Carla*, age 15, was regularly late for school and often missed school entirely. When she was first referred to me, her attendance was recorded as just 77.9% – the equivalent of missing more than one day every week. Carla’s mum, Renata*, admitted she was having difficulty with her daughter’s behaviour, but school attendance simply wasn’t a top priority for either mother or daughter.
When I sat down with Renata I discovered she was struggling both financially and emotionally. Renata, a single mum with four children, was partially sighted but was not claiming any disability benefits. I offered to help Renata apply for the benefits to which she was entitled; I also applied for a grant on her behalf to purchase furniture for the family including new beds for Carla and her three siblings. Renata was also clearly depressed, but with my help she was able to access mental health support locally. Meanwhile, I worked with Carla to help her see the importance of attending school to achieve her dreams, and helped her apply for college places.
During eighteen months of providing intensive support to the family, I saw both Carla and mum Renata progress in their self confidence, self motivation and aspirations (although not without difficulties and the occasional crisis!). Renata engaged with the parenting support I offered and now has strategies in place for managing her daughter and setting boundaries. At my suggestion, Carla underwent counselling sessions with her school counsellor to address issues around confidence and self esteem. She is now much more positive about the future, has obtained a college place and her attendance has improved to 100%.
Most importantly, Renata is now much more engaged with her children’s education. She is taking more responsibility for both Carla’s school attendance and that of her younger sibling, and now routinely attends school parent evenings and other events. Her improved financial situation has enabled her to support her children’s education in more practical ways also; she has recently purchased new school uniform for all the children, a desk for Carla to use for her homework and a tablet to help her complete her homework assignments.
Since I first started working with Renata, her mental health has improved and she no longer requires mental health support. The whole family has benefited from the improvement in family routine and communication. I was delighted when Renata invited me to the college prize giving recently, where Carla was presented with an award for the ‘most improved student’. And, perhaps best of all, it is clear that Renata is now determined that Carla’s younger sister should do well at school; she now has a much more positive attitude to her children’s education which is already impacting her youngest child’s engagement with learning.
*Names have been changed