Ask the Experts: Bereavement, YOI education support, youth work news project and spring in the nursery

Jeanie Lynch, Tracie Trimmer-Platman, Peter Lewis and June O'Sullivan
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Our panel offers advice on helping bereaved children, education support in YOIs, a youth work news project and celebrating spring.

Question: I'm working with a girl who recently suffered the loss of her grandad and is struggling to cope. How do I support her?

Jeanie Lynch: The most important thing you can do is to give her time and space to talk about how she feels and allow her to be upset. I'm assuming her school and any other agencies working with her are aware of the situation as her attendance and ability to cope may be affected.

Giving this girl time to talk about grandad and the good times they spent together will help. She could write a letter to him telling him how she feels or create a "memory box" of special items such as photos and other reminders. Some children prefer to use drawings or poems to express their feelings.

The charity Winston's Wish has a website young people can use to help them cope with bereavement. Meanwhile the National Childhood Bereavement Network provides a web-based series of resources for professionals to help them support bereaved children and young people.

Jeanie Lynch works for Barnardo's and has 25 years' experience of working with vulnerable children and families

Question: I’m concerned about the achievement of several looked-after children currently at a young offender institution (YOI). What can we do to ensure they get the best possible GCSE results?

Peter Lewis: Ensuring young offenders get the right support to achieve their potential involves negotiation. You could look at measures such as sending in tutors to help those preparing to take GCSEs. However, you may encounter resistance from some quarters including the YOI and the young people’s schools. Your virtual head teacher will need to make a clear and strong case for change.

Contact from the school is important to sustain relationships and ensure the curriculum students are following tallies with the work they have done to date. Ensuring young offenders get qualifications can help reduce the risk of re-offending and it will reflect well on the institution in inspections if they can show collaborative working.

It’s important these young people are in contact with professionals they know and trust, who will be there when they are released. A clear commitment to supporting them to do well should spur them on.

Peter Lewis is a freelance providing interim local authority children’s services leadership, and a former DCS in Haringey

Question: We’ve been running a weekly “world news session” at our youth project to update young people and boost their understanding of international affairs and politics. Any tips on running these sessions?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: This sounds like a really positive initiative. Too often young people – and the rest of us – glance at the news and dismiss it as boring without engaging in local, national or international developments.

You can watch news items develop and discuss the potential impact on future policy or practice. For example, the wide-reaching repercussions of the Jimmy Savile revelations. How might events happening now shape the world?

It’s also interesting to compare how news is reported via different media outlets. Take a current news item and look at how it is presented on the BBC, ITV, Al Jazeera and CNN. Discuss the focus of the piece and the language and images used. Compare these with the way the story appeared in print.

Encouraging young people to engage with the news is a good thing. However, discussing items in detail will require some research. You will also need to consider how some news items may affect young participants.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

Question: I want to theme activities at my nursery around the springtime. Any ideas?

June O’Sullivan: Introduce children to the topic of spring using books and pictures then take them for a walk. Visit the park and look out for signs of spring such as birds singing and making nests, buds on trees, first signs of flowers.

When you get back make a spring-themed collage using a range of colours and materials. You could also make a seed mosaic by gluing seeds in patterns or using different-shaped templates then varnish it to protect it. Sprinkle a sponge with grass seed and watch it grow. Make your own bird’s nests out of cotton wool, sticks, twigs and pieces of fabric.

Bring spring-fever indoors and initiate a spring clean. Get the children involved in cleaning, tidying and de-cluttering tasks and set up a cleaning rota. Read Clifford’s Spring Clean-Up by Norman Bridwell.

June O’Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

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