Shirley Meade is a School Services Manager with The Spark. A qualified counsellor, she oversees the delivery of counselling and mental health support services for children and young people in schools across Scotland.
We sat down with her to find out a bit more about her role with The Spark and her career with the organisation.
Q. Tell us a bit about your role as School Services Manager with The Spark?
My role as School Services Manager is all about supporting a fantastic team of Children and Young People counsellors (CYP) so they can deliver The Spark’s excellent services in schools.
Alongside my fellow School Services Manager, Laura Campbell we are responsible for the development and delivery of our services in schools, with a focus on the delivery of a professional, ethical and quality-driven service.
Laura and I both have extensive experience in delivering the service as counsellors with The Spark. This means we have valuable knowledge when it comes to the development of the service going forward.
Q. How closely do you work with The Spark’s partner schools?
We are the first point of contact for schools that may be looking for counselling services for children or young people. We work very closely with our partner schools and have built fantastic relationships with school senior management and are in regular contact with teachers to ensure we are delivering the highest possible standard of services.
This was amplified during recent lockdown periods, where we delivered a very successful digital service.
Q. Our school services have enjoyed huge growth in recent years, what makes The Spark such a trusted partner of schools and education authorities in Scotland?
Firstly, all school counsellors at The Spark are fully qualified and experienced in counselling children and young people. We don’t use volunteers or trainees. They are also passionate about the well-being and mental health of their clients.
Secondly, our counsellors work to an integrated, short term model that delivers notable positive change for young people. We use various assessment tools to evidence this and consistently provide up to date reports to our schools, which gives teachers and parents a clear understanding of the changes our service makes to their young people.
Q. How do The Spark’s school services differ from other options like listening services or drop-in sessions?
Listening and drop-in services can be beneficial and helpful in moments of need. However, these do not give the opportunity for exploration, understanding of self and others or problem-solving in the way which our counselling services do.
When using The Spark’s school services pupils, teachers and parent/carers can be sure that we offer a confidential space to allow for building a trusting, safe relationship. This is where real change takes place.
When young people know they are safe and free to fully be themselves, without judgment, they will be open and honest. It is with this honesty that they can truly assess and reflect on issues and this leads to significant changes.
Our counsellors work in a collaborative way, they do not give advice or tell young people what to do. Instead, they work with the individual to find the best way forward that will work for them. This is client-led, which empowers the young person and shows them they can make changes to their lives.
Q. How has your career developed since starting with The Spark?
I joined The Spark almost four years ago as a CYP Counsellor. After two years I became one of the Cluster leads, managing a team of counsellors in Primary and Secondary schools. Ongoing training that The Spark offers assisted in my transition to my current management position.
During my time here, I have also had the opportunity to train and qualify as a couples counsellor. The training and career opportunities within The Spark are second to none.
Children and Young People Counselling and Mental Health Services
The Spark provides a wide range of counselling and support interventions in Scottish schools for Primary and Secondary children and young people. We also provide individual counselling and support for children and young people who are not supported through their school.
Shirley Meade (MBACP)
School Services Manager - Children & Young People Team, The Spark
Shirley is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and School Services Manager for The Spark. Shirley manages the delivery of The Spark’s services for Children and Young People. She also works with adults and couples, with a particular focus on addictions. Shirley’s research interests include attachment, anxiety, neuroscience and working with both children and adults with neurobiological diversity.