Opening up about challenges – Thomas becomes more aware of his emotional wellbeing

  • Thomas was an active pupil but there were many challenges that sat below the surface, affecting his attendance
  • As a result of the trusted relationship between Thomas’ mother and his Link Worker, Charlotte, they were able to devise strategies to improve his emotional wellbeing
  • With tools to help him cope with his anxiety, Thomas now feels more confident in coming to school

Our work with children in West London has shown the importance of seeing attendance not as a standalone issue but reflective of underlying challenges. This seemed to be the case for Thomas, who joined the West London Zone programme at age 8. He was at risk in his attendance and below age-related expectations in maths and English. His Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a wellbeing tool used to identify children who would most benefit from our support, also highlighted other areas which may have been contributing factors to Thomas’ poor attendance.

Thomas was paired with his Link Worker, Charlotte, who would work with him over the two-year programme – building a relationship so that he would have a constant mentor and champion at school. On the surface, Thomas was actively engaging in a wide range of opportunities and was gradually building a good rapport with his Link Worker, Charlotte but as he progressed, cracks in his confidence and overall emotional wellbeing began to appear.

West London Zone Link Workers, build trusted relationships with each child so they can understand their individual needs and aspirations

Supporting his transition into the classroom

One year into the WLZ programme, Thomas expressed anxiety around school; finding it difficult to manage his anxiety in the morning which he shared with his mother. As Charlotte already had a good relationship with his mum, Thomas was happy for his mother to get in contact with Charlotte to discuss how he was feeling and how they could work together to manage and lower his overall anxiety. Thomas’ mum mentioned that he was particularly anxious at the start of the week and would struggle to get him into school, impacting Thomas’ overall attendance. As a result of these conversations, a joint approach was taken. Thomas’ mum would contact Charlotte if he was having a particularly tricky morning and Charlotte would then meet Thomas at the gate before school. This allowed time for Thomas to talk through how he was feeling; discuss any specific worries he had for that day and engage in mindful activities to support his anxiety. Through this, Charlotte was able to support him in the transition into the classroom and help him to feel more ready to learn.

Working collaboratively with families means that a joined-up approach can be taken

Identifying triggers

In addition to this, Thomas and Charlotte began having more regular one-to-one time during the week to check in on how he was feeling and to encourage him to talk about his emotions to better understand his anxiety. Within these sessions, they began to understand what anxiety feels and looks like, particular triggers for Thomas and build strategies for him to manage it around school. Although he found it easy to articulate how he was feeling, he lacked the tools to manage his anxiety independently. Thomas’ Link Worker taught him a wide range of strategies such as mindful looking, breathing techniques and how to complete a body scan. Thomas was given time to practice these and reflect on when these strategies would be of most use to him. Through their work together, Thomas is becoming better able to recognize and manage his anxiety whilst also continuing to talk about how he is feeling with Charlotte. This has meant that Thomas is better able to manage his anxiety around school, contributing to better attendance.

Charlotte helped Thomas develop strategies to overcome his anxieties

On the road to improvement

Through Thomas’ engagement and the relationship Thomas and his family have built with Charlotte, his attendance has begun to increase. As well as this, Thomas’ attainment in school has also improved, reaching age-related expectations in all areas of his learning this academic year, moving from previously being at risk in reading and maths. As Thomas continues on the WLZ programme, Charlotte will continue to support his wellbeing and confidence through further tailored support and opportunities.

*Name changed and images unrelated

together, every child and young person can flourish.