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This is the voice of a pupil in a junior school where many of the children are coping
with difficulties beyond the imagining of most of us. Housing is inadequately furnished
and overcrowded. Fathers are often elderly and in poor health, and mothers confined
to the home. Young children take on heavy responsibilities, helping to look after
parents and younger siblings as well as shopping and taking care of the home. Most
attend classes after school to learn the Koran: this makes for long and tiring days. On
the streets, rival gangs are a great influence on young boys who are discovering how
to be male in their particular social context. Against this background, some children
also experience extreme trauma in which abuse or loss often play a part.

The chance to talk is centrally important

The aim of the work is to create a safe, welcoming space in which children feel valued
in their own right, and can explore their experience in ways of their own choosing. As
with adults, the chance to talk is centrally important, but here our practice takes a
more flexible form better suited to the children’s age and stage of development, and
drawing on the traditions of counselling, play therapy, and art therapy.

Sessions with children individually and in pairs are conducted on two afternoons a
week, while a third afternoon is devoted to a Nurture Group led by Jeannette with
teaching assistants. The one-to-one sessions are for children who are quiet and
withdrawn, or for various reasons are having trouble sustaining relationships with
their peers. The purpose is to provide the children with private time out of class to
talk about whatever is troubling them, and through various activities to express
themselves emotionally. In both individual and group sessions, these activities take
the form of drawing, painting, collage, mask making, model making and all kinds of
‘make believe’ play.

Many children start with individual sessions, and then after a while share their time
with one or more other children. This allows the child to have some private time in
which to explore and better understand their troubles first, before going on to develop
communication and social skills further through play and other activities in the safety
of a small group environment.

The Nurture Group

For children with learning difficulties or special needs, the Nurture Group is more
suitable. The purpose of this group is to provide a safe environment where the
children can spend some of the time sitting in a circle talking and listening to each
other; getting to know each other better, before enjoying a variety of games and arts
activities which help them gain confidence and communicate more easily. As with the
small groups, language and relationships develop well in this relaxed and playful
environment.

The school pays for the face-to-face work by the hour, and The Circle Works raises
grants to cover additional costs. In a typical year we expect to work with between 40
and 50 children in about 300 sessions. Children can be referred, through the Special
Needs Co-ordinator and Headteacher, by any member of staff, and children can refer
themselves in the same way. Monitoring and evaluation are conducted, within the
school’s special needs framework, through constant discussion with the senior
management team. An approach based on responsive listening means that the
children’s needs are met as quickly and precisely as possible.

    

Children and Young People

    Introduction
    My Teacher, Jeannette

    Reflective Space for Children
    What Children Said
    The Tondo
    Marie

 

Reflective Space for Children

‘If you need someone to talk to you can come here and talk about things that you are worried about. There’s time to talk properly.’

Jeannette Weaver
wrote this account
of her work with
children in 2004

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