Lucy*, 14, had been absent from school for two years. She’d recently had major surgery on her ear and had been experiencing constant, ongoing medical issues, and the school was really struggling to get in contact with Lucy’s mum. Several agencies were involved, including the school and social care team. There were a number of issues, not least the fact that no one had seen Lucy despite a number of home visits. Lucy’s situation was very worrying – I was concerned about her health, her isolation and the amount of education she was missing out on.
When I started working with Lucy and her mum, Catherine*, it became clear that negative thinking had become embedded in the family. The number of health issues Lucy had faced had made both mother and daughter pessimistic, turning any offers of support down.
I made a joint visit to the family home along with the school nurse. Following a long discussion with Lucy’s mum, she eventually agreed to work with me. Most importantly, she also agreed for Lucy to work with me. Over the course of a few weeks, I managed to develop a close relationship with Lucy and Catherine. I had numerous telephone conversations with Catherine and managed to arrange another home visit to meet Lucy for the first time. We talked about how she felt, what she would like to see happen and how I might be able to support her. It was important not to get caught up in the historical disputes and miscommunications with the school, but to empower Lucy and her mum to move forward. I was able to act as a conduit between home and school, and to advocate on behalf of Lucy, who was really keen to get back into school.
As a first step, I organised a brief visit one lunch time, bringing Lucy into school. Just putting her uniform on was a major step and leaving the house without mum took a great deal of courage on her part. All the staff and pupils at school were so pleased to see her, and she ended up staying for the whole afternoon.
Things moved really quickly. Despite frequent ear infections, constantly feeling nauseous and having dizzy spells, Lucy was back in school full-time the following week. Mum was very anxious, but I was able to reassure her and address her concerns. I still text her every day to let her know how Lucy is getting on.
Lucy and I met with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator who helped to share information with Lucy’s subject teachers, ensuring the support for her was appropriate and that she had access to the support centre where my office is based. I still pick Lucy up every morning and check on her throughout the day. She’s becoming more independent but she knows she can turn to me for help whenever she needs it.
Since I started working with her, Lucy has gone from 0% attendance to attending school every single day. She is currently preparing for her GCSEs, after which she hopes to go to college. Lucy will always have issues relating to her condition and surgery, but she is a determined young woman who just needed the right support at the right time to get back into school.
Catherine has since started volunteering at a charity shop with a view to getting paid employment. She and Lucy sent me lovely Christmas cards this year (one beautifully drawn by Lucy!), and in hers Catherine said, “I can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for Lucy. Within a matter of weeks you have completely changed her life. Not only putting everything in place to help her back to school, but also helping to see that she can. I will also be eternally grateful, you’re an amazing woman.” Lucy said, “I’m so glad you work at the school. It has made such a difference to me and my future. A lot had happened in that time off, a lot has changed since you came at the perfect time like a little fairy godmother. Thank you for everything you do and have done for me, my family, friends and all the other kids.”
*Names have been changed