Waterside School is the specialist primary provision for children in Greenwich who may have social, emotional and behavioural issues. Many of the children at this school have special needs and all will have an EHCP.
Jo and Viv took the GPV touring coffee morning to parents and carers here, and we were accompanied by special guest Owen Stevens from Greenwich Welfare Rights Service. Nestled in a quiet part of Plumstead, the school is small with less than 100 students on roll. There's a really high teacher to student ratio which means that students here receive a lot of attention, nurturing and positivity.
We were greeted by Head Teacher Michael Griffiths (Meic), a very cheery personality who made us feel at home straight away. We were led through brightly coloured corridors, past lovely displays of student work through to the cosy parents' meeting area and kitchen.
The carers we met there, including a foster carer, were typical of all carers we have met as we tour the schools of Greenwich: committed to their children, hard working and caring but also under huge pressure not just from the unique strains of child-care but also the daily battles of getting the right housing, financial support and respite. Not to mention the deep worry about what the future holds for their children.
As we waited for parents to arrive we learned more about the school. Meic took over as Head in summer 2015 and since then has made huge improvements to outcomes for the children here. He's held in great regard by teachers in schools around Greenwich, offering advice, working on strategies for children who need a special approach and supporting them to offer the best educational experience for some of the borough's most vulnerable children.
We spoke about how many children have suffered from being misunderstood. Meic talked about how he and his team make a careful analysis of each child, their personality, talents and needs and also any 'triggers' that might lead to difficulties. Once triggers are understood,
the child is taught ways of managing their own responses so that they can cope with school life, and develop to fulfil their own potential.
Parents at the meeting seemed extremely happy with how things were going with their children. They spoke of tough times, non-stop stress and how they try to manage extreme behaviour every day. They could see real progress being made however, and the understanding and support of the school makes a world of difference.
Many parents with children who have behavioural difficulties, which can include anger or aggression, really struggle with other people's judgement. They are seen as 'bad parents' and their children as 'bad'. The reality is usually the complete opposite. We loved how the children Meic works with are described as 'superheroes' throughout the school. Quite right too! From speaking to the parents and carers, we were struck by the sense of this school being different - the place where vulnerable children are cherished, their potential discovered and encouraged and where a new hope for their future is grown.