St. Anthony’s School HeadStart programme

Key demographics and description of the School

St Anthony’s is one of five Behaviour & Learning Schools in Kent. The Behaviour and Learning schools cater for pupils who have significant learning difficulties along with SEMH difficulties. Our more able primary pupils with SEMH transfer to a BESD Secondary School at the end of Key Stage 2 and the more able ASD pupils transfer to an ASD provision.

The school’s current roll is 108, 93 boys and 15 girls. There are 38 Primary pupils and 70 Secondary whom are taught in twelve central classes.  Our agreed commissioned number is 98.  50.9% of pupils are free school meals, 73.2% are pupil premium and 13 pupils are Children in Care 71% have a medical condition. Pupils main need types are: SEMH = 54% ASD = 44%.

The school serves a wide catchment area; children come from mainly Thanet but also from Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable, with one pupil from Sittingbourne. The schools IMD is 1st among the 23 Kent Special Schools.  The Local Authority transports 46% of pupils in buses or taxis.

Since Sept 2018 the school has received 79 requests for placements from the LA, we have confirmed 112 pupils for Sept 2019.

Review the need for Emotional Health and Wellbeing enhancement, what gaps are there? What outcomes do you hope to achieve?

At the start of our HeadStart journey we reflected on the work we do linked to mental health and additional support we put in place for our pupils. As every single pupil has special educational needs they are therefore at a higher risk of developing mental health difficulties now and in the future.

A high proportion of our parents have their own SEN and mental health needs which sometimes they are not aware of. This can affect their parenting skills. Many parents have not had a positive childhood or role models growing up and then parent in the same way. This also applies to education as many parents have had a negative experience of school and no longer see its importance for their children. One of the areas we have always struggled with as a school is engagement with parents; this is being partly to do with not all parents living locally and to do with their attitude to school. As a school with many pupils and family members with mental health difficulties, we felt much of what we do already supports mental health and wellbeing but we are often limited due to no funding and lack of local resources and support. An example of this is collecting pupils from home to get them into school, driving parents to appointments to ensure they get the right support, providing food and bedding to ensure children come to school in the right frame of mind.

Research has shown that staff working with children with mental health difficulties experience higher stress levels and therefore at higher risk of developing mental health difficulties themselves, we have always tried to support staff wellbeing the best that we could.

Give an example of one of your gaps and how you addressed it

Safeguarding at St. Anthony’s has always been at the forefront of our work, supporting families during difficult circumstances. Due to high demand in the local area the threshold for social services and early help is very high and many of our families do not get the support they desperately need. We introduced a Welfare Concern Form so that staff could report concerns they knew would not meet the safeguarding threshold and were more around welfare e.g. someone with low mood and looking un kempt. Using this form now leads to staff doing a resilience conversation and seeing if further support could be put in place for the pupil. An example of this, staff handed a Welfare concern in from a year 5 pupil with Autism which reported she was worried about her elder brother, this lead to a resilience conversation which identified her mood was low because she could not communicate with her younger sibling who could only communicate through sign language we could then help with this.

Peer mentoring is something we had never tried before due to the challenging behaviour of pupils and what we thought was a lack of suitable role models to work with other children. HeadStart peer mentoring training was put in place and we trained 14 peer mentors between ages 10-16, pupils were asked to volunteer for this role and we were positively surprised by the children that put themselves forward for it, which was a mixture of children with SEMH and children with Autism. Peer mentoring is established now and working well, one year 6 pupil who was struggling with social interaction and was not really liked by his peers was visited over a three weeks by his older peer mentor in class. The unexpected outcome of this was that his peers were in owe and a little jealous of the friendship he had with an older pupil, then they treated him with more respect. Another year 6 child has been given a mentor, both these children have challenging behaviour probably linked to mental health issues and on one occasion the older peer mentor arrived in school to see his mentee struggling and refusing to go into class, off his own initiative he went and supported with a positive outcome. This is an example of how the peer mentoring can be used to support mental health and help a child build more self-esteem and self-worth.

Historically we have been able to make referrals to outside agencies when a child has needed more support than what we can give in school. All our pupils have had significant difficulties in their life and most have experienced trauma so referrals such as this would be for the extreme cases. Often pupils do not have a suitable role model within their lives. We have made several successful referrals to both SALUS and Young Lives and this has meant that we have been able to access mentoring for some of our pupils that are less extreme and often overlooked. An example of this is a Year 7 pupil who lives in a 2-bedroom house with 5 siblings and suffering financial difficulty. The child used to say he felt like he was the odd one out as he is not the biological sibling of the others, his mentor has been taking him out into the community to do activities he would not be doing otherwise, he is now cheerful in school and no longer talks about his black mood. Currently we have had two pupils finish sessions with SALUS, Six children open and pupil has finished Young Lives. We have so much evidence that pupils are happier and those that have sessions in school leave with a smile on their face. Parents were consulted and have been welcoming towards mentoring.

Pupils at St. Anthony’s are very open and talk about issues at home quite freely as there are less pupils at school, staff are able to gain a very good picture of what home life is like, we know which families are suffering through poverty, which children have limited experiences etc. An example of this is a child living Margate who had never been to the beach.
We have used the curriculum to try and give pupils more experiences such as going to the park, beach, visiting different local attractions and taking part in activities they wouldn’t get to do with their families like swimming, cinema, and restaurants. This is always limited by the school’s budget. Using the HeadStart Talents & Interests Grant we have been able to access the following for some of our pupils; a BMX bike for a pupil who was unable to go to the local skate park and instead was riding dangerously down the high street. We have received funding for travel pass to enable a pupil to attend a Youth Club. A local athletics club for a pupil with a real talent in running. A boxing club, plus taxi’s for the pupil to be able to get to the club, this pupil said how he felt it was great for his fitness, he had made friends which he couldn’t do at school, it had helped his confidence and was “something just for me”.

As said previously, our pupils and families often had limited funds for outside activities and interests. Our pupils with SEMH have very low self-esteem, the Pay it Forward Grant has allowed us to address these by giving one pupil the opportunity to do something for others which made her feel “inspired to help others”, she is setting up a Lego club in September for other pupils

As a school, we have the flexibility to adapt our curriculum to meet the needs of our challenging pupils. We have had ideas that have not always been possible, due to lack of funds. We now have 14 staff at level 1, 3 staff at level 2 and 1 staff member to train the trainer. We have been able to train 2 staff to deliver Yoga for children; this means we are now able to meet the social and emotional needs of our pupils. Feedback from pupils has included “Are we doing yoga today with you, I love it” and “I find it hard to relax but yoga makes me feel tired and stretchy.”

The mental health awareness of our staff has always been very good as it is a priority area of need for the majority of our pupils. All staff had Youth Mental Health First Aid training (lite) 2 years ago, with the intention of giving them the skills to support children effectively. The difficulty has been that mental health is constantly changing and new issues arising everyday so now we planning to send one member of staff on the intensive training and this will include all leadership.

At St. Anthony’s we consider that personal, social and health education is one of our core subjects, along with English and Maths.

We have resilience included in our curriculum and we are gradually improving pupil’s knowledge of mental health issues.

Funding has meant that we have not always been able to plan all the activities that we would like and now we will be doing some team building and resilience work with pupils outside of school.

How do you plan to sustain your new approach to mental health and wellbeing past the HeadStart project? What motivates you to do this?

We plan to have ALL staff to have at least a minimum of mental health training, some will have completed this online, some completed the light training and some the full training. If we train a member of staff to be a trainer then we will be able to train new staff as they join the school after the HeadStart project. Mindfulness training has been offered and at least one member of staff will complete train the trainer. Elements of mindfulness introduced into school can then continue after HeadStart.

We have trained peer mentors now, a member of staff sat through the training and is now able to deliver it herself, this means we will be able to continue with peer mentoring after HeadStart ends.

Resiliance conversations and welfare forms can now be part of our system for safeguarding and will continue to ensure we give pupils the best support, as a special school for SEMH we already have good links with outside agencies but we now have more, for example Young Lives and SALUS, looking ahead we will be able to develop these links.

As most of our pupils and families are effected by mental health it will continue to be a priority focus area.

We are motivated to continue this work as we know ALL our stakeholders at St. Anthony’s are effected by social, emotion and mental health difficulties.