Jamie was a high achieving student from years 7 to 10 and was heavily involved in his school’s sports program. However, towards the end of Year 11 his attendance declined significantly (a rate of 51 per cent in Term 4 of Year 11). He was also observed to have withdrawn at school and his teachers noted that he was no longer sitting with friends in the classroom nor engaging in social and sports activities during break times. His teachers reported that he had trouble concentrating in class, was easily distracted and dropped out of his football and basketball teams. He began complaining that he found everything in Year 11 too hard. At home, during Year 11 Jamie had been displaying such behaviours as staying in his room until late at night, not attending family meals and choosing to isolate himself from friends.
After being assessed by a psychiatric registrar in December of that year, Jamie was admitted into hospital. He spent 6 weeks there as an inpatient over the summer holiday period and returned home at the end of January, just prior to commencing Year 12. Jamie’s parents requested a meeting with the school wellbeing team and informed them that he had been experiencing hallucinations, delusional thoughts and hearing voices in his head while in hospital. They advised the school that Jamie had been prescribed daily medication along with a regular therapy program with the hospital psychologist. Following the meeting, Jamie and his family, along with his hospital psychiatrist, hospital psychologist, the school head of wellbeing and the school counsellor, agreed that Jamie would be able to start his Year 12 studies from home with a gradual planned return to school. It was agreed that he should be supported on a daily basis through counselling sessions provided by the school counsellor (2 days per week) and an external psychologist from the hospital (3 days per week). They would consult regularly with each other regarding the support required for Jamie at school.
While studying at home in Term 1 of Year 12, Jamie was admitted to hospital twice for one week each admission. At these times, a hospital school teacher liaised with Jamie’s school and worked with Jamie on a reduced curriculum. His subjects were reduced from 6 to 4 and his teachers made adjustments to his course so he was only required to complete core assessment tasks. However, the hospital school staff initially reported that Jamie was having problems concentrating and was very lethargic.
As Jamie’s energy levels and focus started to improve towards the end of Term 1, the school wellbeing team began meeting fortnightly to develop a plan to support Jamie’s return to school. The team also liaised fortnightly with the hospital team to ensure they were up to date with his progress. The wellbeing team was provided with professional learning by the hospital to support their understanding of Jamie’s condition. The school provided all secondary school staff with a half-day professional learning session on how to support students experiencing significant mental health challenges.
Before Jamie returned to school at the beginning of Term 2, a case conference was called with the hospital staff, relevant school staff and Jamie’s parents to discuss the plan for his gradual return to school. The plan outlined that Jamie would start with two half days (mornings) a week, while still an outpatient at the hospital. He would be given one-on-one support from a school-based teacher assistant, spend his morning tea break in the library (supervised by library staff) and meet with the school counsellor upon arrival and departure on these two days to discuss the daily plan and seek feedback. Weekly case meetings were held with both school and hospital staff to monitor Jamie’s progress and support strategies to improve his school engagement.
At the start of Term 2, Jamie’s teachers met with Jamie and his parents to develop a personalised learning plan which included a significantly reduced curriculum load. It was decided that he would only study English and Mathematics and his teachers would support his part-time attendance by sharing his work on a web-based collaborative platform. All lessons would be recorded and shared with Jamie so he could catch up on missed lessons from home. The plan would assist Jamie to make decisions on his future and how he could be best supported to complete Year 12. A career counsellor was present at this meeting to provide a range of options that would be available to Jamie for his future chosen pathway. It was decided that when Jamie felt ready, a planning session would be arranged to support him in making new choices for his future.
Before Jamie’s return to school, the school nurse liaised closely with the hospital team to understand Jamie’s medication and possible side effects. A risk management plan was developed to address any concerns regarding his safety and included close supervision when at school.
Since Jamie’s part-time return to school in Term 2, all staff involved with Jamie have been given a copy of his personalised learning plan and risk management plan. Jamie’s progress is discussed twice weekly with all staff at the morning briefing. The plan is to gradually increase his school attendance in the second semester from 2 half days to 5 half days and to monitored his progress regularly.