Out of uniform, but on the 3am beat targeting teenage drinkers

17th July 2009 at 01:00
Tireless pupil support worker is declared Education Supporter of the Year

The school doors are locked, but Lisa Goodman is still working - and may not get home until 3am. While her colleagues enjoy their sacred Friday night bath, wine or DVD, she is combing the streets for underage drinkers.

This willingness to go far beyond the basic requirements of her job is what has made Ms Goodman, Deans Community High's pupil support manager, the SQA Education Supporter of the Year at this year's Scottish Education Awards.

The 37-year-old former dance teacher and nursery manager has volunteered every Friday since February 2007 with Lothian and Borders Police as part of Operation Floorwalk, which sees officers despatched to deal with underage drinkers in Livingston.

Up to 20 children per night are taken back to the station, where parents are advised about the dangers of their children's behaviour. This means issues can be identified that are not evident at school; one boy was picked up three times despite having no attendance problems.

The teenagers are open to the approach, largely because they trust the non-uniformed Ms Goodman - or Lisa, as all the pupils call her. She asked them what they would most like to do on Fridays. The result was the creation of a monthly nightclub for teenagers aged 12 to 16, branded H@VOC.

"It's about relationship-building and not being seen as someone in authority," she said. "The kids get to know you, even if they're not in your school. They'll shout out 'Lisa, I've not been drinking tonight.'"

A survey of the scheme found that underage drinking had decreased by 74 per cent, and that 74 per cent of young people were discussing alcohol with their parents. Deans' deputy head Bryan Paterson described the difference as "astonishing".

Ms Goodman's dedication - she is the only member of education staff involved - was rewarded when the scheme was highlighted as good practice in the school's recent inspection report.

Elaine Cook, the school's head, also highlights her colleague's work with West Lothian's looked-after children's team. But Ms Goodman's passion for her role - which she has filled since 2006 after arriving as a support assistant in 2002 - is most clearly exemplified by her end-of-term karaoke events. Not only do they raise money, but the school is packed during two mass sessions of 400 people. Pupils revel in the occasion, which sends everyone off on their holidays on a high.

"I'm always looking for something new," said Ms Goodman. She is working with colleagues on a project similar to nurture groups for vulnerable S1 to S5 pupils throughout the authority.

Mrs Cook's support is crucial to her success, she believes, since the head is open to all ideas. Mrs Cook said: "I've worked with a few pupil support managers, but she goes the extra mile - never would she come in and say, 'I can't do that.'"

That might mean setting aside paperwork to find a truanting pupil, a practice that has accorded local celebrity status to her distinctive car. Pupils enjoy the chance to arrive back at school in a red Mini with a Union Jack on the hood.

"Admin, to me, starts at 4.30pm," Ms Goodman said. "When I'm in work, I'm in there for the kids."

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