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Voluntary sector support of mental well-being in schools. PINS National Seminar: Mental and emotional health and well being in schools – what role for the voluntary sector? 20 th Nov 2008 Jenny Spratt. School of Education, University of Aberdeen.

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voluntary sector support of mental well being in schools

Voluntary sector support of mental well-being in schools

PINS National Seminar: Mental and emotional health and well being in schools – what role for the voluntary sector?

20th Nov 2008

Jenny Spratt.

School of Education, University of Aberdeen

aims of this talk
Briefly to consider the nature of partnership between the voluntary sector and the state

To draw from findings from 3 case studies of voluntary sector partnership with schools to support mental health

Using, as a framework, the Scottish Executive’s (2005) A vision for the voluntary sector – the next phase of our relationship

To identify the strengths of voluntary sector approaches to supporting mental health in schools

To identify the tensions in such work

To raise questions about issues emerging

Aims of this talk
repositioning of the voluntary sector
Weary of the state versus market dichotomy, recent governments have looked to the voluntary sector to provide alternative approaches to tackle inequalities.

Voluntary sector seen as: locally responsive, able to offer ‘bottom up’ initiatives, reaching the places that large bureaucracies cannot reach. (Morison 2000)

Voluntary sector has been repositioned and reconfigured (Fyfe 2005)

Repositioning of the voluntary sector
ambitious claims for partnership working
Well managed voluntary sector groups can ‘offer choice and responsiveness in the delivery of public services’ (Giddens 2000)

Voluntary sector can act as a ‘ kind of research and development wing to the welfare system, innovating new solutions to intractable problems’ (Leadbeater 1997)

Ambitious claims for partnership working
distinctive features of the voluntary sector scottish executive 2005
User focussed

Able to connect with sections of the community that government services do not reach

3. Cost effective, due to reduced bureaucracy

4. It places an emphasis on new ways of working, especially locally –working across silos

Distinctive features of the voluntary sector (Scottish Executive 2005)
voluntary sector working to support mental well being in schools
This paper draws from 3 case studies of partnership working between schools and voluntary sector organisations to support mental health (Spratt et al 2007)

National organisation working in primary schools to offer therapeutic support (Model A)

Well established Integrated Community School with full time (voluntary sector) youth counsellor (Model B)

Small community based organisation offering part time emotional literacy support in two schools (Model C)

Voluntary sector working to support mental well-being in schools
dual approach to mental health in schools
The most effective way to promote and support mental health and well-being (Weare 2004):

Universal whole school mental health promotion

Targeted support where and when required

Dual approach to mental health in schools
tensions in partnership between state and voluntary sector
Tensions brought into sharp focus when voluntary sector workers are physically and organisationally situated in school

We never forget we are hosted by the school and in a sense we have guest status, no matter how integrated we are (Project manager, model A)

Tensions in partnership between state and voluntary sector
1 user focussed and driven by mission
All driven by strong mission to address issues of mental health amongst the school aged population

Intent to work with young people requiring support, and also to support development of staff / school capacity

But, under pressure to continually demonstrate their activities complemented and enhanced the core business of the school

Could not afford to come into any conflict with the school management

1. User focussed and driven by mission
which user and whose mission
Because of the therapeutic confidentiality we always have to have enough separateness to be separate, but enough integration to be working closely with the staff team.

(Project leader, model A)

We have to get staff approval for what we are doing – that is the only way we can get projects off the ground.

(Practitioner, model C)

Which user and whose mission?
which user and whose mission11
Which user and whose mission?

And that was almost the test you know, ‘fix these kids’ because there is…an expectation that we will ‘fix’ them. And that’s an interesting thing…people’s perception of significant change. What the young person deems as being significant for them, may not in fact affect their classroom behaviour, so therefore the teacher sees a different change or no change at all. So therefore has the counselling in fact failed?

(Practitioner, model B)

2 able to connect with sections of the community that government services do not reach
Some examples of low threshold accessibility for children, young people and their families.

You can step in and you’re all sad and you can step out and you’re all happy. It’s like the magic room (Primary school pupil, model A)

2. Able to connect with sections of the community that government services do not reach
which young people are reached
Teacher referral dominated the routes of access in all three

Yet, teachers, by their own admission, are not always the best judges of who needs help

Yes, these (withdrawn pupils) are the ones that are much much harder to deal with because in some ways these children are behaving as you would ask them to behave… They are being quiet and they are being good and they are appearing to get on with it, and these are the ones…[who] may very well slip through the net.

(Secondary teacher, model B)

Which young people are reached?
3 cost effective due to reduced bureaucracy
Engaging with schools and local authorities could involve demonstrating the trappings of professionalism.

Extensive self evaluations

Production of promotional materials, websites

Complicated funding proposals

Attendance at meetings

3. Cost effective, due to reduced bureaucracy
minimal bureaucracy
Catch 22

Bureaucracy takes time away from direct work with young people

Excessive bureaucracy compromises the flexible, locally responsive approach associated with voluntary sector working

BUT failure to engage with ‘officialdom’ compromises influence over strategic planning and opportunities to tap into funding streams

We don’t do publicity for the very reason that its impossible to keep on top of it, and you don’t want to he raising expectations saying ‘ oh look here we are, and then you say ‘Well, we’ll maybe see you in six months time’

(Manager, model C)

Minimal bureaucracy?
4 it places an emphasis on new ways of working especially locally working across silos
Innovative and successful interventions to support individual children and their families

Community responsive approaches

Strong links with other services such as social services, education psychology service or health

Evidence of pupils maintained in mainstream school as a result

4. It places an emphasis on new ways of working, especially locally –working across silos
across silos
Less successful in challenging schools to address their practice

More likely to be seen as an ‘add-on’ than embedded feature of school life

All I asked was that we ask ourselves why we are doing this and, rather than to see a student to see a human being. And if we meet a human being, we might be met as a human being. And it caused uproar it really did because of some of the examples I had used

(Practitioner, model B)

…..across silos?
emerging issues
What can the voluntary sector do to support mental health in schools that is different from what schools (and other partners) offer?

How does the work of the voluntary sector complement the work of schools?

How can voluntary sector organisations use their position in schools to reach the most vulnerable young people?

What are the tensions between the aims of the voluntary sector and those of schools?

How can such tensions be addressed in ways which neither compromise the mission of the organisation, nor compromise their standing in the school?

How can schools and voluntary sector organisations work together to ensure the work is embedded, not ‘bolted on’?

Emerging Issues
references
References
  • Fyfe, N. (2005) Making space for ‘neo-communitarianism’? The third sector, state and civil society in the UK, Antipode, 37(3), 536–557.
  • Giddens, A. (2002) Where now for New Labour? (Cambridge, Polity Press).
  • Leadbeater, C. (1997) The rise of the social entrepreneur (London, Demos).
  • Morison, J. (2000) The government–voluntary sector compacts: governance, governmentality and civil society, Journal of Law and Society, 27(1), 98–132.
  • Scottish Executive (2005) A vision for the voluntary sector—the next phase of our relationship (Edinburgh, Scottish Executive).
  • Spratt, J, Shucksmith, J, Philip, K and Watson,C (2007) 'Embedded yet separate: tensions in voluntary sector working to support mental health in state-run schools', Journal of Education Policy, 22:4, 411 – 428
  • Weare K (2004) Developing the Emotionally Literate School. London: Sage.