Calling Schools: How do we help teachers be the difference?

Charlotte JenkinsBeacon Community Services, Beacon Education Services, Beacon Family Services

We know that many schools are sending up an SOS currently.  Over the last few years children’s social, emotional and mental health needs have increased and funding has decreased.   We have partnered with the Social Enterprise Support Fund to develop a package of training and resources for school.   Read on to hear from our education lead about why this programme provides the light and direction and how to book one of our fully funded places for your school.

Alone.

No sign of any landing point whatsoever as I scanned the whole horizon 360 degrees around me.

A sharp intake of breath.

Silence; apart from the occasional lapping of water against the bow of this tiny, insignificant craft, possibly lost on this huge, dark grey, mass of sea beneath me. What creatures of that darkness lurk there…waiting to snatch me and gobble me up?

Thankfully, these thoughts only occurred to me briefly as I sat on that 38-foot sailing boat that scariest of nights. Some time later, day had dawned on a mostly sunny, English Channel on my first ever trip abroad as a youngster.

Many years on, looking back on my work as a Teacher, a Pastoral Lead in schools and presently as a Theraplay Practitioner privileged to be visiting many schools and talking with teachers, I occasionally recall those moments of panic; of unpredictability and despair out there in the boat.  As a younger, inexperienced teacher, I did not know at that point the first thing about Trauma in Childhood and as to the many, totally confusing implications for a youngster as a result.

If only I had heard of Polyvagal Theory. Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges it provides a better understanding of our OWN physiological state and in turn, how trauma in a person starts to impact on how they behave. This is so helpful when you are supporting a child who is struggling in your classroom.

Working alongside others that do understand the impact of trauma in childhood, carefully and tactfully being curious and accepting with such vulnerable children over the years has gone some way to developing a greater understanding. Becoming an Adoptive father has been the major game changer for me.

Now I support teachers to adopt the Beacon model informed by Polyvagal theory which you can read more about here.  I know this way of working  supports teachers and children’s resilience in the classroom.

In our schools, this last 3 years in particular has brought with them, amongst other feelings, – ongoing and often increasing unpredictability; real panic and the very deepest of despair – for leaders, all school staff but mostly, for the pupils/students themselves within the schools.

Experts say Covid-19 has seriously exacerbated problems such as anxiety, depression and self-harm among school-age children and that the “relentless and unsustainable” ongoing rise in their need for help could overwhelm already stretched NHS services.                                             

(Denis Campbell The Guardian Health policy editor, May 2022)

This has been, undoubtedly a period of real unrest in schools of the highest magnitude. Children need urgent and appropriate help and support as their boats meander around or become tossed to the side by another oncoming wave that impacts big time on any remaining semblance of safety.

However, so do their teachers. So too their parents and carers.

One leader in a large primary school some weeks ago talked of her “Firefighter” role, in terms of the need to provide emotional “First Aid” to so many within her school’s community; pupils, most importantly but their parents/carers and her own colleagues too.

At Beacon Services, we set out to support families,- children and their parents/carers as well as professionals, including Teachers and Support Staff in schools. We have, as our central focus, – a lighthouse, synonymous with guidance, hope and safety.

How ARE you feeling?

The programme has been developed for teachers and leaders in schools by highly skilled teachers and therapists. They have drawn on up-to-date research into play and its benefits for learning alongside Polyvagal Theory, the science of providing relational safety that helps to enable children to learn.

At Beacon Family and Education Services, with the support of the Social Enterprise Support Fund we have spent time in schools and with families, listening to teachers and parents/carers. Our programme has been developed for teachers and leaders in schools by highly skilled teachers and therapists. They have drawn on up-to-date research into play and its benefits for learning alongside Polyvagal Theory, the science of providing relational safety that helps to enable children to learn.

B.E.A.M. (Beacon Education Attunement Model) provides the joined-up help, support and new ways of thinking that you may well be seeking, whether in EYFS, Key Stages 1 or 2, B.E.A.M. Training and resources provided, work in conjunction with the agreed PHSE curriculum.  B.E.A.M. sets out to support and enable far greater confidence in schools who are experiencing emotional turbulence

“The way that the training is planned has enabled me to understand  a little more of some of the traumas that my children are facing.” Teacher

“This is just what my staff need.” (Headteacher)

BEAM (Beacon Education Attunement Model,) is impacting into a growing number of schools who are experiencing such turbulence. BEAM is a whole school intervention designed to support children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

  • We provide the relational foundation children need to engage in learning and achieve their potential
  • We find out about Attachment Theory in order to understand what children have learnt about relationships before starting school and as to how trauma, loss and separation (including that which Covid has exacerbated) so that they develop lifelong skills for mental and emotional wellbeing
  • We inform understanding of children’s needs and a toolkit for staff and parents/carers to meet them

We provide proven strategies for the classroom including Theraplay®- based activities to support children’s learning and staff’s self-care.

If you are a teacher, a support worker in a school and have recognised the issues and “storms” in your own school’s community, as described above, you can contact Beacon Education Services on 0121 270 0592 or email pete@beaconsservices.org.uk for more information about our support to schools.   

There are some funded places remaining for schools accessing the programme between January and March 2023. 

You can read about our BEAM programme here