A school-home support worker can help resolve pupils’ problems and let teachers get on with their jobs, reports Anabel Unity Sale
Alison Cammiss’s role epitomises how social care and education can work together to help children overcome barriers to learning and to tackle problems at home.
As a school-home support worker, Cammiss acts as a bridge between pupils, their parents and carers, teachers, and other professionals such as social workers.
For two years Cammiss has been a school-home support worker at York’s Burnholme Community College, which educates 11- to 16-year-old girls and boys. “It’s a stressful job but I absolutely love it because it makes a difference to young people and the smooth running of the school,” she says.
As a former learning support assistant and Connexions worker, she is familiar with other professionals’ practice and relishes the chance to use her skills.
And because she is not a teacher – Cammiss is employed by the charity School-Home Support – she finds pupils and their families are more comfortable about knocking on her office door when they have a problem.
Self-referrals from pupils are supplemented by those from teachers. Teachers concerned about a pupil – perhaps because of poor attendance – speak to their heads of year, who inform assistant head teacher Malcolm Downie and he brings in Cammiss.
Cammiss, who works weekly with pupils for an average of six weeks, provides intensive support to 15 pupils and very intensive support to five others. She also refers young people to other agencies for further support.
What she likes most about her role is its holistic approach to dealing with pupils and their problems and the multi-agency work she does with her colleagues.
This approach has had a positive impact on the life of the school. Downie says: “Teachers can now focus on their primary role of encouraging learning.”
Despite the success of the school-home support service, it is not without its challenges. Cammiss says staff from other agencies sometimes think they can pass responsibility for a task to her when it is their duty to perform it.
Cammiss’s advice to other schools considering introducing this role is simple: ensure information about a pupil is shared across professional boundaries so all staff have the fullest possible picture.
See also Coping Mechanism