Education in its many diverse forms is embedded in the work we do as a charity. Integral, but not always visible, we wanted to share with you the range of educational approaches and opportunities that we offer patients, staff and external peers, and the positive impact that this has on the people in our care and who work for us.
Learning and gaining skills can be a key element of a person’s recovery whilst they are with us at St Andrew’s - achieving academic qualifications and/or vocational experience is empowering, builds confidence and contributes to a sense of wellbeing.
During the next few months we’ll use our Education Spotlight to introduce you to some of the team who support patients and service users, and show you the breadth of opportunities available to people. This week we meet Cheryl Smith, Head Teacher at St Andrew’s College, the learning environment at the heart of our CAMHS service, as she talks about the importance of an educational approach that is aligned directly to the therapies and programmes employed across the wards;
‘CAMHS run a trauma informed approach for all of our young people and we have tried really hard in the college to align ourselves to that, so we have a trauma informed school’s approach that works hand in hand with that. This means that if a young person comes in to the service and they are very unwell and really fearful of school, then we just spend time alongside them, getting to know them and building trust so that we can take their learning further when they are ready’
Activ8 curriculum is based on the National curriculum and includes access to all subject areas, but is taught in a more bespoke way to enable our complex learners to feel safe and make progress.
Much of our Education is delivered in a 1:1 format with teachers to provide individual teaching and learning opportunities. As young people make progress we may build some group sessions into the timetable to encourage collaborative working and cooperation.
Being able to support schools and share our expertise in the field of young people's mental health is important to St Andrew's as a charity and to our CAMHS college team, and so we've devised our LightBulb Mental Wellness for Schools Programme. As Cheryl explains;
'Our LightBulb programme provides schools with an opportunity to build a culture of mental health support for their students. It's a real responsibility for us to make sure we're using our skills to help schools in the community to pick up on problems early on and support their young people.'
To find out more about the LightBulb programme visit our web page HERE
Our Adult Education services work within the charity to support patients to gain qualifications across a range of vocational and academic options and the team is there to facilitate people to meet their own personal goals and interests. As Frances Rainford, a Teacher in Adult Education explains;
'Adult education comes in so many different forms; so if you are interested in something we'll try to fulfil that, if you want a qualification we'll help you get that. It could be anything from vocational skills in sport or horticulture or it could be that a patient wants to gain a qualification in core functional areas like English and Maths. Some patients here can't read so one of my key priorities is making sure that when they leave us that they can'
Being ward based allows the team to use engagement sessions to encourage patients to feel comfortable with expressing their learning needs. This approach is key to building confidence, as Frances says; 'I might, for example, go onto a ward with the iPad and do an engagement session with a patient around IT. Through that you begin to start a conversation and build a relationship "Oh, how do you feel about doing a little more Maths or we could do some English, or what about creative writing? That's often our way in.'
Based within the St Andrew’s Northampton hospital site, and integrating public facing retail offerings, Workbridge provides a vocational pathway for people living with brain injuries, mental illness, learning disabilities or autism.
The centre operates to provide training and social opportunities for people living in the community and within the inpatient setting of St Andrew’s and here people can learn new skills through the array of activities on offer, supported by vocational skills instructors. Departments ranging from ceramics to woodwork, horticulture to office skills allow service users to learn both life and work skills, building confidence and social capability in the process.
The products made in the workshop sessions are sold in the public facing garden centre, charity and coffee shop where service users can also work, meeting the public and gaining retail experience.
Tom, who accesses the centre as a community based service user is a regular and an enthusiastic advocate of the service; 'I’m sure everyone benefits from being here...the consistency it gives me has been really important.'
Having sustained two brain injuries, Tom is now rebuilding his life with the support of Workbridge, where he attends textiles sessions and volunteers in the charity shop. 'I know I need structure as a result of my head injury and Workbridge gives that. It is an incredible community and there is a real family vibe.'
Image shows our service users enjoying an office skills session
Our courses are open to patients, carers and staff at St Andrew's free of charge, and members of the public can contact us to find out about courses in the community. Our range of courses is extensive, below is a small sample:
My Values, My Recovery, My Life
Managing your Money
Instilling and Holding the Hope
Starting to Improve your Self-Belief
Drama for Confidence
Basic Life Support
Keeping Well When Others are Unwell
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
What are Wellness Tools?
Discovery of Recovery
Our Recovery College takes an educational rather than a clinical or rehabilitation approach to improving mental health. As far as possible the distinction between service users and staff is avoided and there is an emphasis on co-production, co-delivery and co-participation in learning. A person with experience of mental health problems can be engaged in designing and delivering courses and not everyone participating in those courses will have a psychiatric diagnosis.
REDS co-production means that we work in collaboration with our students, clinicians, staff and patients to design and deliver courses using our collective knowledge and experience. This approach champions each member of the co-production team as an equal partner. Working together in this way is hugely beneficial for all involved; everyone contributes, everyone learns and REDS are able to provide relevant, impactful and meaningful content.
Violet, a Peer Support worker with REDS shares her insight into the value of a co-produced approach after experiencing a mental breakdown 12 years ago;
'I think what's so integral to our courses is that people who have had mental health problems get to input their views and opinions and what would be helpful for them to learn. Their insight is invaluable because no one knows mental health problems better than the people who have experienced them.
When I've been on REDS courses myself I have always felt very respected and valued and it's boosted my self-esteem so much. For patients at St Andrew's it's really great for them to be in an environment where they are not just a patient, but where they are also a student and are respected in exactly the same way as a member of staff who may be sitting next to them. They're treated as a person rather than a condition'