Posted by Siobhan McManus on 04.12.18 in Guest Blogs

Holistic Health and Energy Coach - Former SEN Teaching Assistant


Basic Needs Must Come First

With around 4.5 million children in the UK living in poverty not having their basic needs met, how can we expect them to achieve at school?


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Educational achievement will not be a priority or concern for a student who has not had their basic physiological (e.g. food, water, clothing, warmth) or safety (e.g. shelter, security, environmental stability) needs met, at a minimum.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs five-stage model highlights how we need these to be met before they can access their higher needs (e.g. education, socialisation, etc).
Therefore, a student who is hungry, sleeps poorly, lives in an unstable environment or feels unsafe in their own home will not have their basic needs met. Consequently, they will prioritise these needs above their education, social behaviour and their future.

These needs not being met can cause disruption in the classroom and if they are failed to be met long-term, it could lead to a perpetual cycle of punishment, despondency towards their teachers and the school system. In some cases it may escalate towards a self-destructive cycle, as the educational systems primary focus and priorities are not in alignment with the students’.

As a former SEN-Teaching assistant at a Personalised Educational Centered (PEC) behavioural school, I have observed that the behaviour of the students’ strongly correlated with their home-life. The unsafe and unstable environments they were sent home to daily during the school term and even longer during the holidays seemed to influence their ‘poor behaviour’ and ‘lack of focus’ during school hours.

It was further observed that towards the end and the beginning of the return from school holidays, students’ behaviour became worse.

I was responsible for the students who were either remove or left their classes. After failing to coerce the children back into their classrooms through reiterating the importance of having an education, I shifted my focus to seeing a child in need instead of a delinquent student.

I went against the school’s correction system of issuing report cards and detention, as the same students were being punished again and again and the students didn’t appear to care. From my experience, there is a lack of communication, or a desire of communication between the teachers, students and parents and an amounting pressure from teachers to get results from unwilling students in a limited time and with a lack of support from senior members in the education system.

It’s important to build a rapport and a trusting relationship with your students, you might be the only adult in their lives that they can trust and confide in. I strongly believe education goes beyond the classroom and more importantly, teachers and support staff need to be supported more so they can support their students.

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