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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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PINS National Seminar: Mental and emotional health and well being in schools – what role for the voluntary sector?
20th Nov 2008
School of Education, University of Aberdeen
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 emergingAims of this talk
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
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
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 silosDistinctive features of the voluntary sector (Scottish Executive 2005)
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
Universal whole school mental health promotion
Targeted support where and when requiredDual approach to mental health in schools
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
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 management1. User focussed and driven by mission
(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?
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)
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
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?
Extensive self evaluations
Production of promotional materials, websites
Complicated funding proposals
Attendance at meetings3. Cost effective, due to reduced bureaucracy
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?
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 result4. It places an emphasis on new ways of working, especially locally –working across silos
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?
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