3rd June 2011 at 01:00
The problem: A Year 11 student has asked me for advice about stress at home. She visits me three times a week and stays for the lunch-hour. She won't see the school counsellor. I want to help, but feel uneasy. She's asked for my email address. What should I do?

What you said

"Get the school counsellor to come to you one lunchtime when the pupil will be there. Talk to her together and get them to begin to build a relationship. Then gradually find reasons to go and leave them together. Eventually, the pupil should replace you with the counsellor."


"Set aside 10-15 minutes once or twice a week when pupils can come to discuss any issues they have. If she approaches you any other time, explain that you are not able to at present."


"This should have been nipped in the bud and passed on to higher management for them to assess her anxieties and question whether anything in her family life might need to be considered for further action."


The expert view

You are clearly seen as an approachable member of staff which is why this student wants to come to you. As teachers, we should be available to listen, but we must also ensure that neither we nor students are put into situations that are potentially vulnerable.

Inform your line manager about the student and your concerns. Also speak to the member of staff with pastoral responsibility for this student. They may be aware of additional concerns or patterns of behaviour that will enable the school to support the student more effectively. If you carry on meeting the student, make sure other staff know where you are and leave the door open. You could give the student time limits for meetings so that she feels supported but is not spending every lunchtime with you. Do not promise the student complete confidentiality as you may need to pass on information to colleagues if you are concerned the student is at risk. If the student discloses information you think is a child protection issue, inform the designated person at your school. Under no circumstances should you give this student your personal email address as this puts you both in a vulnerable position.

If you end up withdrawing some of your support from this student, make sure you know what additional support is being set up for her. She is clearly unhappy and needs someone to talk to. She has grown to trust you and your withdrawal will need to be carefully managed. Do not feel all the support needs to be provided by you, especially as it is making you feel uneasy.

Mark Lewis is deputy headteacher at Marshland High School in Norfolk. For more behaviour advice, go to



- Inform your line manager andor the member of staff with pastoral responsibility. You don't have to deal with this alone.

- Give the student clear time limits for your meetings.

- If you pass her on to someone else to help, manage the process carefully.


- Promise the student complete confidentiality - you may need to pass on information if she is in danger.

- Give her your personal email address - it puts you in a vulnerable position.

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