SchoolKit Clinics are held at a child’s school for several reasons: the parent or carer is familiar and comfortable with the school and school staff, they know how to get there and find their way around, and, because the clinic is held during school hours, they do not have to make any extra arrangements for their child’s care.
In addition, and of critical importance, the child does not need to be taken out of a familiar environment. This means their usual behaviours can be observed optimally and avoids transport challenges, potential waiting periods, and distress associated with a new environment.
It also allows for the involvement of school staff (e.g. class teachers), which would not be possible for the longer periods required for them to travel offsite.
In keeping with the principle of collaboration and partnership underpinning SchoolKit Clinics, some thought needs to be given to the physical environment of the clinic setting.
It is up to the school, as hosts, to find the best place to hold clinics within the school grounds. A large and spacious room is preferable, for example, a library or the school principal’s office. Space and comfort are important; feeling cramped won’t help the open flow of communication.
Of course, other considerations that will affect participants’ physical comfort include light (can everyone see to read notes and reports?), air (is there plenty of fresh air circulating in the room?), and temperature (is there an air conditioner or a heater, and does either of them need to be turned on?).
It is often helpful to have a box of tissues on the table before the clinic starts, so they are readily available if needed.
SchoolKit Clinic seating is usually around a large table or in a circle of lounge chairs. Sitting in a circle in this way reinforces and encourages the collaborative nature of the SchoolKit Clinic process.
If a large group is present and a few extra ‘non-matching’ chairs have to be brought in, attention should be paid to not allocating those chairs to a participant who may feel vulnerable already, such as a family member.
The aim at every SchoolKit Clinic is to strategically position each family member and participant around the table (or in the circle) in a way that respects and puts each participant at ease. This both reinforces the principle that everyone’s voice is equal and will be listened to, and encourages them to bring the best of their thinking to the clinic.
Every effort should be made to avoid a scenario where the physical space is arranged so that the professionals are grouped together in a way that isolates the family.
The role of those leading the SchoolKit Clinic, from the school and the health team, are key in arranging seating positions to best advantage. Before the clinic, the chair needs to have identified a strategic seating position that allows them to engage with each individual, to readily make eye contact and to notice each individual’s responses as the clinic progresses. The co-chair similarly will have an important role in keeping an eye on participants and in discretely bringing to the attention of the chair issues that may have been inadvertently overlooked. The chair and co-chair may place themselves strategically around the table, for example, opposite each other in the middle of a long table.
As participants are arriving for a SchoolKit Clinic, the chair may be in the room at their position, ready to welcome everyone, while a school staff member brings the family and professionals into the room. The chair may suggest participants take a specific seat if necessary, for example, where it will be better for conflicting family members to sit at some distance apart. If there are no such concerns, each participant can be invited in to take a seat of their choice.
Where a child or young person is attending the clinic, and is able to communicate, attention should be paid to making them feel comfortable.
On occasions, it may be appropriate for the child to spend only a short time in the clinic or instead to just be observed in the classroom or playground.
Having light food (for example, sandwiches or savoury wraps) and coffee or tea and water available, and offering them to all participants, helps to create the open and informal atmosphere that is most desirable for a SchoolKit Clinic.
Importantly, food and drink create an immediate sense of the difference between a SchoolKit Clinic and a traditional, doctor-driven clinic appointment held in a sterile medical environment.
The atmosphere that is created at a SchoolKit Clinic is an open and supportive one where all participants feel comfortable about contributing. Indirectly, as everyone eats and drinks together, serving food and refreshments during the clinic may help to promote open discussion and prompt the disclosure of important information that may shed light on the child or young person’s difficulties.
It also provides sustenance that will help everyone through discussions about complex issues, which can feel lengthy.