Monday, 24 April 2017

School visits and emotional wellbeing

I visited a small school called Ullesthorpe Primary School in Leicestershire. This is the second school where I took our `developing story` of Hollie and Figgs that the school children are creating. I was so excited to see what the children would make of the story so far and what magic they would add to it.
I decided to write two blog posts about my visit. One about the children's work and the other which is this one. As you read on you will understand why I am writing this.
Ullesthorpe and Gilmorton Primary Schools have the same headteacher who is also an old school friend of mine, Marie.
I admire her ethics and belief system around children's education. She is a true inspiration to the teaching profession.
My belief is that if a child is happy they will learn and develop, but a child who is unhappy is preoccupied and will not thrive.
I was so happy when I heard that Marie holds the same beliefs I do.
My daughter was around 14 when she was having emotional problems, but unfortunately, the educational system let her down and only added to her problems rather than helping her.
Marie informed me that emotional support is very hard to get even for children at primary school age. I feel passionately about this subject as my daughter suffered unnecessarily and we struggled to get emotional help and consistency in the school she attended. We were often told that her needs were too much and the school and teachers didn`t have the time to give her. She was under the school anxiety project and so had a psychologist allocated to her, but any recommendations suggested by the psychologist failed as the school lacked resources and consistency. This only added to her problems rather than helping her.
`Hollie and Figgs` storybook evolved as a result of my daughter`s struggles and ill health. All the way through her schooling I have tried to do my best as a parent amongst the difficulties of inadequate support.
I wrote the story of Hollie and Figgs when my daughter was unwell. I asked her to do some illustrations for the story. It was a family project, a labour of love to help build her confidence and give her something enjoyable to do. It worked out really well and so I decided to get the book published as I wanted her to see her name on the front cover of the book in order to build her confidence even more.
The story of Hollie and Figgs is about a young girl and her magical, talking cat. It is based on my daughter and our cat. When my daughter Holly was not well our cat became very important and a great comfort to her. I took an online course in writing for children and our story was born.
Children`s health and wellbeing has always been important to me and so I included issues some young children may face, and also created a fun storyline with a feel good factor and a happy ending.
As I have been going into schools to read our story I have become more aware that our story has generated discussions and thoughts about friendship issues, moving to a new school, losing friends, the importance of animals and their welfare, amongst others.
I want children to realise that they too can achieve, that they too have creative abilities and that they shouldn`t doubt their abilities. It has been very heartwarming to hear how children have received our story and what they thought about our characters.
Marie, the headteacher told me that they employ an ELSA worker in the schools. This stands for an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant. These are teaching assistants who have the training to provide emotional and social skills support to young children. 
I am so impressed with how these two schools view mental health issues and their effort to support the young children in their care. It is sad to hear how difficult it is to get outside/professional help for young children with emotional needs. 
I hope that my visits go some way to help children share their thoughts, ideas, and dreams in a creative way. And to offer teaching staff some support from my years of experience working in psychiatry as well as from our past experience.


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