Mental Health in Schools: A Guide to Pastoral and Curriculum Provision

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Mark Prever

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    Dedication

    This book is dedicated to my daughter Miriam and all young people

    Acknowledgements

    I would like to recognise the importance of all the people I have worked with in numerous settings over the last 30 years or so and whose influence has been real and lasting. In particular, I wish to acknowledge all the children and young people who have worked with me and who have shared many of their hopes, fears, sadness, loss and distress. It really is quite special when young people let you into their life, trusting you with their thoughts and deepest feelings – things that are potentially so hidden and private.

    Many thanks to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for commissioning me to write this book and, in particular, to Lewis Edwards, Marketing and Communications Manager, for keeping me on task and strictly to deadlines.

    I also wish to thank all those professionals who have influenced me throughout my career; in particular, Carmel Mullen-Hartley at the Open Door Youth Counselling Service in Birmingham.

    I am grateful to my family for their support through difficult times and particularly to my partner Ruth.

    Finally, and certainly not least, is my daughter Miriam, who remains special to me in so many ways. Miriam has highlighted the importance of good parenting, security and love in young people's development and in their emotional health and well-being.

    About the Author

    Mark Prever was born in Hackney, East London, in 1953 and has been involved in education for over 30 years. He is an experienced teacher but has substantial experience also of youth and community work and social work with young people at risk. For many years he has held formal pastoral roles, including Head of Year and Personal Social and Health Education Co-ordinator in a range of secondary schools across Birmingham.

    Over the last 16 years, Mark has developed a substantial interest in counselling and is currently Counselling Development Officer at the Open Door Youth Counselling Service in Birmingham where he has previously held the roles of clinical supervisor and Chair of the Agency.

    Up until recently, Mark was the manager of a school-based Student Support Centre for young people with social, emotional and behavioural problems as well as holding responsibility for child protection at the school. His current role at the school is Student Development Leader.

    Mark has also held the role of Chair of Counselling Children and Young People (CCYP), a division of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. He maintains a particular interest in counselling and therapeutic work with young people, mental health and emotional literacy in educational settings, and is a trainer and writer in these fields. He has written for a range of journals on related matters and has contributed to radio and the production of TV programmes.

    Mark lives in Worcestershire and has a daughter aged 11.

    Preface

    Why Write this Book?

    In writing this book, I have more than a desire to disseminate information about mental health in the context of schooling. I want it to be a useful resource, but I am aware also of a campaigning edge. The book is designed to raise the issues and possibilities of a comprehensive approach to mental health in schools. A concern for the mental health needs of young people, and the school's awareness of these, remains largely hidden. Schools are trying their hardest, often with success, to support young people in difficulty, and many hours are spent with parents and pupils trying to address problems. However, many professionals working in schools will recognise that they feel helpless and deskilled when confronted with young people who are self-harming, socially isolated and withdrawn, or behaving in a way that causes distress at home and school. These outward expressions of sadness, unhappiness or difficulty ultimately affect the learning and well-being of other pupils with whom they come into contact.

    I believe that unless education places mental health and well-being at the forefront of planning, schools will remain purely reactive institutions with a ‘fire-fighting’ model of pastoral care. What is advocated here is a more proactive approach, where problems are anticipated and preempted, and where prevention and early intervention are keenly held concepts that influence policy and planning. This book seeks to raise awareness of mental health in schools and challenge schools with a new way of thinking.

    Who is it for?

    This book is for all adults who work in schools and who come into contact with young people in distress or difficulty. This includes teachers with a pastoral role, whether as form tutor or at the level of middle management. However, I would be pleased if it also appealed to all classroom teachers and assistants and those with newly created pastoral roles as a result of workforce reform. Clearly, these pages will be of use to other staff working in schools, such as learning mentors, special needs teachers and the school special educational needs coordinator. In addition, I hope that the book is read and discussed by school head teachers, other members of the senior leadership team and governors, in particular those with the influence to effect change.

    The book is also relevant to the many other professionals working in schools, such as behaviour support, education social workers, educational psychologists and Connexions workers.

    In fact, I hope this book will be of interest to anyone who sees schooling as more than an opportunity to pass on knowledge and help pupils achieve in the formal sense, important as these goals may be. It is for all professionals who wish to highlight the importance of promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people in our schools.

    Importantly, this book is also about working with parents, family and friends whose lives are entwined with the child in distress – or become so. My aim is that the content and ideas explored in the book will open up purposeful and sensitive communication with families, and facilitate the kind of dialogue and sense of working together in partnership that is so necessary for quality support, intelligent home-school contracts and – hopefully – successful outcomes.

    How should the Book be used?

    I want this to be an intensely practical book, written with a passion born out of many years of experience. As indicated above, I also hope that the book will challenge and offer new perspectives on the practice of pastoral care.

    The book should be read in full because it is important that the arguments presented are understood. The book can later be returned to for reference and discussion. I would be delighted if the book were used for training and professional development. For this reason, I have included a number of ‘reflection boxes’ throughout the text at appropriate points. These can be used for self-reflection or in discussion with others. Where a page is headed ‘photocopiable’, please feel free to reproduce it for work with colleagues. Where material has been designed for pupils to work with, you may make multiple copies for classroom use. In addition, the text is interspersed with a number of ‘key points’ that attempt to capture the essence of the following pages.

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