“Achieve your dreams”: Feedback Day at Stepney Park

“Achieve your dreams”: Feedback Day at Stepney Park

Last week, as this year’s Motivate to Educate service came to a close at Stepney Park Primary, we held a feedback day with pupils who had attended counselling sessions and groups with our education lead, Gail.

10 children came to three different sessions where we asked them to create a poster, image or phrase responding to the question: How did Gail help you during your counselling sessions?

Here is a sample of the pupils’ creations on feedback day:

Stepney Park Primary is located just south of Whitechapel Road and is a big school in a predominantly Bangladeshi community that is largely bi-lingual. Many of the children that we meet for counselling, between the ages of 5 and 11, are experiencing challenges at home that are common to many in the borough, with parents struggling to make ends meet.

Usually, they are referred after outbursts of anger or tearfulness or being withdrawn. But after the first or second session, they begin to open up about feelings of low confidence, about difficult relationships at home, feeling not protected or nurtured. Where possible and if parents are open to it, Gail will visit at home, to provide support with either their own mental health or parenting routines or techniques.

The children that have worked with her, request her again and again and they know it is a safe space that they can go back to.

Much of the work with the pupils, though, focused on emotional awareness, building on strengths, hopes and aspirations, or relaxation and sense of safety. Each week, sessions included different activities like breathing exercises, gratitude notes, somatic and sound healing moments, and more.

Together the pupils created a Tree of Life, where each branch had a statement or question like what are you grateful for today or Say something positive about yourself today. By the end, they’d grown a whole tree of affirmations for themselves and each other.

We also spoke with the deputy head of the school, Nathalie, about the difference M2E and Kineara’s counselling had made to the school. She said, “Gail is fabulous with just being present. Even when a support intervention has come to an end, she is always there for them. It’s lovely having someone they can check in with, and she gets a real rounded, contextual feel of what is going on in families.”

Working with families is key for creating sustainable positive changes in pupils, and they can see real change when families have invested in the process.

She also spoke about the flexibility that the M2E service has given the school, offering both longer intensive interventions, shorter therapeutic counselling and drop in style support. “Some families need longer interventions, but other need short sharp interventions. What has been most important and useful for us has been having that flexibility to adapt it to what we needed.”

Counselling with a difference

When Amla (10) began working with Gail, the school said she was active in school and taking part in all school events, and very articulate.

But they knew she was a young carer to her mum, who was struggling with her mental health, and siblings, one of whom had been diagnosed with cancer. She told us on the day, “My mum didn’t know what to do when my dad left, so I would take care of my brothers and help them get ready. She wasn’t able to shop alone so sometimes I would go into the kitchen and look at the cupboards that were empty.” She also helps to translate for mum at hospital appointments. For Amla, the most important thing Gail helped her with was the support she gave her mum, as she shared with us.

Jay came to counselling struggling to recognise his strengths and qualities. In the first session, Gail suggested to create a vision board for his hopes and dreams for the future but he found it difficult and got stuck on the finer details. With some encouragement and praise, he completed it and over the next few weeks he began to open up. He discovered he loved digging in his rooftop garden at home, so Gail brought seeds for vegetables which began to grow over the course of the term. For each pupil the support looks very different and creates a space for them to nurture their strengths and sense of confidence.

Find out more about Motivate to Educate and recent research we undertook on school pupil wellbeing.

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Health and Wellbeing