ACT’s Sarah Goff talks to Sarah Martin-Denham, a senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland, about her life and work.
Sarah has led numerous research projects on school exclusion and children’s social care. She’s worked closely with neurodiverse children, and those with special education needs and disabilities. She feels that the educational system can often misunderstand these children, and as a result they can face criticism for their behaviour.
What makes children behave in ways we might find problematic? Why does the education system struggle to understand these children, and their complex needs? Having spoke to more than 200 parents and children, she’s found that many people are trying to do their best for these children. But there are lots of barriers making it difficult to safeguard their welfare. Plus, there’s a lot the data doesn’t tell us.
Sarah also talks about the use of isolation booths and other restrictive practices, and how these can have a devastating impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing. Reports don’t reveal how children and young people really feel about these issues. She argues that we need to move away from such practices, and instead work together to overcome communication breakdown.
These children cannot always articulate their needs and emotions, and we cannot expect them to either. We must work together to work out what they want and need, and how best to help them.
- You can access Sarah Martin-Denham’s work on these issues here.
- The IntegratED partnership works to reduce preventable school exclusions and improve the quality of education for children excluded from school. They aim to do this through a whole-child development lens. Learn more.
- The Excluded Lives project aims to better understand of the political economies of exclusion. It’s also working towards more equitable outcomes for pupils, their families, and professionals. Learn more.