July is here and we are storming toward the summer holidays and the end of another academic year! In schools, the stress of exams and threat of Ofsted inspections is fading, and the energy of sports days, end-of-year productions and leaving assemblies hangs in the air. Endings, holidays and transitions are looming for pupils, with the mixture of sadness, excitement and nerves that this inevitably brings.
This week has seen me finished supervising a trainee art therapy placement in a primary school: a very rewarding piece of work. The trainee approached me around a year ago, explaining that she knew of a school who wanted a trainee to provide art therapy for its pupils, and asking whether I might be able to support her as an external supervisor. I was rightly cautious at first, knowing neither the trainee nor the school SENCO, Inclusion or Senior Leadership Team. My previous experience of managing and supervising trainee placements has been to host them in settings in which I am already an established staff member. From this position I have been able to fully understand and mediate colleagues’ expectations, interview to select a trainee based on personality and experience, assess children’s needs and match them to the trainee’s skill set and be on site to offer support. This new proposed way of working – of being an off-site supervisor, with no previous relationship to or knowledge of the school staff, system or culture – would need careful planning and thought. The professional system would need to be communicative, robust and supportive so that the trainee could provide good levels of care for the children accessing the therapy.
It’s been exciting to working in partnership with the school SENCO, trainee and University of Hertfordshire, to develop what was for me, a new model of supervising. Benefits for the trainee have been that she has had an opportunity to gain experience of establishing an art therapy service in a school that did not previously have this provision. She reports that her confidence and skill set has steadily grown throughout the course of the year. The school have been able to offer therapeutic interventions to several children and their families, at a very low cost: as the trainee is not paid whilst on placement, the school funds only the cost of supervision and liaison meetings. The feedback gathered from the children and families has shown how valuable her work has been to them. Teachers have reported feeling more supported in their interactions with these children and that they have greater understanding of their needs. The SENCO and trainee sum up their thoughts about the year as follows:
For me, it’s been a pleasure to have overseen positive changes and growth within the children, family relationships and of course the trainee. All in all it seems to have been a successful venture, and a model of working which I would be open to repeating. So if you work in a educational setting and are considering hosting a trainee art therapist to work therapeutically with your pupils… let me know !