Teentalk@Kidbrooke

Teenage pregnancy rates at Kidbrooke School have reduced dramatically over the last few years.  Head teacher Trisha Jaffe attributes this change to a multi-pronged approach to the well-being of students. The three crucial prongs are:

· Comprehensive PSHE programme
· Forum for confidential one-to-one discussions with health professionals
· The development of a culture among students that 'adults listen to you'

The listening culture has taken several years to develop and has involved staff including receptionists, learning mentors and teachers attending training. Staff now give out a clear message that the door is open for students to express their problems.

They have also learnt about the range of agencies that they can make referrals to - and that they don't have to deal with the problem alone. As a result more young people are coming forward with problems before they reach crisis point.

When young people want someone to talk to there are lots of choices, including a team of peer listeners who are based in the foyer of the drop-in. The drop-in is called 'TeenTalk'; a name chosen by students. Youth workers and the school nurse are available every lunch-time for informal chats and confidential consultations.

Over 1000 young people visited TeenTalk last term. An e-mail service is now being piloted so that those who don't want to drop-in can still access the service. 

Young people say they don't want to see their GP because they are worried about confidentiality. But TeenTalk belongs to the students - it is a teacher free zone. Here they can seek help in confidence and won't be judged.

Holistic approach to health
The school nurse explains that young people are worried about issues as diverse as weight, alcohol, abuse, puberty, bereavement, bullying, and sexual health.

Young people say it helps that you can go to TeenTalk to ask about any health problem because no-one will know what the specific reason is for their visit. It is a holistic approach.

Often a group of young people attend TeenTalk following on from a PSHE lesson. The lesson has triggered something and they want to ask their individual questions and have a discussion. This way we enable them to take responsibility for their health. 

Sexual health services
The nurses at TeenTalk provide a basic level of sexual health services: pregnancy testing, emergency contraception and condoms. They advice young people about where they can get condoms in the school holidays, and where they can get a wider range of contraception and testing services.

Sometimes young people visit because they are thinking about if they should or should not have sex - they just want to talk to someone.

Head teacher Trisha Jaffe remembers that when TeenTalk first opened there was a lot of excitement in the school about having this confidential place - with free condoms.

In the first week condoms were being blown up as balloons. There was a lot of bravado. However that died down pretty quickly. Now the students don't mess around. We trusted them and they rose to it.

The skills to access services
TeenTalk has developed links with outside agencies. A health advisor visits once a week to run a smoking cessation session. The visiting nurse from GUM provides young people with a similar confidence that they will be treated respectfully at the local clinic.

One of the main aims of TeenTalk is for young people to feel confident about going to clinics outside of school.  The youth workers are proud to report individual success stories; where a young person first came to TeenTalk lacking confidence but has now developed the skills to go and access outside services. A skill that will be valuable for life!

The brave leadership of the Head has clearly made TeenTalk possible. This is combined with a sense of ownership of the service by the key partners:

· The school maintains the centre and provides management and coordination
· The youth service funds the youth workers time
· The PCT pays for the school nurse, sexual and reproductive health nurse and some of the resources

Everyone at Kidbrooke knows about TeenTalk and is proud of its success. Each class comes to visit the centre when they join in Year 7. This way they get to find out where it is, what it looks like, and what happens there.

From the moment students know about TeenTalk they can start taking responsibility for their health.

Contact: Trisha Jaffe, Headteacher or Sew Lan Ooi, School Nurse
E-mail: tjaffe@kidbrooke.greenwich.sch.uk or Sooi@kidbrooke.greenwich.sch.uk