‘The benefit of Blue Smile to children and families is immense! Often referrals to social care have not been necessary due to Blue Smile input. School staff benefit from support too, as they learn to understand complex emotions and ease conflict’.
Children supported by Blue Smile’s counselling and mentoring show significant improvements in their emotional wellbeing, relationships and behaviours. Teachers and parents tell us that this has an impact on the child’s happiness and ability to learn.
We take a holistic approach, working closely with schools to support pupils’ emotional wellbeing and with families to offer parent support and to ensure a child’s progress is maintained at home.
Our results are amazing
We are proud of the impact we have made in 2017 – 2018
of parents say their child improved because of Blue Smile
of children with very worrying mental health issues improved
of teachers say their child improved because of Blue Smile
We know that the reason we’re so effective is that our therapists are experts in child and adolescent work and are able to support children for a longer term than almost any other agency. This make a huge difference to their lives. This long term help is vital where there are complex issues. Operating with children directly in schools means there’s no stigma and no difficulty in the child reaching that expert therapy (children receiving their therapy in school are ten times more likely to access it ¹).
¹ Mick Cooper, Professor of Counselling Psychology, University of Roehampton; National Advisor for Counselling for CYP IAPT; Chair, CYP IAPT Integrated Services Group; Clinical Lead, Counselling MindEd e-learning project; Lead Investigator on range of research projects into school-based counselling
Since 2010 we are proud to have supported over 1,000 children and 144 therapists
Children were helped
Therapeutic sessions were provided
Clinical staff were trained
Making a difference to children
Blue Smile measures the impact of its work on every child seen. Our support during the 2017 – 2018 academic year included:
Children who were receiving Pupil Premium
Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Children who had more than one problem (“complex”)
Our intervention had a positive impact on classroom learning, friendships, home-life and behaviour.
Making a difference for parents and carers
As well as measuring the impact of our work on children, Blue Smile measures the impact on parents and carers of the therapeutic support we offer in schools.
When supporting children, we believe it is very important to involve parents/carers as much as possible. We discuss goals of therapy and offer strategies to help parents help their children improve relationships and behaviours at home as well as in school. This enables the child to maximise the benefits of their Blue Smile support.
“The family is happier, secure and safe. We are a unit rather than splintered.”
Making a difference for teachers and schools
Blue Smile seeks feedback on teacher welfare and the impact on the schools where we work, helping the school achieve its best.
School staff benefit from being able to discuss strategies and issues with expert therapists, to consider how they can help children with emotional issues in class. Many of our therapists are former teachers who know what a difference this can make.
Blue Smile provides:
- Professional mentoring support for teachers
- Training on mental health for school governors
Emotions can significantly influence a child’s learning and engagement in school, affecting it positively or adversely ². As the Chief Medical Officer of England puts it:
“Promoting physical and mental health in schools creates a virtuous circle reinforcing children’s attainment and achievement that in turn improves their wellbeing, enabling children to thrive and achieve their full potential.”³
We know that children who are from low income backgrounds are at four times higher risk of emotional wellbeing issues so this was a consideration when choosing our Partner Schools, many of which map onto the highest areas of disadvantage in Cambridge.
The levels of disadvantage in Cambridge are hidden and unrecognised and there are pockets which are in the most deprived 10% of the UK: ‘Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010’, ONS, 24 March 2011.
Cambridge, East Cambridgeshire and Fenland are among the worst 20% of Local Authority areas for child social mobility. The Social Mobility Index, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.
“The outcomes for children in vulnerable groups are among the worst in England and the county is below average for social mobility with Fenland in the bottom 10 per cent.” Philip Hodgson, Chair of the Cambridgeshire School
² Farahmand F, Grant K, Polo A, Duffy S, Dubois D (2011). School-based mental health and behavioral programs for low-income, urban youth: a systematic and meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology. 18(4):372-90
³ Quoted in Brooks F (2013). Chapter 7: Life stage: School Years, in Chief Medical Officer’s annual report 2012: Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays, ed. Professor Dame Sally C Davies. London: DH – cited in ‘The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment A briefing for head teachers, governors and staff in education settings, Public Health England, Nov 2014)
Working with others
Blue Smile works with other organisations to support children and their families. For instance, thanks to funding from the Evelyn Trust and Innovate and Cultivate, we are delivering a multi-agency ‘Resilience Group project’ in seven of our Partner Schools.
The Resilience Group is a partnership of three charities – Blue Smile, Relate Cambridge and Cambridge Family Mediation Service. Its aim is to improve emotional health and wellbeing for families in high needs communities to reduce the need for families to access County Council support services. Deprivation is associated with poorer mental health in children as well as lower attainment – where there is an acknowledged gap in attainment between Cambridgeshire children living in poverty and their peers.
The project delivers parenting groups, which are the ‘Getting Help’ and ‘Getting Advice’ aspects of the Thrive Framework. We work holistically and systemically with families according to the Think Family approach (Blue Smile is an approved Think Family provider.)
We work alongside organisations like the Red Hen Project, which works with families and local social services, as well as helping with referrals to NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Blue Smile is part of Fullscope, a collaboration of seven charities working through arts and therapy to improve the emotional wellbeing of those aged 0-25.
Making a difference for our therapists and mentoring counsellors
We knew there was a desperate need for an expert mental health workforce in Cambridgeshire, because of the difficulty identified by Head Teachers and Children’s Services in getting specialist support.
Blue Smile was set up by a psychotherapist, Amanda Langford. She saw that there was a way to address this situation because there was a simultaneous need for volunteer clinical placements for therapists in training.
By setting trainees alongside experienced therapists, Blue Smile is able to develop a much-needed workforce as well as helping children and schools.
Therapists have said how much they love working for Blue Smile because of its high clinical standards and policies, and its clear clinical oversight structure. They also know that they can work with a child for long enough to make a difference.
We have a close relationship with key therapy training institutions and provide the best clinical placements for therapists specialising in work with children and adolescents using the arts. Many of the trainee therapists who have clinical placements with us go on to paid work with Blue Smile, with a clear career path. Some of our earliest trainees are now Team Leaders in Partner Schools. We also provide free professional trainings throughout the year to help improve therapeutic skills still further.
“I absolutely love Blue Smile’s ethos and approach to providing school-based therapy for children, which is why I wanted to become a therapist with them. I love working with the arts and play and having the opportunity to do longer-term work with children”
“Probably one of the best training sessions I have had during my teaching career.”
How we measure our impact
We measure our work carefully to improve individual therapy and to benchmark our work against others’. We assess children at the start, middle and end of therapy using:
- The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a nationally recognised measure, which allows us to assess children’s mental health in different areas.
- The more nuanced Blue Smile’s Aims Measure which sets goals for therapy based on the outcomes teachers and parents would find most helpful for the child.
- A measure to capture the voice of the child in what they want from therapy.
External assessment of the quality of our work shows that we significantly outperform statutory Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
We also have the highest safeguarding standards. Blue Smile undertook a voluntary audit into its safeguarding procedures in 2015 with Safe Network, Children England. The audit reported that Blue Smile’s safeguarding governance was “exemplary” and that, overall, the charity had “a clear framework for safeguarding within Blue Smile that was focused, appropriate and meticulous”.
Our research group meets to discuss projects which will continue to provide a robust and growing evidence base for our work and supports our aim to continuously improve the help we give. The group is led by our Ambassadors, Tim Bryson (former head of children’s services) and Amanda Langford (child and adolescent psychotherapist), and formulates important research questions which inform the future development and improvement of our services.
The most common type of problem (59.8%) was family related (e.g. family breakdown, parental separation, reconstituted family), followed by domestic violence (19.6%), parent/carer/family mental illness issue (17.5%), sibling relationships (17.2%), bereavement, grief or loss (14.1%), experience of abuse or neglect (13.7%), bullying or victim of bullying (11%), illness or hospitalisation of the child or family (10.7%), stress or post-traumatic stress (9.3%), parental substance abuse/misuse (8.6%), and adoption (4.1%).
Making a difference with our supporters
We couldn’t do what we do without our supporters, and we make a difference to you as well, by providing opportunities for you to get engaged in supporting our work.