Outreach work allows teachers to learn coping strategies and offers support

27th February 2009 at 00:00

An important part of Ladywell School's responsibility is outreach work with staff in the mainstream. That can be training or supporting them by going into their schools and suggesting alternative strategies for pupils.

Drumchapel High is one of the six secondary schools in the west of Glasgow linked to Ladywell. The links pre-date the creation of the learning centre concept, however.

Grahame Roberts, depute head of Drumchapel High, believes Ladywell forms a very important part of Glasgow's inclusion provision, but he emphasises: "We have got some very experienced and resourceful teaching staff in this school, who are very skilled in coping with the challenges of the young people in front of them. They do a very good job in adverse circumstances and, at times, Ladywell is a very necessary part of that."

Pupil support assistants have taken part in training delivered by Ladywell, judging it so effective they have asked for more, while teaching staff have attended twilight and afternoon seminars at the centre on "attachment issues" and emotional literacy.

"Staff have always reported positively on what they have heard. They have come back and said 'that was something I can use' or 'that can help me understand what's happening in my classroom'," says Mr Roberts.

Drumchapel uses Glasgow's "staged intervention" approach to behaviour, which involves joint support teams made up of multi-agency representatives. It is their decision whether to refer a pupil to Ladywell for emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Sometimes staff from Ladywell come into the school to observe a pupil and help assess what strategies might work.

Drumchapel is working on behavioural issues with two groups of S1 pupils - one of girls, the other boys. Ladywell staff come in and train the behaviour support assistants in how to operate the groups.

Now that Ladywell has to extend its curriculum for full-time pupils, it is looking for input from mainstream teachers to help deliver core subjects. Three members of Drumchapel's staff are helping Ladywell with materials for computing studies, home economics and PSE subjects such as road safety, and drugs and alcohol misuse.

"I am very much in favour of learning centres," says Mr Roberts. "Sometimes, in mainstream schools, we can be coping with fairly extreme behaviour caused by a number of factors.

"The staff at Ladywell can peel back the layers and understand why a pupil is behaving in that way and come up with the most appropriate strategy.

"Our staff also put a great effort into inclusion, but our main agenda is raising attainment and delivering the curriculum, so it is good to have the back-up of a place like Ladywell."

Case study

Jason Docherty, an S3 pupil at St Mungo's Academy in the east end of Glasgow, is nearing the completion of his 20-week part-time placement at Ladywell learning centre in Scotstoun.

Ask him why he is here, he ducks his head and says to the desk: "Because of family - and my behaviour in my other school." Probe further, and he expands: "My mother passed away and I haven't been behaving. I was always getting suspended - swearing at the teachers and others in class, shoving and hitting them. I was angry."

Most of the teachers were unaware that his mother had died until he told them, he says, but he acknowledges that some tried to stick up for him.

At Ladywell, which he attends three half-days a week, he works on finding strategies to control his aggression and anger. "Ladywell has made a difference. I've behaved better than at my other school. The teachers work with me and ask questions about stuff at the other school."

There is one other boy in his class. "I work better here. I am more calm."

If he hadn't attended Ladywell, Jason would have been "chucked out" of St Mungo's and sent to another school, he believes. A fresh start would have been OK, he argues, as "it was the pupils and staff at my school that set me off". Now, however, he gets on better at St Mungo's and understands himself better.

Karen Muir, principal teacher of curriculum at Ladywell, describes Jason as one of the "success stories" and ascribes it to the work on his emotional literacy. "If you have emotional literacy, you can understand your feelings and what needs you have and learn to think things through," she says. "You can learn not to harm yourself or others and to empathise with others."

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