AN ANGLICAN church has won recognition for its education
projects. St Ann's, Tottenham, in north London, won the Community
Organisation category in Haringey's Outstanding for All awards.
The award recognises the church's early-intervention counselling
project, which started in 2003 after problems experienced in the
The Vicar, the Revd John Wood, says: "We had a very serious case
of a child setting fire to toilets who was clearly disturbed. There
was a crisis case-conference called, and what became clear was that
there was absolutely no counselling provision available for
"Even the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had a
waiting time of a year-and-a-half. And there was no provision by
the local education authority - and there still isn't now. The head
teacher and I agreed this was a scandal."
In response, funding was secured from the Church Urban Fund, the
Tudor Trust, and the local authority to start a small-scale
conselling project offering five Tottenham schools a counsellor one
day a week. "There was a very, very quick uptake because the needs
were so great," Mr Wood says.
Currently, the Fowler Newsam Hall Counselling Project works in
26 primary schools, one secondary school, and one children's centre
in the borough, and employs three clinical supervisors to oversee
20 trained counsellors. The project is now fully funded by schools,
each of whom pays £3100 per term.
One strength of the project is its focus on early intervention.
"The earlier you can intervene with children who are presenting
emotional, behavioural, and psychological problems, the greater
chance you have of sorting those problems out," Mr Wood says.
"Later down the road they become more entrenched, more expensive to
deal with, and more problematic.
"Because we've got someone on site - say, you've got a child
whose parent dies, and they suddenly get very traumatised - we're
almost always able to offer a session within a week; no one else
can do that."
Providing an in-school service is also helping to reduce any
stigma. "There is a bit of stigma in the initial uptake for
parents, in admitting that their kids need counselling, but once
it's established, there is no stigma because, increasingly, the
counsellor is just seen as a member of staff," Mr Wood says.
"Our referral take-up is about 94 per cent, whereas with
external referrals the take-up is often less than 50 per cent,
because parents just never get around to taking their kids, or
don't want to take their kids because it's too stigmatising.
"In the Tottenham area, mental illness is far more highly
stigmatised among certain ethnic-minority groups than it is even
among the indigenous community."
"We provide short-term practical intervention in giving
immediate support and coping mechanisms," says the project manager
of the counselling project, Jemima Douglas. "Hopefully, it doesn't
have to go further, but if they need to be referred on, we hold
them until that point." Where counselling is believed to be
appropriate, usually one term of weekly sessions is offered.
"Our counsellors are dealing with lack of self-confidence,
bullying, anxiety, bereavement, chaotic lives, aggressive
behaviour, changes in family structure, domestic violence, threats
of self-harm, threats of exclusion from school, peer difficulties,
and sexualised behaviour, among others.
"The ultimate goal is not to fix the problem, but give them
tools of how to cope. If the problems are fixed, then that's great,
but it's often about how do you control your anxiety, or how to
cope with the bereavement of a close family member, for instance.
If they are able to cope more with these things, they are able to
focus more in class; it gives them better chances in their
emotional and mental life as well as with their education."
The award also commended the annual South Tottenham Schools
Festival, run by St Ann's. The festival has taken place in the
church over a week, every summer term since 2000, after a request
by a head teacher in the area.
About 15 schools, and up to 2400 students participate in its