Staff Choice Awards 2018/19
Partnership Working Award

Compass Schools

Is the winner of this award

Little Plumstead, Norwich 

The nomination said...

The Compass Schools offer an excellent example of a truly collaborative and successful partnership between health, education, and social care, which ultimately enhances the quality of care that we deliver to our service users.

The partnership model exists from the point of referral, with NSFT, The Engage Trust and Norfolk County Council working collaboratively to identify the best education provision for a vulnerable population of children. Our joint admissions panel is attended by NHS commissioners for Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Compass Schools NSFT clinicians, local authority leads for education placements, as well as the Head of Specialist Provision for The Engage Trust. This multi-professional, multi-agency format ensures that the needs of the referred child and their parents or carers can be considered in a truly holistic way. NSFT staff within the service can then tailor our transfer-to-service support and so give the young person the best chance of success.

Due to the nature of the children we see, social care support is often either in place or needed. Compass staff work closely with social care colleagues from the point of admission. Proactive, regular contact with social workers is emphasised across the service. This ensures that our social care colleagues are aware of even small concerns or changes in presentations, that concerns do not drift, and that patterns of safeguarding concerns can be identified at the earliest stages.

For parents or carers, this focus on partnership working means that they feel our service has an understanding of every aspect of their child’s needs.

The Compass Schools was set up in 2009, initially as a multi-agency response to a large number of children in the Great Yarmouth cluster who were excluded as an alternative provision was not available to meet the needs of the vulnerable children. Since then, Compass Schools has expanded to three schools in Belton, Pott Row and Lingwood. Compass Schools have worked to adapt practice to ensure that any system and operational barriers, which naturally occur when agencies are working together, can be overcome. One example of this is in our safeguarding practice. While also adhering to NHS safeguarding policies and procedures, the NSFT leadership team at each school are also trained by Norfolk County Council as Designated Safeguarding Leads. This ensures the free sharing of safeguarding information across professional agencies and, most importantly, means we can work together in a safe way to ensure the safety of the young people we see.

The Compass Schools are active in fostering a culture of knowledge and learning across the organisation. At each school, the NSFT therapy team delivers a weekly training session to the whole team; NHS and Education. The topics of these training sessions are designed to enhance practice across the teams and to ensure all staff have the right knowledge to provide the highest level of care and support to our service users. We offer case discussion sessions as well as sessions on specific learning topics such as domestic violence or attachment difficulties.

We routinely involve service users and carers in the further development of our services. Carers are regularly invited to multi-professional planning and feedback sessions. Performance outcome measures, completed by service uses, parents / carers and our education staff, are collected at the end of each school term and analysed by the NSFT team.

Using the evidence-based approach from learning from the previous seven years within the schools, a community outreach service was set up and filled an existing gap in service provision. This service is strongly aligned to the schools and meets the need of a vulnerable looked after child population in Norfolk.

I believe that the partnership working within the Compass Schools offers a shining example of the NSFT values in action.


We work positively with children who have experienced high levels of instability throughout their education histories and for whom early experiences may have been traumatic or unsafe to create a safe base from which both their education and therapy needs are met. The children are often the most vulnerable in our population, including looked after children and children on the edge of care. All staff hold in mind our core Compass service principle of “Unconditional Positive Regard” for the young people. This creates a mechanism for relational repair that enables these young people to believe in themselves and to achieve the best of their abilities.


We work respectfully, in a multi-professional way, with parents and carers. We are non-judgmental and understand that professional and interpersonal disagreements are an opportunity for true collaboration rather than disengagement.


We work together in a unique service where the NSFT provision works in partnership with our education providers, and where both agencies work in a joined-up way with external professionals, most notably with social care. Collaboration, joint-working, shared responsibilities and the co-ordination of key agencies and people in a child’s life are central to the Compass model.

The Compass Schools offer a unique provision in Norfolk through the development of a truly shared partnership between NHS staff, The Engage Trust, Norfolk County Council and CCGs. There are three Compass Schools across Norfolk; Compass Pott Row, Compass Lingwood, and Compass Belton, which are run in partnership between NSFT and Norfolk County Council. The schools offer therapeutic education to up to 50 children between the ages of 7 and 14, all of whom have been permanently excluded from mainstream education and have been previously known to NHS mental health services. The culture of the schools is one of inclusivity; working on young people’s strengths using an integrated approach to education and therapy.

NSFT staff at the Compass Schools offer individual therapy to young people, family therapy, support to parents or carers, individual clinical supervision to education staff, group supervision, and weekly whole multi-agency team training sessions. We offer support to children with some of the most complex systemic presentations. These are children who present with high level emotional and behavioural dysregulation, often secondary to attachment issues or developmental trauma, and who have experienced educational placement breakdowns. It is only through our exemplary partnership working, both with our colleagues at The Engage Trust and with social care, that we are able to provide the care, support, and hope that these vulnerable young people deserve.