Barns Green school in Channel 4 documentary
The documentary opens with pupils ‘F-ing and jeffing’, fights and one boy breaking down a door.
But Muntham House School headteacher Richard Boyle hopes the ‘in your face’ film will banish the perception of young people suffering behaviour problems.
For months a Channel Four camera crew has been following the lives of three pupils at the boys school in Barns Green.
It’s home to 56 kids from across the south aged between eight and 18.
They all have emotional or behavioural difficulties which mainstream school struggle to deal with.
“This is not a bunch of deranged mentally disabled lunatics on top of a hill - which is some times how we’re perceived,” said Mr Boyle, 55. “These are kids you have on your street.”
He continued: “Some have come from fostered backgrounds with horrendous early lives with abuse and neglect.
“And we have lovely kids and the family have tried everything to control behaviour and look to our school.”
There are two staff to every class which has a maximum number of eight pupils.
They are taught the national curriculum like any other school but teachers are specially trained in managing difficult behaviour.
“Our job is to build relationships with children who don’t trust adults and don’t like schools, we teach them new behaviours so they can make their way in the world,” explained the headteacher, who has been a part of many success stories since he joined in January 1999.
Mr Boyle remembers one boy in particular who was on the extreme side of disruptive. He would regularly smash windows and cause mayhem. But the pupil went on to study at Cambridge University and earned first class honours in English. He has since been back to give talks to current pupils at Muntham.
Another pupil who had a habit of breaking into rooms has since completed an apprenticeship in carpentry and, ironically, now looks after the keys to every room as the school’s groundsman.
Mr Boyle said the documentary ‘Last Chance School’ casts a spotlight on ‘hidden disabilities’ and hopes it will give viewers the chance to see behavioural issues as genuine disabilities.
He said: “It’s in your face, it’s pretty honest. The first five minutes we’ve got kids F-ing and jeffing, some kids fighting, and one trying to break down a door. There’s some occasional swearing and when they swear, they swear really well. It’s warts and all. But it’s about our community more than anything else.
“The biggest sense of pride is the way in which we work with young people. The atmosphere in the school is wonderful, and we’ve got a great bunch of kids here.”