Alicia is a year 9 student referred for anger management and for difficulties emerging for her following the sudden death (suicide) of close family member.
On her first session Alicia said that she found it impossible to talk to people about her feelings.
She was able to stay in the room and begin to do a scaled profile of how she felt about different aspects of school and home life. She circled numbers on the scale representing how she felt which was much easier for her than actually talking about it. During this session it became clear that she enjoyed art, so I gave her an art journal that she could take home and bring back to each session.
On her second session Alicia brought back the art journal. She had spent time drawing in it and illustrating inspirational quotes which pointed to her dreams and values. She was able to talk about these.
She spent the session drawing and talking. We were able to set goals for what she wanted from mentoring and Alicia was able to talk about some of the difficulties at home that were causing problems for her at school.
In subsequent sessions Alicia has been able to explore her issues further. A suicide in the family had, in her words, destroyed her family. She was left feeling isolated and anxious about the well-being of the rest of her family. She expressed a wish to be able to talk to her mum. Using solution focussed methods we have begun looking at the many strengths already existent in her family both when they are at their best and during this crisis. We have begun also looking at her relationship with her mother, building a picture of how she would like it to be and helping her work towards it.
In future sessions we will work on understanding and managing her anger, which has become an increasing problem for her in school as well as helping her with her feelings of anxiety. We have also talked about creating a memory box for the family member who committed suicide which will give Alicia a chance to process the many conflicting feelings that she has around this death.
Sophie's school attendance below 10% and even when she was in school she refused to attend lessons. She was completely disengaged and her family was threatened with prosecution. The referrer's hopes for Sophie were for her to begin to engage in education, to attend lessons when in school and to build a positive relationship with an adult.
Obviously if a young person is attending school less than 10% of the time there are many things taking place in that young person's life that may be causing such low attendance. Such low attendance is often a symptom of other things.
I was warned that this young person in all likelihood would not engage – certainly within school, and if in school would not leave the inclusion area which is the only place that she would go.
When I first Sophie in the inclusion room she would not talk or make eye contact. I was able to talk to her and I told her a bit about mentoring and what its purpose was. I had no real way of knowing if she was interested in what I was saying except at the end when I got up to leave she said, 'thank you'.
Her pastoral support worker called later in the day to say that she had enjoyed our talk and she would very much like to take part in mentoring. This immediately seemed like a small triumph and going back to the referrer's hopes we were already making headway. I made an appointment to see her the following week.
When I arrived early at the school I was told that she was not at school that day. Not long into the morning whilst I was seeing other young people I had a message to say that she had arrived. She then willingly came to see me across the school (not in inclusion) and said her only reason to come to school was to see me. She stayed for over an hour and happily and openly chatted with me. We identified many of her strengths and she identified her goals. The next week was similarly successful.
I feel that although it is very much early days we are making progress especially with the hopes of engaging with an adult – Sophie is also coming to school and leaving the inclusion area.
I hope that we will continue to work together – to build confidence and self-esteem, to overcome fears, to build on strengths that are already there and to focus on the goals that were identified.
Joshua was referred to Learning Space because he had difficulties leaving his mum in the mornings when he arrived in school – his teacher felt he was becoming increasingly withdraw. At home Joshua’s mum and dad were going through a trial separation after 15 years of marriage. His father was away from the family home for long intervals and would often return with no advance notice. His mother tried to build a routine but disruptions led to feelings of depression and a loss of control over her day-to-day life. Both parents struggled with addiction and related mental health issues.
The first of our sessions focused on the mother’s strengths – reflecting on how she had managed previously and an analysis of the qualities she had that would help her get through this time. The second was aimed to look at the future for herself and Joshua. Her immediate target was to be more organised in the morning so that she could get the children to school calmly and happily. Using a rating scale technique to assess where she was currently and what changes needed to be made a solution was reached. She decided to go to bed earlier to avoid exhaustion in the morning and create more time for herself during the day.
In the third session we reviewed her progression and the success she achieved. Mornings had become less stressed and the children were much happier as a result. Joshua began enjoying school and his mother had noticed a huge difference in his behaviour.
After these sessions school reported a big improvement – Joshua was happier generally and was mixing with the other children more; Joshua mother began to do more things for herself and was pleased to be able to take on some paid work.
For some time Learning Space had wanted to pilot a peer support scheme and after attending an anti-bullying conference where year 3 children were identified as being particularly vulnerable to a drop in self-esteem we arranged to work with a small group at one of our schools in order to try out ideas and evaluate best practice.
We chose year 6 pupils to work with the year 3’s as it would give them positive role within the school. We asked the older students to think back to what it was like to be a year 3 – they painted a very frightening picture of vulnerable children and this helped them to identify with the younger ones.
Throughout the sessions the year 6 and year 3 children worked collaboratively on a creative project (making books). As the sessions progressed we saw the relationships between the different age groups grow and friendships form. The books did an excellent job of encouraging conversations and promoting creativity. Some very quiet and shy individuals started to come out of their shells and the year 3 pupils with poor behaviour at the start began to follow the positive role models provided by the older pupils.
At the end of the pilot we found that the self-esteem of both year groups had improved and most of the children said they had really enjoyed the experience. The teachers who helped with the project said they hoped eventually to involve all the age groups in the scheme.
Sarah was first referred to Learning Space half way through her first year at secondary school. She has suffered from chronic health difficulties since birth and was finding the demands of a secondary school very difficult to cope with. She had been diagnosed with stress by her GP and the aims of the Learning Space intervention were to help her to develop some coping strategies which would hopefully then reduce her increasing levels of stress and anxiety.
Learning Space met every week with Sarah in school and the first few weeks focused on building trust so that she felt comfortable to talk about how she was feeling and the exact difficulties she was facing. When asked how happy she was at school she scaled herself at 2 out of 10.
From then on the solution focused sessions supported her to find her own ways of resolving issues. For example she felt she needed a lot of support for homework and liked the idea of staying after school for homework club; the first time she attended she arrived home really pleased with herself as she had managed to complete all her work and could then enjoy a relaxing evening. The Learning Space sessions looked at ways she could ask for more help and explanation in the classroom as well as how she could improve her organisational skills. Learning Space met with Sarah’s mother at the outset of the programme in order to explore her parents’ best hopes for the programme.
At the beginning of the intervention Sarah lacked a lot of self-confidence – she relied heavily on the adults around her both to express her difficulties and also to put in place measures they thought would resolve her issues. The solution focused methods used by Learning Space helped Sarah find her own voice and encouraged her to think through what she herself could do in order to cope better in school.
Sarah is now performing much better in school and is a lot happier; on a recent scale of happiness in school Sarah put her at a very high 9. Her stress levels are lower – Sarah’s mother reports that although she still shows some signs of anxiety particularly after holidays or weekends, Sarah is now coming into school much more confident and relaxed. She is now able to approach teaching staff positively whenever she needs support.
Jackie was only 17 when her son, Kieran, as born at only 26 weeks. She had to visit him in hospital and medical bulletins implied that if he did manage to survive he would be severely handicapped. Jackie was confused and overwhelmed by this experience – none of the professionals involved said anything encouraging to Jackie about her son. Kieran did survive and he grew into a boisterous and affectionate little boy with some global delay in his general development.
The issues which emerged in our support for Jackie were: her sense that she had no control in her child’s life; how to stand her ground with professionals by preparing herself for the appointments; supporting her through disappointing assessments such as a recent one by the school’s EP; the loss of the normal mother and baby bonding process and issues surrounding her turbulent relationship with Kieran’s father.
The role of the Learning Space worker has been to listen intensively and, using a solution focused approach, to help her access the strengths and skills she already has. Jackie’s goal was to be able to prioritise in order to regain control over her life and feel more confident in charge of Kieran.
Ryan was first referred by his primary school and worked with Learning Space during year 6. His school was worried about how he would cope with the move to secondary school and asked Learning Space to continue to support for the first few months. Ryan’s home life was turbulent – he had recently moved into the area following domestic violence issues. His levels of self-esteem and confidence were low and there were concerns he may have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) as his communication with both adults and peers was very difficult. Our worker visited primary school and introduced herself to Ryan at the end of the summer term – this meant s familiar face for him in September. She then met regularly with Ryan during his first term and the solution focused sessions gave him the opportunity to express how he felt he was settling in as well as time for any worries and concerns as they occurred; he was also given support for family issues.
The work was very successful and overall Ryan made an excellent start to secondary school; at the end of the first term his teachers reported how well he had settled and his attendance was 100%. His growing confidence helped develop his communication skills; he even managed to build very positive relationships with two other boys in his tutor group – this was a huge step forward for Ryan.
Joe is an only child and lives with both parents. He was referred because of his very angry outbursts at school where he can hurt other children. He had been excluded on two occasions. He usually showed no remorse and had difficulty engaging with teachers and his peer group. His parents were concerned as he was becoming increasingly difficult to get to school and his mother was having real problems getting him out of the car in the mornings.
At first Joe was difficult to engage with – some sessions he was almost silent and only talked about and drew things that he was particularly interested in. We worked on strength cards over two sessions and initially he threw most of them on the floor saying he was “useless” at everything. The following week however he chose the “I CAN CHANGE” card out of the pack.
Joe continued to have a low self-image and Learning Space sessions gave him time and encouragement to identify his strengths as well as time “to be” without having to be challenged. Joe needs time to continue to explore his feelings of self-worth at his own speed – acknowledging he wanted to change was an enormous step forward for him.