Developing citizenship is founded on the very positive relationships between staff and young people at Balnacraig and the way in which we support young people to be involved in decisions which affect them.
Our young people feel free to informally express their feelings with any member of staff. Young people also have very good relationships with their keyworker who provides on-going support and encouragement, and who link closely with parents/carers and partner agencies, attending meetings with the young person and speaking up for them on their behalf if necessary. They also work with young people to develop their skills, including communication skills, which include encouraging them to express their views in an appropriate way, and to understand how to listen to and accept the views of others, which might not be the same as their own. We also have good links with Who Cares? Scotland workers who visit the school and support young people.
More formally, young people are also encouraged to express their views through our weekly ‘Pupil Voice’ meeting which is well attended. There is very honest and open communication with our young people on issues raised by them and we continue to coach them in how to conduct themselves in meetings and encourage them to take on the role of chairperson. Some of the changes made over the course of the last year as a result of discussions at Pupil Voice include changes to meals and the introduction of cooked breakfast for those who want it, a review of the school gym, a review of activities in PE, and improving the look and feel of the care environment.
Young people are also encouraged and supported to feed directly into their care plans, through taking part in their regular network meetings and/or by filling in a ‘You Talk We Listen’ form which informs the wellbeing wheel for each young person and actions in the following month’s care plan. We also offer young people the use of ‘Having your Say’ forms to support them if necessary to present their views at LAAC Reviews and Children’s Hearings.
We make regular use of questionnaires to gather feedback from young people as part of our annual self-evaluation calendar, and these are reviewed by our Leadership Team and any actions arising are followed through. We involve young people in our recruitment and selection process for any new staff and they respond very positively to this. We also have feedback leaflets for comments, compliments and complaints, readily available at the front entrance to the school, which young people can access. We receive very few complaints but any received are dealt with thoroughly, feedback given and records kept in our complaints folder.
We also encourage citizenship through young people’s involvement in the local community such as volunteering, work experience and raising money for good causes. It has been a source of great pride when the Balnacraig community has supported others in times of need; for example, supporting a charity which was working to help young people in Malawi receive an education. Our young people did this by organising a fund raising venture, supported by staff, raising a significant amount of money for an outstanding cause. Other fund raising efforts have proven successful and have helped everyone at the school to reflect on how issues of poverty and health affect so many people around the world and that we can do something to help.