Today, The Duchess of Cambridge opened a Centre of Excellence for her patronage, the Anna Freud centre. This new school, near King’s Cross, is aimed at helping youngsters who have been excluded from school to address their behaviour and set them on the right path.
Pears Family School is run by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, of which Kate is patron. It has already been running as a pilot scheme on a temporary site for four years.
The charity’s new hub will focus on mental health care alongside education. 48 pupils aged five to 14 with emotional and behavioural difficulties will be helped here. Their parents will join them in the classroom to encourage better behaviour and provide them with strategies for dealing with such challenges at home.
Research from the Anna Freud Centre (AFC) shows excluded children are more likely to experience behavioural and attention difficulties, emotional problems, difficulties with peers, and perceived stress.
One in eight children and young people in England have a diagnosable mental health disorder today – that’s 1.25 million children and young people.
One pupil that the Duchess met was Leo, aged 13. He told the Royal that he was angry and lonely following the death of his mother. Mum Sharon died after she was bitten by a horsefly; this gave her a severe brain infection.
In a rap performance he expressed he was “was always robbing and stealing, Because I didn’t care about my feelings, I wasn’t able to move on, Because I was still healing.”
Leo is about to returning to mainstream school after a year with Pears, and says he has been taught to cope with his anger and emotions with their help.
Other lyrics he rapped include: “I was 9 when my mum died, And I wasn’t doing fine, I felt angry and alone, And felt I had nowhere to go, Now I am 13 and I’m living fine, trying to get back to school so I can live my life, I’ve had good and bad times at TFS [The Family School], I’ve put some stuff to the test, thank god my anger has now gone to rest, Cause now I can really do my best.’
Catherine told Leo that she was ‘really, really impressed’ at his progress and his rapping skills.
He told journalists afterwards: “I’ve been here for a year now. At first I didn’t really want to come because I thought it was for people who were dumb or messed up in school. But after a while I liked it and it’s actually helped me a lot. Without the school I wouldn’t have been able to move on in my life.”
In the first four years of the pilot with Pears and the Anna Freud Centre, 60% of pupils returned to mainstream schooling after four terms – and 95% of those children remained there. The level of success means that AFC is now working with other local authorities in the UK to roll out the model.
Another youngster Kate spoke to played with slime. She told her about Princess Charlotte’s enjoyment of the stuff: “Charlotte, my daughter, she dropped hers on the floor and it was pink and ended and brown and covered in so much mud. It ends up all gooey, doesn’t it?”
Kate chats with seven-year-old Narriyah pic.twitter.com/SEIoE8Qgkf
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) May 1, 2019
In a speech to mark the occasion, The Duchess of Cambridge said: “We are all here today because we care so much about transforming the mental health of children, young people and their families.
“I have learnt so much about early childhood development and the importance of support for parents through your work here at the Anna Freud Centre – this is something I really do care about.
“The ambition for the new Kantor Centre of Excellence is hugely inspiring. The bringing together of research, education, practice and policy, all in one place, will take Anna Freud Centre’s mission to the next level.
The Duchess of Cambridge, patron of the @AFNCCF, officially opens its new Kantor Centre for Excellence, which brings together practitioners, researchers and young people to improve mental health services for children and their families: ?@RE_DailyMail pic.twitter.com/bQFrIx8MH4
— Emily Nash (@emynash) May 1, 2019
“It is testament to what can be achieved when people work together to realise a shared vision.”
Professor Peter Fonagy, chief executive of the Anna Freud Centre, said: “Childhood mental health disorders have reached unacceptably high levels. As a society, we have a moral imperative to drive change on children’s mental health.
“Opening our new building is our contribution to this – giving parents, communities and practitioners the skills, knowledge and support to help children build their health and wellbeing, and the confidence to seek professional help when needed.”
Stephen Taylor, founding headteacher, said: “As part of the deal, the parent has to agree to be part of the school.
“Having parents there is key to making a change. It means that when the child gets back into mainstream, this is a parent that is supportive of the school, because they’ve realised some of the difficulties, rather than being a parent that maybe assumes that a school is picking on their child or has got it wrong.”
On Tuesday, Kate had two unannounced engagements; she visited Sayers Croft Wildlife Garden and Forest School at Paddington Recreation Ground, and hosted a reception at Kensington Palace for members of the Early Years Steering Group the Duchess helped organise.