“Overcoming” course offered to parents at Ace Schools

ACE Schools in Plymouth, part of Transforming Futures Trust, is offering a course for parents to help them to support their children’s anxieties.

The Overcoming Programme is designed to help parents whose children experience high levels of anxiety. Using tried and tested ideas from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the programme is an effective way of managing anxiety in children and young people. Phil Rowe is the Lead Teacher at the Dover Road site where this is being trialled. He said: “We have 30 children at ACE Dover Road, aged 11 to 16, all of whom are currently unable to access mainstream education. Our job is to provide them with temporary support to help them get back to school. The overcoming programme is a great asset to our parents. Over the six weeks of the course parents will be given the opportunity to learn skills and techniques which they can use to support their child’s anxieties.” The young people at ACE Dover Road attend due to medical or mental health need (such as anxiety, ASC etc.) and many have an ECHP (Education Health and Care Plan). As well as Phil, the site has specialist teachers across a range of subjects, a group learning mentor for each of the three classes, 1:1 learning mentors for some individuals and a pastoral lead. Dr. Dan Nicholls is an Educational Psychologist for Plymouth City Council who is trained in the delivery of the programme and is facilitating the parent sessions at ACE. He said: “The programme gives parents an opportunity to learn more about how anxiety works. In particular we try to help parents make connections between thoughts, feelings and actions around situations that cause anxiety. We then give parents some ideas as to how they can help their children with unhelpful or irrational thoughts, and also encourage behaviours which promote confidence and independence.” “It can be really challenging for parents to know how to respond to anxiety, and sometimes the best intentions can maintain the problem. We want children to start to question whether the ideas they have about a particular situation are set in stone, or whether there’s a different way of looking at things.”

Amy Scott is a parent of a child at Dover Road and attends the overcoming course. She said “I was keen to be involved as I want to learn anything I can that gives me more advice and support to help my son. The course has helped me understand more about anxiety and how I can help manage it. For example, reassurance is not always the best thing to do – even though for many parents it is the first thing we want to do! Sometimes asking questions and gentle challenging is more useful. I now try to get to the root of the problem rather than assuming it will just go away.” Dr. Nicholls also commented: “The ethos of the programme is to empower parents and to recognise that they are key influencers in their child’s life. By working directly with parents and not children, the hope is that progress is more sustainable in the long term”. Amy Scott thinks more people could benefit from the course. “For me the penny just dropped about how I can help more and be more supportive of my son. It is a shame that this is not taught in school for everyone. I have gained more skills and a better relationship with my son as a result.” “I’ve definitely learnt to take more of a step back and as a result when I am faced with a situation I have a lot more patience as I am much more aware how I deal with things myself. This is a key element to the whole program. Crucially, knowing that anxiety doesn’t just go away overnight it’s important to remember to have patience.”