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'He comes to me to talk about things': supporting pupils experiencing social and emotional behavioural difficulties - a focus upon interpersonal relationships

Mowat, Joan (2010) 'He comes to me to talk about things': supporting pupils experiencing social and emotional behavioural difficulties - a focus upon interpersonal relationships. Pastoral Care in Education, 28 (3). pp. 163-180.

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Abstract

This paper argues for the centrality of high-quality trusting and respectful relationships within the school setting, particularly between teachers and pupils. It argues for the need to pay careful attention to the nature of the interventions that are adopted to support the social and emotional development of young people and for the need to ensure that their theoretical underpinnings are understood by those responsible for implementation. It centres upon the evaluation of an intervention (Support Groups), devised by the author, to support pupils perceived as having social and emotional behavioural difficulties with a particular focus upon the development of interpersonal relationships. The case study is principally qualitative and draws upon the accounts of the first four cohorts of pupils to undertake the intervention (n = 69), following their progress from the commencement of Secondary 1 up to one to two years beyond intervention. The study draws from a wide range of stakeholder accounts and from six in-depth case studies. The findings indicate that, to varying extents, Support Group pupils had developed their capacities to form and maintain effective interpersonal relationships but, particularly in respect of their relationships with teachers, this was highly context-related. Peer relationships were still perceived as problematic by classroom teachers. The supportive ethos of the group had enabled warm relationships to form between Support Group Leaders and pupils, and this had fostered effective communication and empathy. These more positive relationships were exemplified within a statistically significant reduction in discipline sanctions (including school exclusions), which were maintained beyond intervention.