Over the last few months I have been volunteering at a primary school. As I am looking to train as a children’s counsellor I decided that while I waited for the day Martha starts full time (giving me the time to train) I would get some experience working with kids who have extra emotional needs. Honestly the time I have spent so far with these children has been some of the most wonderfully rewarding hours of my life. I volunteer three afternoons a week while Martha is in nursery. In that time I have the chance to work with 15 different kids. Their needs range from just needing a chance to move rather than being stuck behind a desk for multiple hours, and kids who have already experienced so much trauma and need a chance to talk, process their emotions and just be kids again.

I have always believed that there is no such thing as a bad kid. I think children, like adults, are a product of their environment and their lived experiences. I constantly hear adults complaining about the ‘bad’ kid in the class who upset their precious child, I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past, but no one seems to consider why that kid is behaving that way. It makes me so sad when my kids tell me about the kid in the class that’s labelled the ‘bad’ kid and I do my best to get them to consider the motivations behind the bad behaviour. Children are living alongside adults who might themselves have suffered traumas, abuse, neglect or are now struggling emotionally. How can we expect those adults to be able to effectively support their kids when they are not being supported in their needs?

Many of the children I work with are coming from homes where there is a lot of stress, pain, sadness and constant change. These environments often lead the kids to act out at school. In their lives, school is the constant, safe place where they know they will be cared for and so it’s their safe place to lose control. Rufus has emotional needs but his home life is stable, emotional cognisant of the challenges he faces and able to support him so he holds everything in all day, comes home and lets it all out like a noisy, angry exhalation. For kids without a similar home life the opposite is true. Of course we mustn’t allow the bad behaviour to go unchecked but compassion is also needed.

I see 15 kids in my three afternoons, but that is just a drop in the ocean compared to the number of kids in the school who do and would benefit from emotional intervention but there is just not the money available to provide it. I am merely a volunteer and when I start studying again my ability to give my time to volunteer will be limited, what happens to those 15 kids then? I know the school will do everything in their power to provide what they can but with diminishing numbers of support staff, overworked teachers and more families falling on hard times the situation is not in anyone’s favour.

Today we saw the second day of teacher strikes and I fully support them. Our schools need funding like never before. Our children need better support, more facilities and a greater chance to learn more than reading, writing and arithmetic. Our kids deserve so much more. The enthusiasm and passion is there in our teachers but without the government fully funding our schools we will lose this generation of kids to a future of emotional imbalance, an inability to attain or hold down a job that will truly support them and the world will lose out on the talent that is currently not being given the chance to thrive.

Our children are the future and they need us to help make it a good one for all of us.