David* was in his final year of primary school and was struggling. His school attendance had slipped, and despite living close to school he was often late. His concentration had deteriorated and his attainment had dropped. In addition, David was disorganised and erratic; more often than not unprepared for school, his homework incomplete and his attitude to school poor. David’s class teacher was concerned. Communication with mum, Carole, was difficult – she was unable to take on board feedback and comments, and was often aggressive in meetings. The headteacher referred David and Carole to SHS Practitioner, Denise, who is based in the school.
Denise met with Carole reassuring her that she wasn’t employed by the school, but was here to help in her role as a SHS Practitioner. She visited her at home and began to unpick what was going on. The family structure had recently changed as David’s older brother (in secondary school) had moved out and gone to live with his maternal grandmother. Mum was full of feelings of guilt and betrayal. David was clearly affected by his brother leaving, and both Carole and David were struggling with feelings of loss. Carole was finding it tough to parent David and to provide him with the structure and support he needed. In addition, she had recently received a repossession order on their home. Amidst this family crisis, David’s education and progress in school had suffered.
Denise and Carole worked on parenting and strategies to help improve things for David. With support, Carole was able to reflect and recognise that at times she tried too hard to be a friend rather than a parent: home life lacked any routine or structure, which caused increased stress for her and David. Denise worked with Carole to develop some routines and together they put timetables in place. To help David get on board and cooperate with the new changes, Denise helped Carole create two child-friendly timetables at home – one for the morning and one for after school/evenings.
Denise also helped Carole deal with the repossession order on their home. On top of all this, David’s Year Six trip payment was looming and Mum was worried about how she was going to pay for this. Denise made an application the SHS Welfare Fund to cover some of the costs of the trip, allowing David an important break with his classmates.
Addressing David’s attitude to school and homework was a key priority. Denise helped Carole to have regular and ongoing conversations with David’s classteacher. With Denise’s support, Carole was able to cooperate with school and take on board what David’s teacher had to say. This was a huge shift! Carole ensured David attended the school’s homework club regularly, and agreed with David and teachers that there would be consequences if he failed to do his homework or behave in class. As David was in Year Six, school and Carole agreed that he needed to take some responsibility for his actions – an important skill for children in the final year of primary to develop as they prepare for the transition to secondary school. Sports Club was important to David, so they agreed it could be used to motivate him – attendance at this was dependant on David behaviour, approach to work in class and homework.
Carole wanted to move forward in other positive ways. Denise learned that she and David had both liked to cook together in the past, so she invited them to the healthy eating workshop that she was running at school. Taking part in this enabled David and his Mum to enjoy some quality time together.
David’s mum is now communicating much more positively with school, and working with the classteacher constructively – it’s no longer a battle or “them and us” driven communication. The morning and after school timetables are being used at home, and David’s school attendance has improved – Denise is still working with him on punctuality. David’s classteacher says:
“His behaviour is much better, he’s engaged in learning more although focus can sometimes still be an issue. He loves Maths… [and] he shows more of a positive attitude towards self improvement.”
We’re delighted David’s feedback from his teacher is the realm of what many of us will have experienced! Keep working hard, David.
*Names have been changed