At our 2019 conference, The Resilient School, a Whole School Approach, our brilliant speaker Heather Geddes spoke about increasing attachment in classrooms, which had the many schools and therapists scribbling notes in excitement. We were really honoured because this was probably Heather’s last big speaking engagement before semi-retiring. She was truly inspiring as an educational psychologist working with young people in trouble for so many years.
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England
(OCCE) speaker, Martin Lennon, was fascinating. He spoke on the impact of social media, another hot topic. The OCCE research showed that while social media could increase symptoms of mental ill-health, it had much that was positive too. He made the point that it was a very convenient drum to beat on the subject of mental health in young people and a distraction from its lack of funding. Martin’s final talk on how children with SEN/SEMH felt about their lack of support and understanding, leading to so many being home-educated against their wishes, was really sobering. Young people talking about schools knowing their trigger points for escalating behaviour issues, and yet school rules meaning that these were pressed anyway, was particularly troubling. This goes so much to the heart of what Blue Smile does, with over 40% of the children we see having Special Educational Needs.
Finally, it was great to hear about the Witchford Schools partnership with Blue Smile and the difference made by an innovative package of training and workshops in schools there. There was a real buzz about how such a package of help could support schools with the recommendations under the recent Green Paper on mental health.