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How do we achieve excellence for students with mental health difficulties? Open Space Day report

The Open Space event  that took place at Barnet College in February 2009 had two main purposes:

  • To provide an opportunity for Barnet College to 'tell the workld about what we do'  and to share their good practice
  • For participants to explore the question 'How do we achieve excellence with learners experiencing mental health difficulties?' and for their comments and recommendations to inform the then Learning and Skills Council which was developing its strategy for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities ( subsequently published in 2008 as Learning for Living and Work)

This 38-page report captures much of the discussion and all of the recommendations made by participants at this event.

Many of the 32 discussion topics (below) remain familiar questions and issues across the FE sector today:

  1. Creative, individualised support for learners with mental health difficulties and developing peer support/mentoring
  2. Setting up work experience / placements the benefits and the problems
  3. The involvement of M/H students in the whole process, and peer support and buddying
  4. How do we allay employers misconceptions and set sound work-placements for our learners?
  5. Turning bipolar paralysis into creative momentum
  6. How can I encourage learners with mental health difficulties to access the support they may need?
  7. How is mental health viewed in society and how can we influence it?
  8. How can we assist someone to learn if they’re experiencing pos/neg symptoms with their mental illness?
  9. How do we make it feasible for people with mental health difficulties to join mainstream education?
  10. Attitude of Employees to People with Mental Health Problems. What would help?
  11. Coping with being a “Mental Health Student” in College
  12. How do we make it feasible for people with mental health difficulties to join mainstream education?
  13. Progression from college
  14. How do we ensure our courses are not threatened because our students cannot always progress quickly?
  15. “ When the going gets tough”. How do we support learners when barriers seem huge?
  16. The role of study support in learning, specifically working with people with mental health issues
  17. How do you foster self-belief?
  18. How do we get the LSC to fund leisure/pleasure/creative non-accredited courses?
  19. How do we get learners interested in education?
  20. Former high academic or work achievers – can they settle for less?
  21. Suggestions for maintaining and stimulating student’s interest in the first 2/3 weeks in college?
  22. Measuring learning in informal settings. How do you assess and record achievement in more informal ways
    for ‘intermittent’ learners?
  23. Accreditation
  24. How to make sure students with psychosis get linked into mental health services quickly
  25. Ideas on alternative sources of funding
  26. Which qualifications work?
  27. Building confidence to attend college
  28. Internet access in secure units
  29. Retention and achievement
  30. Targeting vulnerable groups
  31. Employment – why employ someone with mental health problems?
  32. Learning and the physical environment
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Resource Author: 
White, Richard
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Barnet College
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