This letter appeared in The Scotsman on 26th May co-signed by Stuart Jacob and Falkland House School
As a coalition whose members deliver specialist care and education services for children and young people with complex needs, we were delighted to see our campaign for increased investment in child and adolescent mental health services has delivered a successful outcome, with the recent announcement of £85 million in additional funding the Scottish Government.
This additional funding, to be spent on mental health services over the next five years, will go some way to address services which are proving to be incredibly stretched.
This is against the background of a signifcant increase in demand, with the number of referrals for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) increasing by 60 per cent over the past two years.
We do not dispute that our health professionals do fantastic work to help people suffering from mental ill health, but a lack of resources in the face of a dramatically increased demand means that we are often asking medical staff to work with one hand tied behind their back.
With half of Scotland’s health boards failing to meet waiting time targets to access CAMHS that came into force at the end of last year, we are clearly pleased to see that part of this funding will be used to bring down these waiting times.
We would like to thank those many people who signed our petition for taking the time to do this and hope to continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the mental health services many young people in Scotland so desperately need are being provided.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, comprising:
INCLUSIVE approach is vital to early training, writes Stuart Jacob
This week presents an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits of a Modern Apprenticeship for both employers and young people, as well as highlighting the merit in considering those with additional support needs (ASN) as candidates for such positions.
In February the Scottish Government announced it was on course to exceed its target of 25,000 new modern apprenticeships (MAs) this year and the number of those in MAs had increased by 2 per cent from the same time last year. This is absolutely to be commended as it has helped the Scottish Government bring youth unemployment figures to their lowest since 2009.
However, figures from Skills Development Scotland show less than 0.4 per cent of those in a Modern Apprenticeship have a declared disability, yet approximately 8 per cent of the 16-24-year-old target population is disabled. This is based upon self-declaration by the individual and there will be instances where people choose not to disclose their status, but this figure is still woefully low. In comparison, figures from the Skills Funding Agency in England indicate a figure of 8.7 per cent.
As a society, we have a collective responsibility to give the most vulnerable the opportunity to realise their full potential. The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, include higher loyalty and retention rates. Apprenticeship programmes provide the opportunity to do just this and at the same time help businesses thrive, especially in the sectors where we face skills shortages.
At Falkland House School we are doing all that we can to ensure that our pupils are work ready and work experienced when job and apprenticeship opportunities arise.
Pupils have recently established a contract services company that provides quotes and works for a variety of maintenance jobs in and around the school. The process is informed by real-life experiences and pupils are interviewed for positions within the company, going through the normal application and interview procedures that you would expect in the job market. For certain jobs (such as strimming around the grounds) industry standard courses (City & Guilds or Lantra awards) need to be passed for pupils to be allowed to participate (our current insurers are fully informed for risk assessment purposes).
The range of skills needed for the company matches all abilities and aspirations. Although still in its early stages, we have high hopes for the success of the project. Eventually, pupils will be paid salaries and through this be charged a form of income tax paid back to the company so that it has its own funds to either buy equipment or lease it from the school. If the team elects to buy their equipment they will have to decide upon quality and cost over leasing the school’s equipment. Our aim over the coming years is to develop the project so that a variety of different experiences in an ever widening job sector can be offered. For example: catering for seminar participants using the school; designing and maintaining the school website; painting and decorating rooms on a rotational basis; and creating general handyman and DIY jobs.
We have also recently started an initiative to help equip the boys with the work-ready skills necessary for sustainable employment. Under the supervision of teachers from a variety of subjects the boys have designed and are building a cabin in the school grounds. Due for completion in spring next year, the boys are using this project to work towards an SQA qualification and the cabin will be used as a community resource on the Falkland Estate grounds. Offering learning in this practical way, we have already seen a marked difference in the self-confidence of the boys involved.
In recent years the Scottish Government has taken a number of positive and significant steps for young people in these categories, through the likes of the Employer Recruitment Incentive and Make Young People Your Business campaign, but based on the figures, we need to do more. We need to buy in better from businesses and employers as it is they who can make the vital difference.
As we mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week, I would urge businesses to look beyond the label and look at the skills and talents these young people have by the bucket-load. We must do all we can to help them realise their potential.
• Stuart Jacob is director of Falkland House School and member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition www.thescsc.org.uk
Pupils from Falkland House School, one of Scotland’s top providers of education for boys with additional support needs, welcomed Lord and Lady Hope of Craighead, to the school this week to showcase their latest successes. Lord Hope has been appointed by The Queen to be Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this year. He was accompanied by the Lord- Lieutenant of Fife, Mr Robert Balfour.
The visit was organised at the request of the Lord-Lieutenant after reading about the school’s recent Care Inspectorate grading and good practice around employability and skills in the local press.
Their Graces were accompanied by Mr Tom Murray, the Purse Bearer, Rev. Neil Gardner, The Chaplain, Mrs Laura Mackenzie Stuart, Lady-in-Waiting and Captain Tom Kennedy, ADC.
The visitors were welcomed to the school by staff and pupils and then given a guided tour.
Stuart Jacob, Director of Falkland House School said, “We were delighted to host this visit and talk our guests through the good work that we do at the school. We have had a number of successes recently, both in terms of inspection reports and ongoing work to provide real and full experiences to prepare the boys for later life, and it is heartening that this good work is being recognised in the local community.
“We are proud of the innovative work we are doing on skills and employability for young people with additional support needs and pleased to get the opportunity to showcase this to Lord Hope and the Lord- Lieutenant.”
Falkland House School was the first independent school in Scotland to gain Autism accreditation. They now have 75% of pupils with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis and also support Young People with SEBN, ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome.
The school has also 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 last year in the Special Needs school category, the only Scottish school to be shortlisted in this category.