30 Sep 2022

Why Integration begins on the first day of admission

In a hospital school, much of the work happens within and around transitions. It is no different to the transitions that occur in our personal lives which we can also find to be destabilising and disorientating. This is why OFSTED focus not only on post-16 and post-18, but also on the work that schools do in the transitions from primary to secondary. It’s the structures in place which can make all the difference between a successful transition and one that doesn’t quite go to plan, the ripples continuing to have a negative impact on the pupil as they go through the education system.

The challenge for hospital schools is that they function in the midst of transitions – our young people come to us on dual roll, the responsibility of their home school but under our care too.  If possible, they move between the hospital and our school, and once here we create a nurturing educational space around them. Regardless of what happened for them to be in our hospital school, their right to education is not in transition.

It is a dichotomy that we’ve addressed in our Wednesday training sessions.

How do we enable them to feel anchored but at the same time prepare them for their inevitable transition back into their school?

Ideally, once our young people have made enough progress in their health to transition back into their community care, we work with the young person’s home school for them to begin reintegration. Our work with the home school actually begins as soon as they come to our school. We immediately form links with the young person’s school. The home school continues to provide work, give feedback on any work completed; they may even attend CPAs. However, each child comes to us with a different educational story – they could have been out of school for years, they could be embarrassed to return under questioning eyes, they may have not liked their school or experienced burnout under the pressure to achieve high grades. Anyone who has walked into a busy and thriving room for all eyes to turn to you can empathise with the pressures a child who has been admitted to a Tier 4 CAMHs mental health setting must feel when returning to school.

Reintegration work doesn’t always go according to plan, but a plan being in place is always essential. It should be slow, structured and steady so that the young person doesn’t become overwhelmed by the process. Ideally, it is about forming a triangle of support between home school, parents and us with the child in the centre.

It was during the training meeting when I asked the team when was the best time to begin the reintegration process that a member of staff  pointed out that, for them, it started the moment they met the young person with their question ‘how do you find your school?’  The slight nod from the child or the mumbled ‘I’m not good at anything’, is the first step towards understanding the work that needs to be done for them to return to school. 

So, along their journey towards recovery, we can see that by returning to school they have also reached the other side of this transition – the one that began the first day they were admitted.

Samreen Shah – Head of site, Ellern Mede Ridgeway

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