Most parties have reported favourably on the Monkey’s presence in the class and the emotional support offered to the student by the knowledge that the Monkey is in the Chair. However, the Monkey’s greatest value is arguably in the more general observations and conversations which arise around the nature of the support available to the students. A variety of more general themes are emerging.
Communication : While all parties agree on the vital importance of keeping communication channels open in order to support students with significant illness or injury, this can be very difficult in practice. The school environment is busy and complicated, and teachers have limited hours to spare for informal chat and reflection. The daily or weekly schedule for students with a significant illness or injury can be wildly changeable, and medical needs will supersede discussion of educational needs; students and their families may not be easy to contact if they are away from home or preoccupied with treatment issues. Over long periods of time, broad pictures can develop, but the ability to respond quickly and to provide timely feedback on any individual situation is compromised.
Inclusivity : Different parties have different understandings of inclusivity, and these probably stem from different perceptions of what aspects of school are most important to the student. In future, MissingSchool will be recommending that the question of what parts of school the student misses most form the basis of discussions between the family and teachers around how to use the Monkey.
Benefits : The Monkey is a focus for social engagement, and students feel better knowing that the Monkey has been holding their place in the class while they are absent. They comment on the activities in which they know the Monkey has participated, such as school assemblies, class excursions, and lunchtime with their friends. However, the Monkey is not used as a means of maintaining academic continuity or connection to formal learning, and this gap has still to be bridged.