BY SUSANNA PINKUS
Having a keyworker, mentor or sometimes I say ‘cheerleader’ when a young person is struggling at school can be transformative.
But the way to allocating support in this context needs to be carefully thought through.
Here are my top considerations:
1. Who is the keyworker?
The young person should, wherever possible, have a say in who their person is. Who do they feel most comfortable with? Whilst a particular adult may seem perfect in paper, in practice this may not be the case and anxiety can build around the very intervention which is meant to be helpful.
2. What will the sessions involve?
Encouraging the young person to take the lead in what the sessions will involve is vital.
Talking about feelings, and the thought of doing so, can often be off-putting. Trust really needs to be gradually developed and therefore I often recommend focusing on ‘doing’ rather than talking.
Asking what the young person loves to do, and encouraging them to take the lead, sharing or teaching the adult what they enjoy doing – football, crochet, pottery, gardening, cookery or board games – can be so impactful.
3. When will the sessions take place?
Dropping a subject or other commitment may be important to enable these support sessions to take place but it is essential that this does not put pressure on other areas of the child’s academic life or take the joy away from activities they enjoy like sport..
Making space in the timetable for set sessions for a period of time, maybe start with a block of 6 weeks, often works well, rather than indefinitely.
4. Where will these take place?
The location of sessions can often be missed off the list of considerations but often it is at the forefront of young people’s minds: how will I get there? Who might see me? Who will be there when I arrive? For those who already feel vulnerable in school, ensuring that the place for this support is discreet and agreed in advance may be very important.
Image Credit: Artwork by Ria Mishaal