The Warnock Committee defined the long-term goals of education as:
"...First, to enlarge a child's knowledge, experience and imaginative understanding, and thus his awareness of moral values and capacity for enjoyment; and secondly, to enable him to enter the world after formal education is over as an active participant in society and a responsible contributor to it, capable of achieving as much independence as possible. The educational goals of every child are determined in relation to these goals." (page 5)1
The core task of education is therefore wider than simply a focus on academic learning. It also concerns how young people learn to play a positive role in building up and maintaining community, both now and in their future lives. Each member of a community has to learn how to preserve their own sense of self-worth and competence, at the same time preserving and promoting the self-esteem and well-being of others.
Emotional and behavioural difficulties can work against this building up of community. They have a clear impact on all aspects of learning. Pupils experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties generally find it hard to learn both the academic and interpersonal skills they need in order to be active participants in society. In addition, they frequently prevent others from learning these same skills as well.
It is helpful to think of emotional and behavioural difficulties as a learning difficulty. This implies that such difficulties are subject to the same principles of learning as any other learning difficulty. However, because of the complex nature of interactions between biology, family, community and school systems, it is often very challenging to develop interventions to address such difficulties.
Teachers report that they find it hard to develop individual plans for pupils experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties for the following reasons:
- it is difficult to find objective or normed comparisons
- it is often not clear what the source of the problem is, or what to teach in order to promote change
- there is no obviously specified or sequenced curriculum
- emotional and behavioural difficulties frequently involve threats to the classroom learning, and to the well-being or even safety of other pupils and staff
- setting targets to reduce seriously unacceptable behaviour can be seen as tolerating that behaviour.
These guidelines are drawn up in order to respond to the types of concerns mentioned above. Their emphasis is on the process of thinking and planning that needs to occur before an intervention can be developed.
1 DES (1978) Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People (The Warnock Report). London: HMSO