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(UK) Northern Ireland: 'More and more of our children' in SPED have social/emotional needs

Nov 3, 2019, Northern Ireland, Derry Journal: Principal pioneers projects to address education ‘crisis’ https://www.derryjournal.com/education/principal-pioneers-projects-to-address-education-crisis-1-9128197 A Derry principal has introduced a pioneering new subject and a raft of other measures to address emotional well-being amid a “crisis” in the education system. Katrina Crilly, who took over as principal at Oakgrove Integrated College in 2017, said she could not stand by and see children across the education sector being systematically failed due to a funding crisis, pressure on statutory services and lack of services for children impacted by trauma and other issues. As a result, Mrs. Crilly, with the backing of, and input from, staff and a range of other bodies, has spearheaded a raft of new projects which have seen Oakgrove become the first post-primary in NI to introduce a fully staffed Nurture Room, and a new timetabled subject, Mental and Emotional Education (MEE), among other groundbreaking initiatives. “What we are doing here is creating a model,” Mrs. Crilly said. “The reason why we are creating a model is because our systems are in crisis. I, like many of my colleagues, am frustrated and gravely concerned as to why we have so many young people in our schools who are struggling emotionally, socially, and ultimately academically, but yet no one is helping us to solve this growing problem”…. “We are finding more and more of our children are being referred through Special Education Needs (SEN) route as having social emotional behavioural difficulties but that route is also under funded and under resourced with endless cuts and restraints on support for schools. Another route is Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and that is crippling as we speak, with waiting lists increasing. The other system we have is Educated Other Than At School (EOTAS) but they have no space. So we as schools are seeing all of these services open to us are in their own crisis. They are hard-working professionals but they are underfunded, understaffed and their demand is going through the roof. And who do we have in the middle of all of this? A young child whose future depends on our ability to provide an education, but schools are now expected to provide not only an education but all the other support systems as well, and it simply isn’t not good enough, so we need to create our own model. “If we can do this and this proves to be successful then we will reduce the demand on these services and impact on waiting lists. It may not impact on children diagnosed with specific mental health conditions or learning difficulties but it may help us deal with the crisis we have of children suffering from anxiety and inability to cope with the increasing demands of teenage life”…. Then Mrs. Crilly decided to take this a step further again, creating an entirely new subject to be timetabled for all new Year 8s coming into the school. The result was MEE, ‘Mental and Emotional Education’. … Mrs Crilly stressed MEE was not a ‘bolt on’ to the curriculum but was rather embedded in current Year 8 timetables. “Development of the Year 9 curriculum is near completion as I intend to make this a three year subject, hopefully with a qualification at the end if Year 10.” MEE includes a Feelings Wheel, with discussions around words such as ‘depression’, ‘mental and emotional communication’, and the children set their own targets…. “In the MEE programme we talk about Upstairs Brain, where you do your thinking, rationalising and problem solving, and your Downstairs Brain where all your emotion comes from. …