The Barrett School at Tennyson in Brisbane is a Support School specifically for young people with severe and complex mental health issues.
It is different from hospital schools – even from the education programs for inpatients and Day Program patients at Jacaranda Place (opened this year in response to recommendations from the Barrett Adolescent Centre closure Commission of Inquiry). The Barrett Adolescent Special School is not a school with direct connections to a treatment program or with healthcare professionals onsite. The staff are educators. And the students are young people accessing healthcare in their own communities with their own clinicians and allied health support.
BUT what has been missing from the lives of the young people who find themselves at the Barrett School are the opportunities to learn and develop and see a future with options. The things that come with an education at a place where students are truly understood and respected and empowered.
Each young person at Barrett along with their family/carers will have tried everything before discovering the School. But when mental health issues are so severe that a young person cannot engage with a modified program at a regular school or with a flexi-school (including Qld Pathways Colleges) or Distance Education, they are left isolated. At one of the most important stages of life … when social and emotional development are significant and new experiences facilitate cognitive growth as well as the acquisition of skills and knowledge.
A network of young people and carers facilitated by Health Consumers Queensland has recently put out two short videos describing what is needed by those young people dealing with severe and complex mental health issues where education is concerned. (Pt 1 is here and Pt 2 here.)
And severeyouthmentalhealth.org has released our own video with explanations on the approach required and the needs and circumstances that are its basis. We’ve outlined the model of a Support School like Barrett as well as describing the Tennyson-based School’s particular approach. And we’ve celebrated the Barrett School’s outcomes and value in our ‘Focus on Education’ month.
But the Barrett Adolescent Special School has remained low profile – a dedicated team working to support each student in the way that meets individual needs, interests and aspirations.
Yesterday, ABC Radio’s Rebecca Levingston used her role as host of the “Mornings” program to highlight the importance of the Barrett School by interviewing two parents whose stories are ones with familiar tones to the School’s educators. The two families are at different stages of their journeys but share the same deep relief and gratitude that they found a school that finally helped their young people reconnect with education.
You can listen to the program here (with the extensive coverage of The Barrett School between 1:45:50 and 2:05:22)
In addition, Rebecca has extended her reporting by dedicating her column at inqld.com.au to the achievements of the Barrett Adolescent Special School – allowing her to expand on the interviews that clearly resonated not just for the journalist herself but for her many listeners.
You can read that column – “The Brisbane school where just getting out of the car can be the biggest step” – here.
This small but life-changing service is one based on expert knowledge and the skills of professionals adept in the education of a group of young people whose numbers are sadly growing.
It is hoped that this unique resource will not remain unique for longer. Such an asset should be available to young people far beyond Brisbane.
So please share this post and/or the links contained in it as widely as you can.
And click here to contact the Minister for Education to urge that she commit to establishing programs using this specialised education model to be rolled out across Queensland.
(AND there is no reason why a innovative government cannot utilise – or even monetise to the advantage of the Queensland taxpayer – what a team of dedicated Brisbane educators have developed to facilitate the use of such a model beyond the state by other service providers.)
Huge congratulations to the Barrett School – its staff and its students. You are all key players in a great success story.