...and listen

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Quarryhill Primary headteacher Mike Marshall says: "At the risk of sounding a bit like a cod Chinese philosopher, my belief has always been that since we have two ears and only one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk.

"In the 1990s, all our staff went through a three-day counselling course, which was highly effective. Two staff members said it not only changed the way they taught but also the way they looked at life.

"However, listening to children is very time-consuming, especially for a busy class teacher. So, in a sense, we were ready for a school counsellor.

"It's important we have someone to listen to the children and sort out their problems. It's equally important this is not a one-off situation.

"I know very little or nothing of what is actually discussed in Sandra's sessions with children or parents, but it's extremely empowering for me at case conferences or the like that I can offer her services.

"What's doubly important, though, is that not only is she here every Friday morning, but that pupils and parents know she will also be there when the child goes to secondary school. It's a service for children which is advertised by them as well as the staff.

"Sandra also goes to circle times and explains what a counsellor does.

"She has worked with a group of boys who were struggling to manage emotions effectively. She got them to recognise triggers of emotions; made them aware what might trigger anger, for example, and to be aware of what to do.

"She also takes part in our special educational needs forums, which are held once a term. Here, along with the school doctor, speech and learning therapist, the educational psychologist, the class teacher and so forth, we discuss children who concern us. It's a problem-solving group and Sandra is a key member because none of us has the counselling experience and background she has.

"I think every school should have access to a counsellor like this. It may seem expensive but if it prevents crisis intervention in the future, involvement of the children's panel and so on, then it may actually be saving money as well as time."

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