Letter to the Editor : Children’s Mental Health Week

Dear Editor,

We were delighted to note that this is the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week and to see it supported by a video message from the Duchess of Cambridge.

As a school that specializes in the education and care of boys who require additional support for learning, the clear message of the need for intervention at the earliest stage possible is to be welcomed. Many children who struggle to cope with issues such as bullying, bereavement and family breakdown see this lead to depression, anxiety, addiction and self-harm.

Child and adolescent mental health disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression are surprisingly common, affecting 10%-20% of children and young people. And the stigma that still remains around mental health means that many children do not get the help the need.

By raising awareness of the benefits of getting support early on for mental health issues, attitudes can be changed and the risk of more complex and serious problems substantially reduced when those children reach adulthood.

Yours faithfully
Stuart Jacob
Director
Falkland House
Falkland,
Fife
KY15 7AE

Scottish National Champion coaches Falkland House boys

Ryan, Marcus and Joe, three pupils at Falkland House School, were thrilled to receive training from the 2014 Scottish National Champion, Gillian Edwards.

Gillian, who represented Scotland at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, prepared the lucky trio for their tournament in Penicuik.

All the training paid off for Ryan who after losing his first match went on to win the next three and finished up in the semi-finals. Ryan also excelled in the mixed doubles where he and his pair went on to play in the finals.

The first match Joe played was against Marcus, they played each other in a hard and entertaining game with Joe just edging the win. Joe went on to play in the semi-finals losing out to eventual winner of his group.

All three boys received high praise from the organisers especially since this was only their second tournament.

“The gift to see oursels’ as others see us” Robert Burns

The thought provoking quote from the famous Scottish bard was used to set the scene for an important lesson in self awareness. Whether the boys move on to college or into employment it is our aim to provide them with the essential skills to get them where they want to go.

As part of our skills for work training the pupils were introduced to the concept of employment references’. The course explained how these are used by employers to make decisions about who would be best suited to the position.

The boys were then tasked to complete a standard reference form about themselves. While the teachers were tasked with writing a reference for the boys. This simple exercise allowed the boys to gain an understanding of not only the purpose of a reference but also how to write one.

At the end of the lesson the two references were compared which allowed for the boys to see areas where they needed to develop. From this information activities have been designed for each pupil to strengthen their employment skills.

…We had to fight through mud, sludge and snow..” Junior pupil, Ryan, tells the story of the boys recent expedition.

Accompanied by Mr Storrie and Mr Graham, a qualified Mountain Leader and Medical Officer for Tayside Mountain Rescue team, the pupils got to experience the extremes of Scotland’s weather. With the safety of the school less than 2 kilometres away the pupils ventured to the summit of East Lomond via its northern slopes and experienced white out conditions at the summit. Junior pupil, Ryan, takes up the story …

Every week on a Thursday afternoon we do electives. The teachers offer a wide range of activities such as sailing, expedition, construction, ground care, computers and film club. This time I have chosen to do expedition with some of the other boys. During this elective we are learning outdoor survival skills that we will need to go for an overnight stay in the mountains in Aberfeldy. It has been good so far, I have really enjoyed it.

One Thursday in December we were getting organised to leave to climb Falkland Hill. We had to make sure we were dressed correctly with hats, gloves and lots of layers. The weather that day was windy and cold. When we left Falkland there was hardly any snow on the ground but as we drove up Falkland Hill there was more and more snow. We could not park the bus too far up the hill because there was so much snow.
We parked the bus around the middle of the hill. Then we got out to fight through the mud, sludge and snow. We made our way up to the gates and through them. Mr Graham spoke to us about what was needed to survive in these conditions and be safe. The snow got deeper and deeper as we went up. I fell lots of time! It was freezing cold but we decided to continue and we made it to the top. It was extremely windy, the wind was so strong we were leaning back into it and it was holding us up. I think it was around -15 with the wind chill factor.

I have never experienced conditions like it. We were cold but it was very exciting and the adrenalin kept us going. We each made it to the top to put our hand on the summit!

We were all proud of our achievement!

On return to the school we enjoyed getting warmed up and having our dinner. I think we all feel more confident about the expedition now.

Burns Day

The boys celebrated Burns day in style after the dining room was decorated with saltire bunting and the tables covered with tartan napkins.

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A full Scottish breakfast was served up including potato scones, black pudding and of course haggis. The rest of the day was spent playing games.

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To top it all off a traditional taster buffet was put out for lunchtime made up of scotch eggs, tablet, clootie dumpling and scotch pies.

Article in Edinburgh Evening News from Stuart Jacob: Government must help educational psychologists

It is both heartening and reassuring that David Stewart MSP has secured a debate in the Scottish Parliament on concerns over the numbers of educational psychologists. There are a number of issues facing the profession and unless urgent action is taken, it is undoubtedly heading towards crisis.

In late 2013 the Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists (ASPEP) and the Scottish Division of Educational Psychologists (SDEP) published a report which identified that the number of trained educational psychologists in Scotland is “dangerously low” and that psychological services in Scotland were reporting a significant increase in demand.

That same report noted that a quarter of practising educational psychologists might retire in the next four years and too few new trainees are being recruited, creating a concern that some councils could breach their statutory obligations on provision of services for those requiring support if the situation does not improve.

Due to this shortage many of those who require the services of educational psychologists the most are subject to a post code lottery, with services inconsistent and varied across Scotland.

Increased demand for psychological services, with a dramatic escalation in those identified with additional support needs, exists at a time when the number of educational psychologists has declined to the same level as in 2001. Indeed, the ratio of educational psychologists to the population is now even worse than in that year, when a national review pinpointed an urgent need to train more staff.

On top of the trained staffing shortage in 2012 the Scottish Government removed the bursary of £49,000 paid to each trainee educational psychologist over the full two-year period of the course.

The removal of the bursary paid to each trainee by the Scottish Government means that new trainees need to have access to around £25,000 each year for two years to self-fund course fees, travel and living expenses. This has led to a 70 per cent drop in applicants for the selection process for the training courses.

We are sitting on a ticking time bomb of increased demand and we cannot allow those who require vital psychology services to be left confined to the fringes simply due to a lack of personnel to address this need.

Educational psychologists play a key role in supporting vulnerable children, young people and 
families and we need to give this service the urgent support it so desperately needs.

Stuart Jacob of Falkland House School is a member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

Epilepsy training for staff

A training session on Epilepsy was made available to the school staff on the 8th January 2015. Celia Brand, an Epilepsy Specialist Nurse from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh presented the training. The learning outcomes were:

1. To provide general information regarding the condition of Epilepsy
2. To raise the awareness of staff to the specific symptoms of Epilepsy with regard to a particular pupil

The feedback questionnaires completed by the staff who attended were very positive and outcomes achieved in terms of raising staff awareness to the condition of Epilepsy. As a result of the training the staff group expressed an improved confidence that the school was fully meeting the needs of the pupil in terms of his Epilepsy diagnosis.

Pupils take advantage of first Scottish Government work placement for those with Additional Support Needs

Two pupils from Falkland House School, one of Scotland’s top providers of education for boys with additional support needs, have become the first to complete a work placement with the Scottish Government tailored specifically for pupils with additional support needs.

 

Over the course of three weeks, Ross and Kieran (both aged 16) have been introduced to the full range of administration and support functions that keep the offices running smoothly on a daily basis. Tasks included photocopying, scanning, organising travel arrangements and covering front of house. They also had to organise their own travel to and from the Scottish Government’s Atlantic Quay office to Falkland House School in Fife.

The Scottish Government regularly offers graduate and undergraduate placements as well as summer internships, however this is the first time that it has introduced a programme designed for pupils with additional support needs.

Falkland House School Director Stuart Jacob said:

“This has been a great experience for the boys and they would like to take this opportunity to thank the Scottish Government for all their support. They’ve both thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt some valuable skills they can take forward with them to the workplace.

“The logistics and nature of the placement made this quite a daunting prospect for them initially, but they have both coped admirably and proved themselves.

“Placements like this are invaluable to young people in building confidence and getting a taste of the world of work. I would urge more organisations to consider doing the same.”

Youth and Women’s Employment Minister Annabelle Ewing added:

“The Scottish Government leads by example in offering young people with additional support needs opportunities to experience the workplace. I am very pleased that the young men from Falkland House enjoyed their stay in Atlantic Quay and I hope it will serve them well as they progress academically towards taking up their own career path.”

The school has been awarded ten Excellents by the Care Inspectorate, making it the highest rated educational establishment of its type in Scotland.

As well as recognition from the Care Inspectorate the school was also shortlisted in the sixth annual Times Educational Supplement (TES) School Awards earlier this year in the Special Needs school category, the only Scottish school to be shortlisted in this category.

 

School gives pupils building blocks for the future with construction project

Pupils from Falkland House School in Fife, one of Scotland’s top providers of education for boys with additional support needs, have broken ground on a major construction project which will help them develop important skills for work.

Under the supervision of teachers from a variety of subjects the boys have designed and started to build a cabin in the school grounds. This is a major interdisciplinary learning project for the school with a significant focus on the environment and sustainability. Local resources will be used as much as possible, with the boys learning about all aspects of resources journey, from growing, harvesting, processing and supply.

The start of the project was marked by Helen Lawrenson from the Centre for Stewardship in Falkland who cut the first turf. She played a large part in helping to obtain consents and identifying an appropriate site.

Falkland House Director, Stuart Jacob, said, “This is a very innovative and exciting project for the boys which they are extremely enthusiastic about. Not only will they learn and develop skills they can take forward to the workplace, they will also work towards a SQA qualification in this field.

“It will also give them a sense of achievement to know that they have created something which will enhance enjoyment of the school grounds for both themselves and the local community for many years to come

“I would like to thank Helen for all her assistance with the project and for coming to mark this important milestone for us. We look forward to cutting the ribbon on the finished cabin. “

The project is due to completed in early Spring 2016.

The cabin will also be used by the local primary school in support of their forest school programme.

ENDS

Letter to the Editor: Number of young, jobless Scots to be cut by 40%

Letter to the Editor from two of our pupils in response to the Scottish Government’s youth employment strategy

Dear Editor

We were delighted to see Scottish Government proposals to cut youth unemployment by 40% in the next 7 years as outlined in its youth employment strategy (16th December).

Unemployment among young Scots accounts for almost half the country’s jobless total and nearly one fifth of youngsters are unemployed.

A culture shift is required, moving away from academic subjects towards skills directly relevant to getting a job through greater emphasis on vocational training in schools. Forging links between schools, colleges and employers, as recommended by Sir Ian Wood in his commission earlier this year and highlighted in this strategy is therefore exactly the right way to go.

As pupils who have just completed a work placement with the Scottish Government, tailored specifically for those with additional support needs, this approach is to be applauded, equipping us with experience of the world of work.

We would also encourage employers to take on those with additional support needs or risk missing out on a massive pool of talented individuals.

If we are to achieve this ambitious target to cut youth unemployment it will require not only the public sector but also more crucially employers to step up to the mark and fully play their part.

Yours faithfully
Kieran Cruden and one other fifth year pupil.

Falkland House School
Falkland
Fife
KY15 7AE