School Counselling at London Fields Primary School
The London Fields School Counsellors are all suitably qualified to Post-graduate Diploma level in training courses that specialise in Counselling Children and Young People. They are all members and registered with the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapy (BACP) and work in line with their Code of Ethics. They are supervised regularly by external supervisors and attend CPDs each year to enhance and develop their counselling practice.
What is School Counselling?
The counselling approach that is used is integrative, and is based on using primarily play as the tool to support children to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult.
Through play children are able to understand muddled feelings and upsetting events that they haven’t had the chance to sort out properly. Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling interrogated or threatened.
How is it helpful to the children in the school?
School Counselling can help children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.
School counselling can support children to reduce their anxiety, raise their self-esteem, and improve relationships with their peers and teachers, as well as their parents. Additionally, by having a space to offload and make sense of their muddles they are able to develop more capacity in their minds for learning and enjoy their time at school more.
How does it work?
The Senior Leadership team, teachers and parents are able to notify the Pastoral Manager or School Senco about children who would benefit from counselling. When the referral is formally agreed the senior member of staff who has the best relationship with the parent/guardian will discuss the reasons for the referral with them to gain their written or verbal consent to meet with one of the counsellors to find out more about the service. The Senco will then notify allocated counsellor so that they can make contact with the parent/guardian.
When the case has been allocated and the parent has been notified by someone about the referral, the counsellors will meet with the child’s parent/guardian to discuss the referral, obtain written consent (if school has not been able to obtain this) and complete an assessment. This includes Goodman’s Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) that is completed by the parent, teacher and child if it is appropriate. The SDQ allows us to see where children’s main difficulties are so that we can hold it in mind from the start. The counsellors will also do classroom and playground observations to identify children’s resilience’s and difficulties within the school setting. In some cases this might be fed back to the Senco and the class teacher to help them think about areas where differentiation might be needed to support the child’s social and emotional capacity for learning and strategies to help them manage their school day better.
Working with the children
Counselling is open-ended. This means that there are no time restrictions on how long a child can be worked with. Generally, children will be in counselling for at least one academic year, but if everyone involved feels that it would be beneficial for the child to continue then this is possible. However, the service is also able to facilitate short term work; this might be children who are struggling to cope with a sudden loss, such as parents separating, bereavement or year 6 children who are struggling with the idea of leaving their primary school and starting secondary school.
The children attend one session each week for 50 minutes. The session slots are changed each week so the children do not miss the same lessons every week; except in cases where a child has difficulties with change, such as children on the autistic spectrum or children who present with severe attachment difficulties and therefore need consistency in order to feel safe.
The counselling is confidential unless the counsellor has concerns that the child or someone else is at risk of harm and in these cases we will need to share this with the school by notifying the Designated Child Protection Officer. The counsellor may also share information with the parents, teachers and in some cases Social Workers when they are on the CP register. The feedback is based on information that will support the child’s emotional, social and academic development both at school and at home. This is always discussed with the child in advance as part of their termly reviews so they can consent and agree what would be helpful for their parents and teachers to know in their best interest.
Referring on and working in partnership with other agencies
We have been able to work in partnership with the Senco to make referrals to supportive services that we think would benefit the family as a whole. This has included referrals to CAMHS, where we suspect there might be need for a diagnostic assessment for conditions like ASD or ADHD, as well as family therapy; Social development opportunities with services like Young Hackney and Chance UK mentoring. We may also gain consent from parents to refer them to services to build on their confidence and emotional capacity as parents such as counselling or classes to develop their parenting skills offered by services like Hackney First Steps and Family Action.