'I stood at the school gate and saw it all. I saw children going through a personality change as they left our premises and it wasn't just a few families. Something is off track in the adult-child relationship. How do we start to address this?' These were the recent reflections of a Headteacher of a school that has recently become one of our licensed I Matter schools embarking on our next culture change programme which aims to help staff and parents revisit ideas about what children need to thrive and why and the role of a school in that.
Here is a very very exciting Ofsted Letter. Hope school in Liverpool. Oh fantastic!! Finally it seems that sensitivity is starting to develop. With team work we can make a difference
In recent weeks, in the process of submitting the I Matter courses for CPD accreditation via the CPD Standards Office I have had to go through a rigorous process. I have had to supply documentation and evidence to show that the course has been carefully put together and that proper systems are in place to ensure that participants have a good experience. I have had to demonstrate that feedback on the course is carefully gathered and evaluated.
In this process I have also been looking at the question of how CPD is usually evaluated for impact. I have found some useful articles. One from the Training and Development Agency for Schools suggests that as it can be difficult to evaluate the impact of CPD, managers should try to ensure that:
i) CPD is planned and carefully integrated as part of an individual's performance development plan and based on identified needs of the individual employee
ii) chosen based on what the individual wants to be learning, on how the CPD will likely impact their behaviour and how this will likely impact the children or families they work with
iii) reviewed for impact with their manager within an agreed timeline
iv) evaluated as a collaborative process for impact
v) judged where possible against some clearly pre-defined success criteria
vi) reviewed for impact over short, medium and longer term
vii) included with a cost-benefit analysis
viii) ensuring that the time taken to evaluate impact is proportionate to the identified need
As an example of the above in relation to I Matter Training, Mrs Jones is a Teacher in a primary school. She has identified that she often struggles to understand the behaviour of several of the children in her classroom. She explains to her line manger that she often feels stressed by the behaviour and is not sure that she is as helpful as she could be. She expresses a wish for training that will improve her confidence in her role. Though her child is managing academically, she would like to see him coping better in the classroom with relationships.
With her senior manager they identify a need for some further training about working with a child who struggles with relationships. A colleague suggests that I Matter Training Basic Certificate could be helpful to her and in looking at the details they notice that the course will address her understanding of the needs of the child and her own stress levels. They agree that the course appears to be good value with several parts to the training and a combination of face to face and online learning. They decide to reserve a place and book in some contact points to review the learning that Mrs Jones is having and the impact it is having on her practice.
Though the agency works with schools, the above process would apply equally in relation to the CPD needs of a social worker, health visitor, GP or paediatrician
If you are interested in our I Matter Courses for CPD purposes and are wondering about how they could be integrated into your personal performance management process please click here
Professional or home life with complex or challenging children can be very demanding. I know because I have worked in this area for nearly 30 years and I have often found myself often feeling helpless in the face of demands that seem to keep increasing year on year working in services that seem poorly adapted and unresponsive to the scale of the needs at hand. So I developed I Matter Training in response to my own confusion and because I felt that there was something really important missing that was making it more difficult to feel good about my job, or in my other multiple roles.. Here are the ways that the I Matter Framework, I Matter Model and I Matter Process help me and what I have heard others saying that the training offers them:
1. I feel much more confident in the theoretical basis of my practice decisions
As a teacher and a clinical psychologist, I had done a lot of training but the truth is that I left my clinical psychology course still feeling pretty confused about what clinical psychologists did and why. This is because I saw psychologists - good psychologists - practising in very different ways. I heard others saying that it was a matter of 'personal choice' but that felt pretty feeble after years of training and I wanted something much more solid that could join apparently diverse important ideas into a more connected whole. The I Matter Framework does that for me - it helps build up a big picture that connects up diverse well-established ideas into something very concrete and practical and founded upon the premise of a learning journey. Persuading others - that the I Matter Framework and Model could also help them has proved more challenging than I anticipated (I have my rejections letter wall!) but this doesn't change the fact that I feel much clearer about the day to day foundations of MY work. You could have this confidence too!
2. I am able to make sense of very diverse observations and have a method of sharing these explanations with others I know that to be effective in helping children it is vitally important to be successful in helping adults at home and at school. I know that as a professional and as a parent I am also expected in some degree to be a role model. The challenge has been finding a way to explain important ideas in a way that makes sense to professionals and parents with very different levels of experience and training. Many of my clients don't read books. With I Matter Training I have a way of integrating simple but powerful psycho-education into my sessions or informal conversations in a way that empowers my clients or others to feel much more confident in making and taking responsibility for key decisions. When I realised that there was a need to shift the hearts and minds of a much wider community, I decided to invest in having my initial scrappy drawings turned into professionally designed posters that are intended to attract attention and start important conversations. Teachers love these posters! Parents and Young People get them too. If you train with us, you could own a set of these posters to support this work.
3. I Matter Training offers a very powerful and clear alternative to an overly medicalised model for understanding mental health difficulties and challenging behaviour Have you noticed that when there are no good explanations around that people default to thinking that there must be something wrong with the child, and wanting to know what the diagnosis is? Have you noticed that the solution commonly then seems to be that the child needs a label or some medication? The demand from parents to have solutions means that as a professional you can be on the back foot if you do not have something strong and solid to support an alternative way of understanding. I Matter Training gives me confidence in helping parents and others think through these labelling and medication decisions with much more clarity. Labelling and medication can at times be helpful but many know that it is often being used recklessly and in the absence of the psychological support that should form part of a good intervention with a more challenging child. I find that with better understanding parents are often more able to resist the overly-medicalised option. I know that some children are very demanding and need adults to build really advanced skills. There is a structure there now to support this longer-term work. If you take the basics training you will be able to access that network of support opportunities.
4. I Matter Training helps me feel solid in knowing that there is a need to challenge current educational policy and practices - I have worked as a teacher and I work with some amazing schools and teachers but it is clear to me that something is seriously off track in the current regime and in the practices of Ofsted. There are so many stressed children and stressed adults that it is clear that in spite of the rhetoric of raising educational standards - the reality is that school is becoming a toxic place for many children and adults. A group that is particularly vulnerable is those children who have not mastered early social-emotional foundations of learning - due to sensory processing difficulties, or neglect or trauma. This includes children who have been given a diagnostic label, children in the looked after care sector, or those who have been adopted. These are a growing number in every school and classroom. Who can speak up for this group? Failure to 'raise standard's with this group is not just a result of poor teaching - My observation is that there is a mismatch between demands and resources and between the needs and capacities of the child and what the adults in the room are being asked to do. More therapy is not the solution. My view is that senior decision makers who are making important decisions that impact heavily on children and families are poorly informed. I Matter Training and assessments are attempts to set things out in a manner that offers clarity and gives schools a chance to 'fight back'. Emotionally healthy adults cannot emerge from large numbers of children whose emotional needs have been persistently overlooked. It is not possible. We know this - it is not rocket science - but it is important to me as a teacher and psychologist to act upon this knowing - not just to talk about it. But no one person can do this alone. Change will only come about if people like you decide to join a movement to challenge current practices.
5. I Matter Training helps me know that I cannot be effective if my own well-being is being too heavily impacted. It is easy to miss the point at which situations which were 'manageable' become 'unmanageable'. I have found that the I Matter Framework and the I Matter Model and the I Matter Process provide me with some powerful insights that make it much easier to manage very high levels of demands.. However when demands continue relentlessly at work or in home relationships then there is sometimes a need to take a stand and set a boundary - even if others don't like you doing this. Figuring out when this point has been reached and then taking the actions that are needed to protect yourself, and manage the resulting conflict, so that you can be effective in fulfilling your role or doing your job is a vital part of feeling good about what you do. Sometimes red route anger is a healthy response to an unhealthy situation. Have you ever found yourself at such a point? Your well-being matters! Not just for you but for those you are working to support. The important thing is that you understand the foundations for your own choices.
6. I have assessment tools and resources that fit the needs that I see on a day to day basis in school and clinic settings. One of the most difficult parts of my job has involved being asked to use routine assessment tools that do not fit adequately with the needs that I have observed in everyday practice. So as part of the I Matter Training package I invented some new ones - and trialled them with local colleagues. For the first time I have tools that get at the key issues that I know an effective intervention must shift in a school or home setting if change is to be longer standing. For the first time I have a developmental tool that can be used with the older child at work or at home in a manner that is informative, and sometimes shocking, to those involved. It is also immediately practical and empowering. I believe that these tools are really important as they allow us to give the numbers that educational policy makers crave, focussed on issues that matter to teachers and social workers and psychologists of the more complex child. The assessments provide a foundation for providing that longer term support. Yay! I am still working on the challenge of getting this thinking to people who need it, in a manner to bring about the changes that are needed. You could be part of that process.
7. I have a community of colleagues from different disciplines who 'get' the issues and who want to work with me and others to find a way to get this training out to a wider community of professionals and parents. Feeling professionally or personally isolated when you are coping with high levels of demands can be very difficult indeed - in fact it can be exceptionally draining to feel that you are seeing something that others are not seeing nor appearing to care much about. I Matter Training helps you join a supportive passionate community of 'old fashioned' professionals who believe that our job as professionals in children and families is to look after ourselves so that we can ensure that the emotional and developmental needs of child and family are met at home and at work. It is a community that believes that confident formal learning of literacy and numeracy will follow with much less angst for child and young person if we first ensure these strong social-emotional foundations. I Matter Training will help you join up lots of dots and support you on a journey through lots of ups and downs.
So you can take I Matter Training as a professional but will likely find that you come away also thinking much more deeply and consciously about your home-based relationships. This can sometimes be challenging but with more conscious awareness you will find yourself empowered to work more effectively with others to make important decisions. It is as you take this vitally important longer-term view that you will be better equipped to support mental health and healthy development of yourself and of those you support at home and at work.
Any more ideas?
I would love to hear from you!
Take care - you can make a difference!
In the I Matter Project we have 3 training pathways: Parent-Child Coaching, Professional-Child Coaching and Professional-Parent-Child Coaching. Professional-Child Coaching is something that most professionals in schools and residential care settings do without thinking about it. Coaching involves guiding the child towards the understanding and skills that the professional knows will be useful and helpful to them in their lives.
I Matter Professional-Child Coaching has many similiarites. There are also 5 key differences:
i) In comparison to regular professional-child coaching I Matter Professional-Child Coaches start out by being intrroduced to a clear map or framework around child development, brain development and the adult role. This framework is designed to help them to understand and then decide what to coach and why. Caring for children especially complex children with social emotional difficulties can be very challenging with so many decisons to make. It really helps to have an explicit map that explains how lots of ideas fit together in the area of social-emotional development.
ii) Professionals who are learning about I Matter Coaching are provided with some easy to understand assessment tools. These easy to understand developmentally informed tools are designed to make it very clear what key skills are important and why and how they are linked. They are also designed to highlight when further assessment is needed.
iii) Due to the advanced training involved, I Matter Professional-Child Coaches find that they are much more aware of what is happening and have much greater understanding of what they are seeing during the everyday challenging incidents of life with the child in class or residential settings. This helps them to have clarity and focus in their role.
iv) I Matter Coaching places a very high emphasis on the role, skills and well-being of the adult coach themselves. The special thing about this approach is that it is very clear from the outset that in order to be effective and appealing you have to do the work that supports your own well-being first! Blaming others doesn't get you to where you want to go.
v) I Matter Professional-Child Coaching provides professionals with a framework for a longer-term approach founded on strengthening the security and effectiveness of the adult-child attachment relationship at home and at school in the support of promoting social emotional development. This approach aims to join together other learning that parents and professionals access in other places.
vi) I Matter Professional Child Coaching is relevant for all children of any age where there is a concern to support social-emotional development. Children may be very typical, or they may present with some complex challenges. They may have a formal diagnosis of ASD or ADHD or ODD or something else, or they may have no clear diagnosis. This is a framework that focusses on primarily on the adults undesstanding and skiills.
I Matter Professional-Child Coach training is based on a 3 step process of learning the framework, understanding the tools, and on learning how to work for results.
I developed I Matter Professional-Child Coach training because of my concern based on years of professional practice. My concern is that we have large numbers of children in school and residential settings who have not mastered the foundations of social-emotional development. More seriously and more significantly, in spite of an industry dedicated to assessment of children these social emotional gaps are being systematically missed even in our most vulnerable children.
Failure to see the extent of the gaps means that many children are spending large portions of their day in schools on curriculum based activity that are missing the point and missing the extent of the real underlying difficulties. If you invest in professional-child coach training you will gain staff on your team who will be able to help you start to recognise these gaps more systematically. Be warned however: You may be shocked at what this will show.
If you would like to learn more take a look at our courses
Sometimes when I start talking about the I Matter Project I can feel a little embarrassed. The thing is, the issues the project is addressing are really not rocket science. It is not as if I am speaking about things that people don't already sort of know.
The difficulty is that ideas and issues that seem quite straightforward, are not actually happening when it comes to practice. Everyone knows for example that parenting is important when it comes to helping children, but parent education is not anyone's primary business As a result, what should be happening, is not actually happening.
So here are 6 reasons that your school or service needs a parent education strategy:
i) Mental health outcomes are massively impacted by parenting competence
ii) Educational outcomes are massively impacted by parenting competence
iii) Challenging behaviour and Youth offending outcomes are massively impacted by parenting competence
iv) Parenting lack of confidence is widespread
v) Hoping that 'someone' will address the parenting issues means that you have left responsibility for a massive factor that will impact on your own outcomes to someone else.
vi) Anything less than a clear strategy is unlikely to make a dint on the scale of the unmet needs
Hope that is enough to get you thinking. If you would like to join our Action Research Network to explore these issues in more depth with other professionals, you can get more information by clicking here
As a practising clinical psychologist and experienced teacher I have become increasingly concerned about the levels of stress I am observing amongst my education colleagues in schools. This last half term it seems that staff are more stressed than ever before and we are just at the beginning of the school year.
Teachers are by and large an extremely conscientious and hardworking bunch. My concern is that the expectations of what class teachers and senior leaders should be able to achieve have grown and grown and grown, to beyond what is reasonable and healthy. The resulting imbalance between the demands of the role in hand and the capacities or resources that the class teachers and senior leaders available to them is seriously out of balance for too many.
Symptoms of stress arise when there is an imbalance between demands and resources: As anyone who starts to study the content covered in the Level 1 I Matter Courses, will quickly come to appreciate, it is quite clear that excessive imbalance between demands and resources can lead to predictable physiological and psychological impact on children and on adults. One of the most important of these is that stressed adults and children all tend to become more reactive, and impatient and intolerant. This is of particular concern when those same stressed adults are interacting with highly reactive and stressed children and parents.
There is some amazing practice in our schools with committed staff seeking to offer every child an opportunity for an education. Learning I Matter principles can really help a lot. However, there comes a point with too much top down pressure to deliver results that are out of line with what these same professionals, children and parents can realistically manage, then what I have seen is that the child can become the barrier to the teacher and school delivering the required results.
The personal and professional impact of excessive demands In this content, the sheer level of stress I observe that is being experienced by too many schools in connection with the Ofsted process is an indicator of something that is seriously out of touch with the reality and needs of what is actually happening. I am appalled when I get to hear about yet another experienced head teacher or class teacher reaching total breaking point, but in the last months I have been hearing these stories more and more often. I think this is a result of an unfair and unreasonable amount of pressure on adults who deserve our support.
Not only are some personal tragedies involved for highly committed individuals, but this relentless pressure on already committed adults has in my view very serious potential impact for our most vulnerable young people. What these young people need more than anything is time to develop within the context of supportive emotionally attuned relationships with adults who are not overwhelmed. Learning to relate to other people takes time and is very difficult to learn if the task demands are developmentally insensitive and the people being interacted with are pushed to breaking point.
My greater concern is that these issues played out in the classroom with our young people have really long-term significant impact. When children who have significant delays in their social-emotional development are not given time to learn these skills because the curriculum is insensitive to the need, and when the teachers are being pushed and pushed to deliver literacy and numeracy results regardless of their pupils capacity and readiness for such formalised adult led learning, the result is not neutral. The consequence of such a mismatch will inevitably be felt in too many stressed and disengaged young people who are difficult to teach, and genuinely do not understand themselves or other people, having little or any motivation to learn.
Symptoms of stress and the issue of diagnosis The symptoms of stress are observable in quite specific patterns of brain functioning characterised by much more immature long lasting functioning. The symptoms are those that commonly come to be described with psychiatric labels: anxiety, depression, ADHD, ASD, ODD. The labels do not adequately highlight what is really happening but it is serious because these same difficulties mean that that the given young person is likely to be much less employable and much more likely to have difficulties in their own adult relationships.
I believe that this dynamic is a vital player in the rising concerns about child mental health, challenging behaviour, and crime statistics. Importantly these dynamics cannot be addressed through more and more pressure to deliver unrealistic educational results.
What's the alternative? What is needed in my view is a collective step back and a reconsideration of what we are observing. What is needed is policies and practices that give much better appreciation of child development and the adult role in the developing brain. It needs us to wake up to the extent of the real difficulties experienced by so many children in our schools in their social-emotional development and to think hard about what really needs to happen.
We as adults need to make some changes.
This project wants to campaign on these issues so if you have ideas about how this could be achieved please contact us or join a course click here
Copyright CBetoin2015 All Rights Reserved.
First Annual Conference: How Can We Really Work Together to Improve Mental Health and Educational Outcomes? Prioritising Parent Understanding and Competence
The seeds of this conference started a long time ago from a sense of confusion and overwhelm experienced in response to the ever rising tide of need I have seen in day to day practice in health and education settings over my career of the last 20 years. How do you turn frustration into something constructive, how do you turn this sense of overwhelm and hopelessness into something that feels worth doing?
The final trigger for this particular conference taking shape was a sense of exasperation about the NHS Future in Mind and 'transformation' process. Then the exasperation became an idea. So why not run a conference sharing what my colleagues and I really think? And we did it! The I Matter Project in partnership with the Centre for Adoption Support (CFAS) ran a half day conference in Lancaster on the 8th October 2015. It took us 2 1/2 weeks from idea to reality with lots of really good conversations, and a final diverse turn out of colleagues from education and health from both North Lancs and South Lakes for the event itself.
I felt we were on track when just prior to the conference when I was sent a list by a local teacher describing the Y5/Y6 pupils in her local lancashire apparently privileged school. Of 34 pupils only 6 had uncomplicated home circumstances. The rest were facing a catalogue of challenges in their home lives involving child protection investigations, parent alcohol, and drug abuse, complex divorce cases.
I guess this confirmed in black and white my concern about the scale of the challenges that I have been observing in day to day practice. The professional and personal challenge is how to respond. It is easy to grumble about what is not happening, and much more challenging to work out how to do something positive. This conference therefore set out to offer a critique of the current rhetoric on outcomes and evidence based practice in services to children and families with a view to offering a small glimpse of what a future 'really evidence based vision' might be. My belief is that we are failing to see the wood for the trees. The scale of the unmet need for children and families is in my view enormous but the biggest contributing factor in poor mental health and educational outcomes is not poor services per se but a collective failure to recognise the critical importance of child development, brain development and the adult role.
I believe that the only way to really shift this is to give these issues much more value in the fabric of how we make policy and practice decisions. And for this a clear educational approach is needed and a clear strategy.
Somehow if we are serious about helping children, we have to get to grips with the important role of the adult. We need to start to develop strong shared understandings and we need to think strategically
This first annual conference was a satisfying start. Click here for one of the Conference Handouts. If you are interested in working with others to tackle these issues, please get in touch!
Copyright CBetoin2015 All Rights Reserved.
Everywhere I go in the course of my work with complex children and families, I find schools and children and families and staff under huge pressure, delivering curriculum that are becoming more and more preset.
What I hear over and over again is that the curriculum has become so super-charged that the times that used to be available in the day and week for just easing off pressure and taking a step back to explore a wider field have become more and more rare. So, what has an understanding of psychology got to tell us about this situation and about it's likely impact on child mental health and educational outcomes?
One really important well-known graph that is incredibly important in understanding child and adult mental health and well-being, and educational outcomes is the Yerkes-Dodson (1908) arousal performance curve. According to many studies, and this well recognised graph, human beings perform best if there is a certain amount of heightened arousal around in the context that evokes and is associated with curiosity and focus. In the face of stimuli that evoke moderate curiosity and excitement and a sense of opportunity, human beings - children and adults - pay attention and focus much better than in the face of stimuli which evoke little or any curiosity or need to pay attention. With alertness, engagement and motivation to perform, we see children and adults producing better results than when they are bored and uninterested.
However, the Yerkes Dodson graph also shows us that too MUCH arousal or anxiety leads to very significant deteriorations in performance. This is important. Both ends of this Yerkes-Dodson curve are important to making sense of what is happening in our schools.
My observation is that the relentless pressure on adults in our schools is being transferred to our children and it is complex children where the crushing or explosive impact of these pressures are observed most. Most concerning is the situation when teachers find that the complex child is a barrier to them being able to deliver the results that are being expected of them.
Unless the teacher, and usually also their head teacher, is confident and able to resist and stand up to the Ofsted-driven pressures upon them, the child and adult in the classroom are placed in an impossible pressure cooker situation. What we find too often rather than collaboration and curiosity is a battle ground between adult and child where the adults feel they must MAKE the child learn, and the child's role becomes too often one of deeply reluctant co-operation or active resistance.
Not long ago I was asked to observe a young 9 year old with diagnosed learning difficulties - probably due to foetal alcohol syndrome - the aim was to help think about his future educational options. He was in Year 5 but was managing work appropriate to a Y2 child. I observed this child working with a TA who was trying to teach him fractions, counting beads and using worksheets. The child had questions of football on his mind, and what was going to happen at playtime because a friend had been sent home. 40 mins later, the exasperated TA lamented - "his concentration is really no good today". For my part, I wondered just how many times people had tried to teach him about fractions - and how many more times they were going to continue to try to do so on his journey through our school system .
The point was, fractions were not interesting to him in that moment - certainly not in the format being presented - yet adults were feeling obliged to keep working at it, because their job was to hit targets. I wondered how many more adults would have to spend a frustrating time trying to teach him something that was not connected to what he wanted to learn.
As I heard another headteacher talking about the numbers of staff who were disengaging and excessively stressed, I also wondered about the impact on the sense of Self of both child and adult of this very unsatisfactory set up. I heard that in a matter of a few months, the child I had been observing, had gone from being a child who was desperate to please to a child who had become disengaged and cocky and 'strutting his stuff'.
Frankly though, where do you go, and how do you behave when you start to realise that what is being offered to you in school involves endless hours doing things you are heartily fed up of doing? In such a situation, thinking about football and playing up the teacher sounds quite an entertaining option, doesn't it? So, does this child with challenging behaviour have a mental health problem? I think he is on his way there.
I wonder when it will become accepted that so many top down instructions do not bring out the best in our teachers nor in our young people?
I wonder when enough teachers will have the energy at the end of the day to speak up about situations that too many know cannot be right. Is there enough space to engage curiosity and enhance motivation in your school day? How do you think these issues are related to child mental health? If you are interested in reading more about these issues, why not Click here to sign up for the I Matter Monthly Digest Newsletter
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
The I Matter Prof Blog:
How do we improve the educational and mental health outcomes of our children?
My Favourite sites