Sixteen year old Danny* hadn’t been seen in school for almost two years. All that was known about him was that his previous school also hadn’t seen much of him, and attempts to provide home tutoring had been unsuccessful. It wasn’t clear whether Danny’s refusal to engage with any form of education stemmed from being prone to severe migraines or was due to emotional issues – the home tutors reported that more often than not he was in bed when they arrived and would refuse to get up. With all Danny’s peers now preparing to take their GCSE exams, it seemed that Danny was heading for a future without a single qualification – and Danny’s mum, Gloria, was at her wit’s end.
Visiting the family home, I soon discovered that Gloria had her own problems. Suffering from acute rheumatoid arthritis, she was often dependent on Danny for help with dressing and other tasks. She suffered from panic attacks and depression, and had just learned that their landlord was selling up, requiring them to move out of their home.
Recognising the complexity of the issues involved – and also the urgency in view of the deadline for Danny to be entered for any GCSE exams – I began visiting Danny and Gloria initially on a daily basis. It was essential that I spent time relationship-building with them before I could move on to exploring how to move their situation forwards. During my daily visits with Danny, I worked hard to build trust and to encourage him to think about his future. Eventually, Danny agreed to go into school to take some assessment tests to ascertain which subjects he might be entered for. This was a huge breakthrough – and showed also that Danny had a great aptitude for Maths, which proved to be a real boost to his self esteem. Armed with Danny’s assessment results, I was able to negotiate a reduced timetable for Danny, focussing on just Maths, English and Science, and managed to get both Danny and the school to agree to this. I continued to visit Danny at home every day until he was getting himself up and into school on a regular basis.
Alongside supporting Danny, I also pulled in the local SHS ‘Troubled Families’ team, who worked with me to help Gloria apply for a council flat and to consider future employment options. With my support, Gloria enrolled onto a number of ‘return to work’ college courses to update her English, Maths and IT skills. Meanwhile, I also arranged for Danny to receive support in his role as carer for his mum. I contacted the local Young Carers organisation, and through them Danny was able to benefit from the additional support of a Young Carers’ mentor – and to enjoy new activities such as cooking and baking.
To everyone’s delight (and to the school’s confessed amazement), Danny completed his GCSEs and sat his exams. After missing so much school, he did brilliantly to achieve a grade C in his Maths and Science GCSEs and a D in English. He has since been offered a place at college to take a level 3 IT course, and his school were very proud to showcase Danny’s results as a success story in their recent Ofsted inspection.
The family have also been permanently housed in a brand new flat. I’m very proud to see how far they’ve come – Danny now has a bright future ahead of him!
*Names have been changed