Anja Lewin and Melanie Sirinathsingh talk about M2E’s early success

Kineara’s innovative Motivate2Educate programme is bringing a holistic approach to educational support for young people in Tower Hamlets and has just been awarded its first major contract. Melanie Sirinathsingh speaks with M2E practitioner Anja Lewin about how the programme originated and what it can offer to young people.

 


m2e2-150x150Can you tell me how the programme came about?

The project came from the FIP (Family Intervention Project) model, which is an intensive and holistic model for working with vulnerable families. It was initially started FIP practitioner Eva Anku, who started working in a structured and intensive way with young people who were not engaging with their education and she really gained excellent results. She was able to identify exactly what barriers were stopping young people by working closely with not just the pupil, but the school and the family as well. The whole process worked really well. So it came from her working in a specific way, and since then Maria Morgan (the Director of Kineara), Eva and myself worked together to develop it into the structured, time efficient programme that we are now rolling out.

It is a 14 week programme which focuses on strengthening the relationship between the family, the school and the pupil. Our experience of working with young people showed us that causes of behavioural problems or truancy could be anxiety, depression, family issues, bullying, or learning difficulties.  With M2E, we provide much-needed intensive support that take into account the unique challenges they might be facing at home or at school to help them to overcome them.

What has been the biggest achievement of the work you have done with pupils so far?

One pupil I worked with went from barely attending school to 97% attendance in just 14 weeks, which obviously helped him in many ways, but also his family. It was great to see how he became stronger and stronger throughout the programme, because I could tell from early on that he does want to take GSCE’s and has many aspirations for his future. He didn’t show this to me much in the beginning, but once I dedicated time to him and gave him the proper emotional support he needed, he really became someone else.

So the programme can also have positive effects on the family, as well as the pupil?

Yes definitely, this is actually a big part of the M2E. For example, part of the programme involves a series of sessions with the parents and the pupil, and the school. Then there is a intermediary work with the school, so if there are concerns at school I would be there to assist. If the parents don’t really understand what is happening in school or how the school system works, which is one barrier we come across often, I can also work with them too. So in M2E a practitioner is becomes the link person so that the parents understand everything, and for them to be with the child on the journey.

What are some examples of barriers have you come across that have left young people unable to engage in their education?  

There could be many! Tower Hamlets has a high percentage of families from Bangladesh – first, second and third generation. This also comes with practical implications; if the parents do not speak English very well its puts them at a distinct disadvantage with, for example, understanding how to help the children with homework, or how to knowing when parent meetings are – just the basic things that the school take for granted that the parents would know about and understand.

Other barriers may appear within the school experience itself, so there might be bullying going on; it could be that they have some undiagnosed mental health conditions; it could be things going on in the neighbourhood, like gang activity. The pupil might be a carer for their parents, so they have to be at home and their school and education has to come second.

The M2E programme is designed to explore all the possible barriers and link them up with organisations and services that can help them. There is so much support in Tower Hamlets, hundreds of voluntary organisations and there is so much support out there. But if you are a 14-year-old carer you might not know what kind of rights or access you have.

So is that part of your role, to connect your pupils and families with wider support systems?

Yes! Even as the key worker, it is important I connect the pupils with specialist services that can provide the extra support that I cannot. In addition, the school often has little idea about what is happening in their pupils’ home because they are only based in the school and can’t see how the family functions, or what extra challenges families might be facing. So in many cases it is the family that also need practical support, like childcare or health services, and so part of my role is identify where they can find that extra help.

So it seems Kineara practitioners have greater reach than a school counsellor may be able to offer a pupil?

It is a key factor that we work both inside and outside the school walls, as we can see things the school can’t see and make recommendations to the school based on that. This is not without its difficulties – sometimes we get to know things that the family doesn’t want to know about. But we will always be on the family’s side.

Whatever the parent or pupil might need for support, will be there. So they might need for us to go with them to the GP, or they want to access a new service and they want us to come – it could be anything. Kineara doesn’t restrict its services to just education because the family might need support in other areas, which can then help the child re-engage with their education later.  We focus on what the family need.

It also helps the pupil. We are not connected to any other students, we are not one of the teachers, or staff, or a school counsellor, and so it removes the stigma that a pupil might feel going to the school counsellors. Other pupils don’t even need to know about it.

Find out more about Kineara’s  Motivate2Educate programme