Love in Llandudno

Over half a century working in education (doesn’t that sound more impressive!!) I have always pensively wished that NHS and Education could work more closely together. Their different backgrounds, training and experiences would enrich each other and the troubled children both services are trying to support.

This conviction was forged early on in my patchwork-quilt of a career! At one time I worked part time as a group and drama therapist at a Community Care Centre coworking with a CPN (community psychiatric nurse) to support young women with damagingly low self esteem referred to us through their GPs. I gained so much from this partnership with this brilliant young nurse. Later, when I was running 1:1 sessions with clients the highlight of my week was when the whole team (psychiatrist, art therapist, social workers and nurses) met in a circle for weekly supervision (a concept totally lacking in mainstream education). Being part of a team around our key person, learning from others’ honest, searching and intelligent contributions, made me feel so connected and supported… and on the right track!!

Yes, this was the late 80s when there was more funding and less mental health issues – nevertheless the core principle – learn from each other – is timeless.

Later, back totally in education, my most prized activity (and sadly rare) was with those headteachers who encouraged me to pull together all their staff into a Circle Time. We could each bring a case study of a child we were experiencing anxiety over to be listened to and supported by the whole group. So many teachers later told me how amazing it felt to know that ‘this child is not my child – he is our child’.

So why this lead in? Very late in my career, this year in fact, I found a like minded soul within the North Wales CAMH In-Reach Schools Team. I was asked to run one of my intense, multi-layered Train The Trainers courses, pulling teachers and mental health nurses to work together in partnership. Sophie Gorst (Clinical Service Manager) and her team completely ‘got it’; the very best way forward to help children is for both sets of teams (NHS and Education) to support each other. Very determinedly she managed to bring together a group of experienced, committed, open-minded teachers and mental health workers to train with me all day, all week.

We used Circle Time ourselves as the forum throughout the week to learn, discuss and reflect. We visited classes of children to see how inclusion though Circle Time children can support each other.*

The response to the week was amazing. We have written up a paper on the findings which you can access by clicking here:

CAMH School In Reach TTT March 2023 Report – click here

But I am also just going to share with you some of the delegates’ written responses:

  • “I really can’t express the joy, awe and wonder. It has been amazing”
  • “This should be a model to promote well-being in schools from a young age, so acting as a preventative measure to more pervasive mental health disorders in children”
  • “I think it has been so beneficial to be together I feel we would benefit from regular opportunities to get together to review progress and plan the next steps”
  • “I would recommend this type of training as it can solve many of schools ongoing problems”
  • “All children through the Quality Circle Time model, regardless of need can be given opportunities to learn skills and manage their own mental health and wellbeing, thereby reducing the vast numbers of young people who reach crisis point”

These are just a few of the comments. I would like to thank the North Wales Community and Mental Health Schools In-Reach Service for being proactive, visionary and incredibly supportive to the whole notion of using Quality Circle Time for all children and adults to give them a safe, tried and tested way forward to support their own mental health.

I would like to thank all the delegates for their excitement about new ideas, their willingness to work honestly and warmly with each other, their preparedness to engage in challenging exercises, to give thoughtful and wise feedback to each other and for their enthusiasm which made them drive in everyday, sometimes hours long, sometimes through snow and always arriving with a smile on their faces. What a gorgeous group you are!!

Love flourishes when people can trust others to listen, empathise and support each other. It flourishes when people have fun together. It flourishes when our vulnerable common humanity unites us and we are all each other have to deal with our increasingly complicated and demanding lives. Love definitely happened in Llandudno!!

Thanks to ….

Thank you to Sophie Gorst, Gaynor Harding and Sophie Twigg at CAMH School In Reach Service for all their organisation, support and skills. Thank you to all the delegates who came along and really made the most of an exciting week of learning, sharing and reflection. I would like to thank Dr Zara Niwano for her continuing support and hard work. I could not do without her organisational skills, eagle eyed vigilance and thoughtful kindness.

*The efficacy and benefits of using well-run Circle Times with autistic children in mainstream classes was the research topic for my master student Matina’s doctoral research.”  CLICK HERE TO READ A BLOG ABOUT THIS.