A Tale from the PRU : crossed lines of communication in a relationship between a young person and a teacher




A Tale from the PRU : crossed communication lines

By Christina Williamson


Christina Williamson describes herself as an apprentice horticulturist who until recently worked for many years in a PRU in the West of England.


A “PRU” for readers outside of the United Kingdom who may not have heard of the term is a Pupil Referral Unit or in some local authorities it is called a Pupil Re-integration Unit is an educational resource maintained by a local authority which provides education for children who are excluded, sick, or in any other way unable to attend a mainstream or special maintained school. The actuality is that these “units” take many forms and reflect the investment (moral as well financial) which each local authority wishes to make in providing for these children.




When I was asked if I could write an article about relationships in my place of work, I thought about how best to do this and decided upon telling a story about some of the events which took place one day at the PRU where I worked until I retired last year. When I was first thinking about my article my idea was that good relationships are probably built upon good communication. I thought introduce my theme by writing a short vignette about something that happened one day in the PRU where I taught.    Once I had told the story my original intention was to write a learned and insightful analysis of the communications and the relationships that were evident on that day. On reading the vignette I came to see that what took place was open to any number of interpretations depending on who the reader might identify with. It became apparent that readers’ individual interpretations of what had happened might be more useful in furthering the cause of professional reflection than anything prescriptive that I might offer. Accordingly I would like to collect readers’ comments on the vignette. These might include thoughts about the social and emotional engagement which is going on, or about the environment in which the events are taking place. however short or long and put them together as an article for the next issue of the goodenoughcaring Journal.


I would be very grateful to you if would let me know what you think. Comments about whether this or that should have been dealt with better would be welcome as would comments about how the social environment and the relationships within contributes to situations like these which no doubt in one form or anther occur in schools, care homes and in families. Send your comments to goodenoughcaring@icloud.com with the subject “PRUs”



This short vignette tells the tale of a short series of communications which took place about 5 years ago at the PRU I taught in. The names of people involved have been changed.






Jessica is 14 years old. She can be quite volatile and she attends the PRU because she finds the larger groups in mainstream school to difficult to cope with. At first at her mainstream school she would misbehave and be temporarily removed from school and then she refused to attend and was placed at the PRU. Jessica who is quite overweight also has an eating disorder.

Jessica came into the PRU on this morning and she was quite noisy – shouting at everyone including her teacher, Floss. At break everyone went outside but Jessica stayed behind with Floss. She began to use her mobile ‘phone. Floss reminded her that this was against the rules and that mobile phones should only be used outside unless it was raining which it wasn’t on this day. Mary said she was phoning her Mum. Floss said Jessica had permission to use her ‘phone outside. Jessica started shouting obscenities at Floss and said she was going to phone her Mum from the classroom whatever Floss said and she challenged Floss to stop her.

At this point a classmate and friend of Jessica, Lucinda entered the classroom and heard the discussion between Floss and Jessica. Lucinda told Floss that she was a ‘miserable fucking bitch’ because she was trying to stop Jessica from calling her Mum. “Jessica’s fucking Mum got beaten up by her Dad last night,” Floss said she hadn’t known that and understood and sympathised with Jessica if that was the case ‘but the rules were rules’ and she could use her mobile from outside.

Jessica said “Please let me ‘phone from here, I don’t want everyone knowing.” Floss felt sympathetic but there had been an issue about boundaries slipping recently and she felt she didn’t want to be the one to let this one go. Floss said, ‘I’m sorry if this happened to your Mum but you can’t ‘phone from here Jessica.”

Jessica shouted “I can’t fucking stand this dump and I can’t stand you. You fat cow. You’d just let my Mum get beat up”. Jessica left and so did Lucinda. That was last time they were seen at the PRU that day.