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The support of guidance counsellors when summer school students return to classes in September, as well as parents can slowly turn around some of the issues leading to failing grades and deviance.

Summer school Guidance Counsellor at the Ellerslie Secondary, Diana Simpson-Hinds, told Barbados TODAY that she truly believed the combination of counselling with academics over the past month of summer school could make a difference.

But, she said, it had to be followed up by guidance counsellors and others at the respective schools, and actioned by parents, especially for those children who were seeking and requiring attention.

“I think it makes a difference to the academics because some children come here feeling quite upset about whatever happened at home prior to coming here. They may be having issues, self-esteem issues because in part they failed their exams and they come here thinking ‘Summer holidays and here I am studying again’ and they don’t feel like applying themselves to studying.

“When you talk to them one-to-one, listen to them, encourage them, a lot of them need encouragement at home and in the school environment. By having someone who is going to talk with them and show empathy… I think it really benefits them having that kind of support system,” she said as summer school closed this afternoon.

She added though: “I think they had a taste here. It is not going to change overnight, that is impossible because they grew up in an environment where the pattern of behaviour was developed. What needs to happen when they go back into school, either with the guidance counsellor and further supporting counselling … and helping the children to learn a different approach to what they already know.

“So it is continuous work from counsellors, teachers, parents and from the guidance counsellor, working together to help children plan ahead for the future… Continuous support is what is needed,” she said.

Simpson-Hinds was one of several primary school counsellors added to the programme this year, which traditionally takes secondary students who scored below 35 per cent in exams for summer classes in English, Mathematics, Social Studies and Integrated Science. This year centres were established at St. George, Frederick Smith, Foundation and Ellerlie Secondary schools.

The England-trained psychotherapist who has been practising in Barbados for five years in the primary schools said the experience of working with secondary school students 11 to 15 years old also taught her skills she could use at the junior level.

Noting that it had been “a very interesting experience”, Simpson-Hinds said usually she would get a chance to observe students in the same school over a longer period, but with students from different schools put together for the summer programme, right away it threw up a lot of different scenarios with different backgrounds and experiences.

“It has really taught me to think about how I then go and transfer that to my usual work in the primary school setting. One of the things it has helped me to think about is based on what I have experienced here with the children at summer school, is what preparation can then be made for children at primary school in terms of how they relate to each other, the challenges they face, lack of motivation to study, really understand themselves and how they build relationships.

“So what I have been doing is covering things like self-esteem. We looked at goal setting and time management skills. So I’ve combined that with play because children understand better through play,” she said, adding that it was an experience she would repeat. (LB)

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