it’s really, it’s really brave actually as a practitioner to be, you know, kind of vulnerable and open in that way. But if you’re able to do it safely so that you’re walking with the child, um, and then not having to kind of carry your burden if you like, but that they realize they’re not alone in it.
And that someone really gets it. It can often be that, that thing. That’s all begins to bridge concept. And then talk to me about play. You’ve used the word play a lot, even when thinking about older kids and I’m interested to understand your thinking
Meic Griffiths: there. I have a big problem. Um, I have several to be fair.
Um, but one of them is at school has become not school and school should be a place of fun and it should be a place where children can express regardless of their age group, they should be able to go out and do the things that Jonathan should do. You know, going to many worlds, play, do big role, play stuff outside, go and play games.
Um, not just kick a ball around the playground and become. Hyper-masculine because you can do that thing, you know, encouragement of going out and just doing stuff. And so as part of our curriculum at both schools, there is an emphasis on playing looks within the lesson and outside to the lesson. And that’s about in its broader sense, making things more interesting.
So, you know, for me, maths was always a problem, which I find ridiculous, and that was a controlled, a huge budget, but I really do find maths a problem. Um, so we’ve made that more exciting. So there’s a lot more practical stuff that they played with things, but in the real world, both at the primary and at the secondary, um, the same thing, the same for science, the same as the food tech.
So if you come to my secondary school, you will be given a menu for your breakfast as a visitor. Um, and my children will go and create your breakfast for you and serve it and role play it as if they’re in, um, a real restaurant so that it forms part of their curriculum. As in this, the team guilds for cookery, and they sit in Gail’s for food check and the stitching gilts for restaurant work, but it also gives them that, that freedom to go and be a child.
I would experiment with stuff, um, at the primary, um, Hmm.
Are actively encouraged to role play in actively in small world activities outside they’re allowed to be children. You know, the vast majority of mine have been excluded and then been kept at home. They don’t get to go on school visits. They don’t go on school journey. So we make certain, they go and do those things.
That’s that’s about growing up and experiencing the world. And it’s a Groaner, you know, if I can’t, if I can’t be stupid, If I can’t give myself permission to be stupid, then I shouldn’t really be doing this mature. And so, um, our literacy work, for example, um, usually there is one book within one class that will require that character to be interviewed.
And so I will dress up as that character to be interviewed so that they can do their written work. And so it demonstrates to them that as a grown up, you don’t have to stop being fun. You can still have fun. And it’s, you know, you know, if a child comes to the primary, they’re not actually entering school, they’re entering a superhero Academy.
And so they should with a Cape and a mask and they get to be a superhero and learn why the super powers that they’ve used for refill need to be changed for. Good. And, you know, that demonstrates to them that school can be fun. It’s not a punitive place to come to it and you should play please. Please possibly the second phase where you’ve you experienced the world and to work out if that’s the right thing for you to be experiencing in that way, you know, I role play just a child.
I was giving those experiences for children aren’t anymore. They sat in front of the screen. So, yeah, please Vogtle. Absolutely. If I can, and I love it when I’m invited to go and play with other people’s children in their schools, because then I get to see how that child isn’t being played with and we need to play with them.
Pooky Knightsmith: Is there any decent learning around playing? I’ve got a few different, um, people coming on the podcast actually to talk about play because lots of people have asked me about it. And, um, it’s, it’s a real weakness of mine. Actually. I I’m learning how to play as an adult, but I, I never really learned as a kid and, um, I’m interested in it.
Um, but I can’t teach about it. So on bringing in other people who know
Meic Griffiths: I’d be really interested in that because I love a bit of play. I mean, you know, last days there was pebbled first and I not going the play all day was just gigantic bubble machines all day. Um, it was, it was the most surreal experience for the day, but that was at the secondary on, at the primary.
And people, people laughed at me saying that the secondary bullies would not engage with it. You have never seen so many of them sitting across light on the floor, catching pebbles and watching them change. That’s like, you’re, you’re 10, you’re 10 and that’s not wrong. There is something on the floor.
Looking at it. That’s not wrong. That’s that’s exciting. I love,
Pooky Knightsmith: I can actually carry, carry bubbles with me everywhere, because if I’m panicking, if I blow bubbles a, it helps with your breath. But B just watching them is such a mindful thing. I mean, yeah. Yeah.
Meic Griffiths: It’s it’s but why, why do we stop? Because they don’t do that in Europe, you know, plays, encourage, so why, why don’t we stop it in the UK?
I don’t know, but I’m, I’m hearing in Greenwich playing as hard as I possibly can.
Pooky Knightsmith: So we need to play revolution. I think that could be our, our mission.
Meic Griffiths: Yeah. Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. Make a banner. I’d be there.
Pooky Knightsmith: That, that, yeah. What, what, um, what thought would you, would you want to end on? I always like to let you close with a thought that you’d like to leave in people’s minds as they stopped listening.
Meic Griffiths: Oh, tricky. Cause I’ve lost. But, um, I think if I can, if I can. If I can make people look at their most interesting children and see past the bike T the stabby this way or the spectrum, and see past the things that they call you, that you take to heart. And remember that, that insight, that, that really angry looking person, there is a beautiful young person inside who is crying out to you because they think you are the safest dog they’ve met that they need you, that they want you.
They may not say that they do, but they really do want you, and that you take the time to get to learn about them. You will see what a brilliant impact you could have as a practitioner and as an adult, because if you can hold them in mind, if you can hold them close, if you can remind them that the world does have nice sparkly people in it.
Then you will have done your job as the teacher will have done your job as an educator. And you may have stopped somebody from going down a pathway that they don’t really need to, and you can go home and say, .