A Day In The Life Of Kyle McLaughlin


One of the Boarders asked to interview me, about the job I do. (For the School News Paper) Of course, I was glad to give an interview, which is written from my perspective. The Interview is quite interesting and tells you about my job and the responsibility I have as Head of Care. (I have edited the interview for obvious reasons)

We caught up with Mr. McLaughlin, who is Head of Care at our School. In this interview we will find out about Mr. McLaughlin and find out about the responsibilities he has as Head of Care.

My team provide 24 hour specialist care to some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society. We provide safe, holistic and compassionate care, to everyone who comes into our care. All this is provided in bright, friendly, safe and secure environment.

I’m Kyle McLaughlin, I am 36 and am known around school, as “the man in a skirt!” (Actually, it is a Kilt) I am Scottish and was born in Aberdeen, but now I have settled for County Durham, where I live with Sam and we have our own family. I have been working at the school for the last 10 years and started as a Carer on the Birds Unit. Soon, I worked my way up to being the Unit Leader for the Jets Unit. I enjoyed running the Jets Unit, as it kept me on my toes. Being an an Assessment Unit for  Adolescents, it kept me on my toes!

In 2018, I was made Acting Head Of Care and then earlier this year, was made Head Of Care as a full time position. I love my job, but when I am not walking the units and am sat in my office; I don’t have the luxury of casual clothes. To be honest, I hate to wear a shirt and tie, but it goes with my job description. Of course, I wear my kilt and was granted special permission to have it as part of my uniform. These days, I wear my kilt, if in a shirt and tie, or in a t-shirt and hooded top. I get the occasional skirt comment made, but it does not bother me!

When I first came into care, I was so scared, everything was new and I was unsure if I could cope. Kyle put my mind at ease and really helped me to settle in. To me, he’s part of the family – he’s great! A Border on the Jets Unit

My job is mainly administrative, (meaning that I sit behind a desk, doing paperwork and making lots of calls) but I do enjoy working on the Units. You will see me on the units throughout the week and I enjoy talking and spending time with the Boarders. (Especially when asked to play pool!) I work mainly during the day and into the evening, but you will also see me working once or twice a week at night. I do both a sleep-in shift, (where I go to bed on one of the units and am available should there be an emergency or if there is a problem at night ) On a Friday, I do a Waking Night shift, where I stay awake all night, keeping an eye on the boarders while they sleep. I use this time as a chance to catch up with paperwork and assist with laundry. I work with a large team of staff, who provide “care with a smile” (most of the time) to the young people we care for. We are lucky to also have 15 volunteers, who help with teaching the kids to read, playing football, learning to play a instrument or just being there when the kids need a listening ear. To sum up my job in one sentence, I am overall responsible for the care of every child that is placed within our residential service. (that’s 50 boys and at time it can be quite daunting!

All Boarders live in J Block, which is the large 4 floor building at the back of the school and is often referred to Junior House. This iconic building, with it’s “Mock Tudor” front was built in the 1980s and replaced the previous  building. This 4  story tower block was to be the new home for boarders and  would be home to 45 boarders on a full time basis. It was officially opened by Baroness Thatcher (Then Prime Minister) in 1989. Originally, the building had  5 units occupy the 1st – 4th floor and the ground floor was used as a recreation area. In the 90s, the building was refurbished and the layout changed. The units were altered, so that there would be 2 units on each floor, complete with their own communal areas. Sick Bay was enlarged, so that we could look after children who were too unwell to learn in a classroom and the Care Offices were also moved to the 4th floor of the building and the portakabin office space was demolished.  In 2017, the cladding was removed on the walls of the building, after the Grenfell Fire.

When my Nan died, Kyle sat with me for ages, making sure that I was OK. Even though I was very sad, Kyle helped me and even went with me to Nan’s funeral. I can’t imagine what our school would be like without Kyle! A Boarder on the Squirrels Unit

No day is ever the same, but normally it starts with me waking up at about 6am. The house is usually very quiet, as Sam will have gone to work by then and the kids will be still sound asleep. I usually grab a shower and a coffee and then Jenny and I (Our Live In Carer) start to wake the kids up, get them ready for school and make sure they get their breakfast. Breakfast is a bit mad in our house, with the kids squabbling over boxes of cereals and Jenny burning toast. I drive a couple of the boys to school, if I am working 9 – 5. They don’t go to my school, but go to school not far from work. I usually end up  getting rather annoyed with parents of day pupils, as often they park in my space and have to be politely told to “MOVE IT!” By the time I get parked and take the lift to the 4th floor of J Block, it is 9am.

I always go and see Kyle if I am feeling down, as he listens to you, doesn’t judge you, he won’t tell you what to do, but instead; he explores the problem with me and then helps me to make a choice on how to move forward.  A Boarder on the Oaks and Acorns Unit

Usually, the first job I do, is to check my emails. I get a lot of emails and it takes a while to sift through them. By then, I will have probably had a couple of coffees and am usually late for a meeting. I go to lots of meetings, with Social Workers, CAMHS Professionals etc. I also meet with the School Leadership Team, parents and pupils too.  once I’ve been to a couple of meetings, it’s back behind my desk and I begin updating care Plans, finishing assessment paperwork and typing up reports for review meetings. these can take ages to complete, as I often have to sift through files to to find the right information and update paperwork as needed. By then, it is lunchtime. In our school, most of the staff bring their lunches into work with them or go to town and go to Greggs or Subway. I have a hot dinner at work and enjoy sitting with the kids, rather than on the Staff tables.  Our Caters prepare fresh food on a daily basis, which the kids and staff enjoy.

Once we were playing football and I kicked the ball through a window on the Foxes Unit. When asked who broke the window, Kyle took the wrap and said that if anyone sequels, they will get rat poo in their cereal tomorrow morning! (He was joking about the rat poo though!) A Boarder on the Oaks and Acorns Unit

After lunch, it’s back to paperwork or I attend more meetings. Once a month, I hold a meeting with the Boarder’s Steering Group. The Steering Group is a sub-committee of the School Council and is made up of 6 Young People from the various units. We talk about a wide variety of issues, from activities, food and events, to maintenance issues, laundry and policy. These meetings are really interesting and I get a lot of feedback, which then I pass to the Senior Leadership Team. (As Head of Care, I am on the Senior Leadership Team for the school) On some afternoons, I work on the Units themselves, so I have to finish work before half 2 and head down to the Unit I am on shift with. Once I get to the unit, we have a handover meeting. This is where we talk about all the borders on the unit I am working on. We talk about behavior, health, appointments boarders may need to attend and afternoon activities.

Finally, the bell rings at 3:15 and by 3.25, weary boarders make their way to their units. Once the boys have got changed and put their clean laundry away, we have a quick unit meeting; (with healthy snacks) where everyone signs out for activities for the afternoon. This could be swimming,  rollerblading, arts and crafts or a off site activity. Even though I have my deputy (Bev) I usually hold back and stay on site, just in case I normally end up swimming or trying to Rollerblade with the kids. (I am not as good as they are!) At half 5, the boarders come back to their units. They have half a hour free time, before tea, which comes up on hot trolleys. After tea, the boarders have to do a hour of homework which we help with if needed. At around 7, we have another activity on site. This could be cooking, using the computers and the Internet etc. On a Wednesday, we also have clubs (held locally) which the boys can join in with. (Scouts, D of E etc) At about half 8, the boarders come back to their units and take baths or showers. A few boarders need help with this, as some of them are disabled and usually end up with me getting soaked when it is my turn! (We have 3 Parker Baths and 2 Walk In Baths for disabled boarders) After baths, we provide supper and we put put a film on, while beginning to put people to bed 9pm comes and we have another handover and I can finally go home! I’m normally knackered when I get home and our wee ones are normally in their beds by then. But I get to spend some time with Sam, which is good.

Mr. McLaughlin is so cool! He wears his Kilt to work and he can even play the Bagpipes! A Year 8 Day Pupil

When I work nights, everything changes. The units are eerily quiet and it is darker than usual (We only leave the wall up lighters on at night) Care staff are usually whispering while they sit at the desks on the corridor and there is the odd cough from boarders who are fast asleep. Occasionally, someone will cry out in the night or will press their call buzzer. This may be because someone is not very well, or they may have had a nightmare. Often a bit of reassurance and a cuddle does the trick, while in the case of a poorly boarder, it may mean a trip to Sick Bay on the 3rd floor. However, this is not always the case. All Units have basic medication, such as Paracetamol, in a locked cupboard in the unit office. If it is clear that they are not well enough to be looked after on their unit, we take that boarder to Sick Bay, which is nurse lead. They can also call the School Doctor out as well, if needed. (We are one of the few specialist schools in the UK to have 2 GP’s!) If they are taken very ill, one of the carers can use the school car to take the poorly boarder to A&E. (Or if needed, we can call an ambulance) During the night, we also write up notes about how the boarders are progressing and this is kept in their files in the office. Boarders files are updated on every shift, providing clear and accurate care records.

Kyle is my favorite member of staff. He’s a great laugh, he never gets cross and hardly ever has to shout! A Boarder on the Oaks and Acorns Unit

Laundry is another job I love to do when working nights. Our school Laundry, (based in F Block) operates nearly 24 hours a day and handles thousands of pieces of laundry a week! 9 Commercial Washers and 7 Commercial Dryers are always on the go, washing everything from towels, to sheets, boarders clothes and even kitchen whites. During the day, the Laundress (Dorothy) and her assistants do most of the laundry. However, this is mainly bedding, as we go through quite a bit of it on a daily basis. So it is up to the night staff to wash, dry and press boarders clothes, to prevent a serious backlog in the laundry system. We try to get everything washed dried and pressed in the same night, but with the amount of laundry, this often is not the case and is often completed by Dorothy and her team. Thankfully, by now it is around 5am, so not long left to go until I finish work. I probably will get another few loads pressed, put into baskets and taken up in cages to the units, before it is time for handover and I can finally go home and get some sleep! 🙂 However, sometimes it doesn’t work like that, as sometimes the fire alarm may go off or something may happen, which means I have to stay longer. (once, I had to stay until 10am and was really really tired by the time I got home. Apparently I looked like a zombie!)

I know no matter what I am going through, if I need someone to talk to, I know I can trust Kyle. He always knows the right thing to say when I am feeling low, because I  am missing home. A Boarder on the Jets Unit

I will admit my job hasn’t been easy. I have had my fair few “hellish” shifts. From kids getting onto the roof of the 3rd floor, lift emergencies, countless evacuations, Cardiac Arrests and many more! I have had to talk kids out of suicide and I have had to deal with intruders coming into the building. Keeping a level head is key to this job. You do not know what will happen on each shift. One minute everything is fine, then suddenly, the kids could start to kick off, or the fire alarm could go off. I always have to keep my wits about me and my eyes as sharp as a eagle. Sometimes you can spot and prevent a problem, before it escalates; but often this is not always the way.

I love it when Kyle brings Sox (the School Pets as Therapy Cat) onto the unit. I love it when he jumps up on my knee and purrs. A Boarder on the Birds Unit

When I am not at work, I enjoy spending time with the family We often go out bowling or we go to the park and sometimes we stay in and watch movies or bake. In our house, the number one rule is to have fun and we certainly do that! I am lucky to have such a great family and a job where I think I make a real difference. If I was offered a job elsewhere, I’d have to turn it down; as I am happy in my job. I have great colleagues, the kids are great, (even though at times they don’t show it!) and I am doing something good in the community.