Set in a bright purpose built facility, West Exe School is a comprehensive on the edge of Exeter city that strives to unlock the potential in each of its thousand plus students. As part of its ethos to help students feel supported and equip them with the skills to progress in life, it has been using Brain in Hand and has seen positive results.
Amongst its students the school has a number of pupils who due to mental health conditions, autism or because English is not their first language, are often anxious. The school was keen to provide these students with the best support possible and so explored new ways it could help.
West Exe identified that Brain in Hand could be a simple, effective support tool to help students cope with anxieties and build independence. The software would enable students to maintain a diary, access personalised support advice at any time and request additional help from the schools support team through pressing a red traffic light button.
They especially liked the solution as students interact with the software through an app on their phone – a format most children are comfortable with.
The school first ran a one year trial of Brain in Hand with ten students. The students were set-up on the system by either Brain in Hand or the school SENDCo. The backend was configured so that the whole of the support team could see the dashboard information including how the students were feeling at regular intervals, which problems they had faced and which solutions they had chosen. Red button requests from the students would come to a central mobile phone, to enable the team to quickly and flexibly respond.
Corrin Gould-Fellows, Teaching Assistant and Communication and Interaction Lead shares that “The trial proved that when armed with Brain in Hand students felt supported and less anxious. It also delivered significant efficiencies to the teaching staff.”
During the trial and the subsequent year, the results have been consistent. Pupils using Brain in Hand have been able to access support quickly and so their anxiety has reduced. The red button feature is regularly cited as a clear positive by pupils, as although they don’t use it often, they feel secure knowing it’s there. Brain in Hand has also given teachers back time as they’re now able to support students wherever they are and see fewer visits by parents to discuss anxieties.
One boy who was given Brain in Hand was waiting for an autism diagnosis and had been experiencing anxiety. His parents frequently had to closely liaise with school and often he refused to attend. Once given Brain in Hand, he was able to access his own advice and liked the comfort of being able to press the red button, but actually rarely pressed it. Since using the software his parents have had to call the school less and less and his attendance rate has dramatically improved.
A CAMHS assessment confirmed that the support being delivered at school was good and he didn’t need to be referred on. He was given Brain in Hand as part of the trial and continues to use it today.
Gould-Fellows adds: “Brain in Hand is an excellent idea and the principles behind it are good. In a busy school, the support team can’t physically be with each of the students they support at all times. This is a brilliant way of letting students know that they can contact us if they’re not coping. They are still being listened to in a way that is manageable. Rolled out consistently it is very effective.”
Following the trial, the school chose to continue using the software with existing users and new pupils who would benefit.
In recognition of its outstanding support of autistic students and those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), the school has recently been presented with The Devon Inclusion Award. It hopes that Brain in Hand can continue to form part of its effective approach to support.