Talk to us about fostering 01722 442 725

Re-defining education, are the tables starting to turn?

Today marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, an awareness campaign that now sits firmly in all our minds. The work that has been done to raise awareness about the detrimental impacts of poor mental health is astonishing.

As an educator, amongst all of the activity, this week was punctuated for me by the Government’s £17 million pledge to support mental health and wellbeing in schools and colleges.

As I reflect on this week’s announcement, I feel an overwhelming sense that the tables are really starting to turn. Not only is mental health more in the public’s conscious, but local and national policy decisions are being influenced by a better understanding of the wide-reaching impact of poor mental health.

The announcement coincided with our Ofsted approval to increase the capacity of our specialist Five Rivers Child Care, The Spires School, by a third. This extended provision means we are now able to teach 32 pupils in our unique, Wiltshire-based school. The Spires, our third school to achieve the Attachment and Trauma Sensitive School Award, has trauma-informed education as its heart.

The pupils we educate often have complex backgrounds and have had sustained periods of absence from education. Frequently they come to us with a mistrust of adults and a learned apathy towards school and education. Our alternative education provision changes all of this as we work with clinicians and well-trained education professionals to persevere and develop positive relationships which open children up to learning.

A large number of our children have found mainstream school challenging and inaccessible. Our alternative education provision, 1 ACE (Another Chance Education), is underpinned by therapeutic support to help children. The model focuses on the recovery from adverse early experiences as a starting point. Alongside this we offer creative, educational opportunities – we like to think of it as a school without walls. A bespoke and trauma-informed education ethos, inspiring young people to get involved in ways they never could before.

Whilst we won’t be the direct recipients of this wellbeing fund, it is suggestive that there is a wholesale policy shift underway that will lead to better support for children who need it. This could prevent things from getting desperate, and reduce the reliance on specialist provision, but also enable a more inclusive educational system when our children are ready to move back to mainstream school.

Since the start of the year, we have seen a number of care reviews launched to interrogate the care system. At times I have felt like mental health and specialist education provision has been a ‘nice to have’. I hope the timeliness of this announcement and the reviews running in parallel, signals a change to how we think about educational experiences and the formative years for children and young people.

We know that funding is tight and local authorities have very real, challenging decisions to make on a daily basis. To see the confidence in our Wiltshire-based provision grow, enabling us to expand, is great. It will enable children who previously fell through the gaps in education to thrive once again.

We feel privileged to work with Local Authorities that are sympathetic to children’s mental health and understand how the deep, entrenched trauma some of these children may have needs addressing before anything else can happen.

There is still a lot of work to do to shift perceptions about education, and there will be challenges ahead, but today feels positive.

James Hall, Head of Education for Five Rivers Child Care. 

Enquire Today

Do you feel you have the energy and true commitment to make a positive difference to a child’s or young person’s life?

Get in Touch
Request a Call