Hackney New School
Helping a Hackney school to create an innovative Wellbeing Centre, to provide counselling and support to children and families in its community
The school serves a low-income community, around Kingsland Road, with 50% eligible for ‘pupil premium’, compared with the national average of 28%. 30% are on the Special Educational Needs register and 45% speak English as an additional language. Half the pupil premium income pays for interventions to address emotional, social and behavioural needs, including counselling for all students who wish it, through the charity Place2Be, who are on site all week.
The HNS philosophy is to teach students to think independently and develop a sense of responsibility for the society in which they live, so as to ‘prepare them as well as possible for a challenging and interesting life’. The counselling service addresses themes ranging from family conflict, bullying and depression, to self-esteem, friendships and sexuality. It has helped students to develop resilience and coping skills, by supporting them when they are experiencing challenging issues. It has also helped them to learn more easily. Over a third of the 450 students used the service last year.
Impressed by HNS’s innovative approach to serving the local community, we met the founding Trustees and Head Teacher in 2015 and attended some amazing school concerts. Every child is offered free music lessons and Music Scholars are selected to receive further support and tuition. ft’work suggested an in-depth evaluation of the impact of the music specialism, canvassing the opinions of the students, parents, teachers and other organisations in the community. The aim was to:
ft’work facilitated funding for the evaluation and an introduction to Sound Connections, who completed it in January 2018. This initial evaluation already provides some compelling evidence of the impact of music education on self-esteem, self-confidence and academic attainment
Based on the level of need and the success of its counselling scheme, HNS is planning to convert a mothballed listed building on the school site into an innovative Wellbeing Centre, providing support to children, young people and families within the community as well as in school. ft’work is providing advice to the school on the project:
“A school, as a hub of community for families, presents the right location for support on well-being and mental health as well as academics, sports and performing arts. But often more help is needed to support pupils inside and outside of school to be happy and successful in all parts of their lives”
— Phillippa De'Ath, Vice-Chair of Governors
A good local school like HNS provides the glue that helps bind communities together – between social groups and across generations – and ensures a sense of belonging and identity. ft’work is building on this willingness to collaborate, providing introductions to other innovative mental health service providers and proposing a collaborative design process for the Wellbeing Centre.
Hackney New School is one of a growing number of schools to recognise the value in providing counselling. ft’work is looking at several innovative models for addressing the mental health of children and young people, whether in school, at home or on the streets. Our aim is both to support them and to bring them to wider attention. Do you know of projects you can share with us?