Family & Welfare

Supporting our vulnerable students involves much more than working with them in classrooms. To understand the challenges they face, the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (2015) says it all: 39% of children in Tower Hamlets live in income deprived families, the highest rate in England.  This means that for meny of our students, there are numerous barriers stopping them from engaging with learning. 

The job of our Welfare department is to overcome those barriers.  This means that when we take on a student, we support their family too, including their siblings.  Our Parent Engagement Worker gets to know parents at home and lets them know that if they need support with physical or mental health problems, housing, benefits or debt, we can help.  If we can support them with their own education, training or parenting issues, we do that too.

Our Welfare staff join parents and carers at inter-agency meetings and provide links with social workers, education psychologists, the Youth Offending Team and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).  We give families access to dentists and opticians, we faciliate engagement with Non-Violent Resistance, we help them to build positive relationships within the community, we mentor them and act as their advocates, and we’re happy to represent them if they need support with a child at another school.  

Our Welfare depatment also leads on safeguarding, which is at the heart of our practice. All our staff are trained to be aware of potential safeguarding issues and follow the school’s safeguarding procedures.


Parent Engagement Worker

On Wednesday mornings you’ll find Linda, our Parent Engagment Worker, surrounded by students’ mums and carers in the school's family room, our flat or our hair and beauty salon.  This is the Parents’ Forum, an informal gathering designed to give parents the chance to offload their concerns about their children.  

Linda builds relationships with parents and carers and gives them whatever support they need.  She helps them to develop skills inside and outside their homes, to train at college and apply for jobs, and move towards a more positive and fulfilling future.  

No matter what’s going on in their lives, Linda is at the end of a phone. 



School Nurse

The school nurse works very closely with the welfare department and comes in to school to check on students and make contact with other health professionals. The school nurse is available by appointment to see parents and carers who have concerns about their child’s health.


Adult Psychotherapist

Ian Mikardo’s staff will tell you that they love their jobs, but if they weren’t able to take on constantly evolving challenges, they wouldn’t survive here. Young people who are angry and upset can be abusive and sometimes it’s impossible not to absorb their frustration and anxiety.  That’s where Howard, our adult psychotherapist, comes in.  Each week he provides the school’s teaching, welfare and management staff with group supervision, and once a fortnight these staff see him privately to offload any worries about their work or any personal issues that might be affecting their work.  The sessions are confidential, so they can talk freely.

This means that staff can discuss problems as they arise, and before they fester and grow, and that they have a safe and constructive forum in which to discuss their relationships with students.  This practice is at the heart of the school’s model.  Providing an emotionally containing and supportive environment for the students enables them to learn, but to create this environment we must simultaneously look after the wellbeing of staff by providing emotional containment for them.

In addition Howard helps staff to understand students’ emotional problems by providing regular seminars on such issues as attachment theory and understanding group dynamics.  Howard also works with students before they join the school, gathering information that helps staff to begin to form working relationships with students, and to engage parents in the school.

Student Profiles

Our students are remarkable young people and we are proud of the progress they make. The three fictional case studies below will give you some idea of how they typically achieve success during their time at the school.

AB was a small, anxious child when he arrived at Ian Mikardo at the age of 12. He kept his hood up, avoided eye contact and rarely spoke. He frequently kicked staff and used a high pitch scream when he was apart from others. He didn’t eat in school and couldn’t be persuaded to join the other students in the dining room. When assessed for academic levels, he refused to hold a pen; in classes he often lay on the floor, keeping his head covered.
At home AB often witnessed domestic violence. At Ian Mikardo, staff let him know that they were available for him, and they welcomed him to the school’s flat where some of the more vulnerable children eat breakfast and lunch, and offered him 1-1 tuition. After 3 weeks in the school, he took his hood down. It was six months before he picked up a pen and more than a year before he took up woodwork, which is now his favourite subject and a source of pride because he excels at it.
He continues to lack confidence in academic learning and sometimes sabotages his work. As the school works with his mum to ensure that she feels supported and his needs are met, AB is developing strong relationships with the woodwork teacher and teaching assistant, and has recently started to talk about selling the items he makes in woodwork. He eats with the other boys in the dining room now and has a healthy appetite.

BC has a wicked sense of humour, though it was hard to see when he arrived at Ian Mikardo. He was 13, unkempt, and aggressive, putting himself and others at risk. Having previously been educated for only an hour a day, he had difficulty staying in a classroom and wandered round the school kicking doors and being abusive to staff.
They were aware that BC was born with foetal alcohol syndrome and had been neglected throughout his life. His on-going health problems include partial deafness and he has sometimes resorted to self harm. He lives with his mum; his dad uses drugs and is often away and out of contact. This makes BC very anxious. He’s has been known to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services since he was four.
Now that Ian Mikardo staff have worked with him and his mum intensively, he’s formed some strong bonds with members of staff and is able to develop friendships with peers and take part in lessons.
At 16, he remains vulnerable but no longer self-harms and is on course to take several GCSEs. A talented guitarist, he spends lunchtimes in our music practice room and recording studio, using his passion for music to put together a portfolio that he hopes will help him to build a career in the music industry.


CD had not attended school for 3 years prior to Ian Mikardo. His mum was facing eviction and his older brother was in prison for gang-related activity. When CD was referred to Ian Mikardo at 14, the school immediately supported both him and his mum. CD quickly felt able to attend for a few hours a day but was abusive and confrontational and, at times, emotional and tearful. He struggled to make friends and would often wander off site. Both his family and the school was concerned because of the risk that he might become involved with gangs, and when his brother was released from prison, CD went missing for 10 days.
A year 11 student, he now attends school full time and is making great progress. After work with the YOT team, and intensive support for his mum from the school’s parent engagement worker, CD is beginning to make friends with peers. When he engages with work in class, he makes swift progress and his academic levels are rising sharply. His creative work in art and media shows exceptional promise and this year he will apply for a college place to train as a graphic artist.