Balancing school and home life – Cameron’s journey to building positive relationships

  • Cameron was in Year 3 when he was identified for the West London Zone programme – a result of his poor behaviour and low self-confidence due to underlying anxiety
  • By learning more about Cameron’s home life, his Link Worker, Henry, was able to adapt his approach so that he could better engage with him 
  • After working collaboratively with his counsellor and teacher, Cameron is now better equipped to regulate his emotions and is working hard to reach his potential at school

Young people often have more than schoolwork to worry about.

Take Cameron, who as the only English speaker at home, was exposed to adult responsibilities and worries that were affecting his ability to be fully present at school. He was struggling academically and his poor emotional wellbeing would often take the shape of poor behaviour. It was evident that Cameron was at his tipping point, with both his mother and his teachers sharing in their concerns. It was agreed that early intervention could halt the spiral of disengagement, and provide him the extra layer of support that would help him to have a better school experience. 

He was identified for the West London Zone programme using a combination of these teacher and parent insights as well as our Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire – a suite of standardised tools used to highlight risk areas such as emotional wellbeing, peer problems, school engagement and confidence. Cameron was soon joined by his Link Worker, Henry, who would be his champion and mentor throughout the two-year programme. 

 Henry designed an individualised plan that mapped out the support Cameron would most benefit from

Mapping out the right support

Initially, Cameron was very reluctant to receive support. He was disengaged in activities, would often get into arguments with adults and peers, and would isolate himself, refusing to speak at all. However, Henry saw that behind the negative attitude, Cameron was experiencing some significant challenges. Understanding Cameron's home life would be key to unlocking the barrier he had put up and although it wouldn’t be an easy feat, Henry worked hard to build a strong and positive relationship. 

Henry designed an individualised plan that mapped out the support Cameron would most benefit from. His mother had shared that he was often anxious about going to school, so Henry’s initial aims were to improve his emotional wellbeing and develop his confidence. 

Connecting Cameron with support

A key part of the Link Worker role is joining up children and their families to specialist services in the community. Our Delivery Partners offer a range of support, from academic and confidence-building activities to creative art therapy sessions where children can get inspired. The first organisation Henry connected Cameron with was West London Action for Children, which offers counselling and therapy services to children and their families. Cameron was initially reluctant to attend but with Henry gently encouraging him, he began to enjoy this one-to-one time, even asking Henry if he could have more sessions.

A breakthrough

Despite this small success in one area of the personalised plan, Cameron was still distant from Henry and school; poor behaviour, unwillingness to participate and a lack of self-confidence meant that Henry wasn’t quite connecting with him enough. Henry scheduled a meeting with Cameron’s counsellor to understand what the barrier might be, and how he could build a better relationship. Henry and the counsellor were both aware that his anxiety likely centred around his challenging home life – namely that as the sole English speaker in his family he often took on adult responsibilities. Cameron therefore felt frustrated when he was treated ‘as a child’. With this understanding, Henry recognised that he would need to change his approach so that he could better build a rapport with Cameron.  

Cameron became more trusting and open to completing the activities that he had been tasked with

A change in approach

Henry changed how he spoke to Cameron, with more discussions about his interests rather than structured sessions. From this, a rapport started to build, and Cameron became more trusting and open to completing the activities that he had been tasked with. 

For example, his counsellor had suggested techniques for Cameron to develop that built on his self-confidence, centring on addressing the spiral of negativity that he got caught up in. Henry and Cameron both worked at this, identifying positive qualities about himself and communicating them back to Henry. At first, Cameron struggled, almost giving up, so poor was his belief in himself, but Henry championed him and gave him tangible examples of his positive attributes. 

Through these conversations, it was clear that all of Cameron’s challenges were interlinked; he had high anxiety as a result of undertaking adult responsibilities at home, which meant his school work and school life was suffering, resulting in low confidence. However, after discussing his positive attributes, he became more receptive to believing his good qualities. Having someone else notice his positive attributes made a big impact and gave him the confidence to identify other qualities that he could see in himself.

Discovering new hobbies

From counselling to coding; our Link Workers have a lot of support they can offer. Cameron expressed that he was interested in coding, so to facilitate this new hobby, Henry organised a lunchtime club so that he could share his interest with other children. Not only was Cameron learning new skills but he was soon able to positively engage with his peers, putting into practice the emotional regulation techniques he was learning if he did find himself in arguments. 

To further build on his confidence, Henry introduced Cameron to Arch 197, which builds the confidence and creativity of young people through street dance. As Cameron was making good progress, Henry felt he was ready to move further out of his comfort zone by giving a dance performance. Although he was initially resistant to the idea, Cameron soon became a core member of the group and showed remarkable resilience and determination to succeed at something that he had never tried before.  

Arch 197 builds the confidence and creativity of young people through street dance

After the programme

Although Cameron’s journey has not been a linear one, his hard work and the determination of Henry has set him on a pathway to achieve greater outcomes at school. He now recognises the value of his academic progress and is more focused and engaged in lessons. Through Henry and Cameron’s strong relationship, he has also been able to extend this trust to teachers and other adults at school so that he can communicate with staff when he does face disagreements with his peers. With the wrap-around support, Cameron is now a happier young person, confidently taking on secondary school with a new attitude to learning.

*Name changed and images unrelated

together, every child and young person can flourish.