Thinking differently

The history of Compass

The Compass Centre first opened in 2009 as a therapeutic education unit in Belton, Great Yarmouth. The initial intake was a group of five pupils who were all due to be placed in specialist out of county provisions. The aim was to achieve improved outcomes for these pupils and their families, alongside significant cost efficiencies. Staff from education and social care recognised this as an opportunity to invest the agreed out of county funds in developing a robust and innovative local provision to keep these pupils within their families and local communities.


The ethos of the Compass is to engage young people and families who have previously found it difficult to access mainstream education and mental health services. The Compass Schools team includes education and therapy staff who work collaboratively to provide a flexible and individually tailored response to the needs of pupils to prepare them for a reintegration into mainstream education whenever possible.  Although providing therapeutic interventions within an education setting is not entirely new idea, the partnership between children's services, The Short Stay School for Norfolk and Tier 3 child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) represents an innovative approach to the complex needs of the young people we work with.  The Compass Schools currently have a therapy team including Clinical Psychology, Art Psychotherapy and Music Therapy. These staff work alongside the education teams to create a therapeutic milieu and offer interventions including systemic therapy, individual psychotherapy for children and parents, EMDR, group therapy, parent training, psychoeducation and positive activities.


Alongside the individual and systemic interventions for pupils and their families, The Compass makes a significant investment in the recruitment, training and clinical supervision of the whole staff team. This promotes the skills and resilience necessary for staff to respond therapeutically to the extremes of challenging behaviour that pupils can present at times.


The current cohort of Compass pupils includes approximately 30% looked after children (LAC) and a further 50% of pupils are identified as being on the “edge of care”. We are acutely aware of the importance of our education provision acting as a secure base for the children, families and staff we work with. This is particularly true during periods of transition between placements, which children understandably experience as stressful and anxiety provoking.


The positive outcomes of the Compass Schools were the foundation of our successful application for a £1.2 million DfE Innovations fund grant.  This substantial investment has allowed us to expand the reach of the Compass Approach to provide therapeutic foster care placements attached to each of our education provisions, creating what we have called a Virtual Residential School.


This model ensures that local provisions are robust enough to respond collaboratively to the levels of risk inherent in working with children with complex needs.  It is often when looked after children are permanently excluded from school that foster placements break down.  Ensuring that there is a consistent approach across home and school improves outcomes for children and minimises the need for expensive residential care and out of county placements.


Alongside the VRS we have developed an Outreach Service using the Compass Approach to respond to the needs of families with children on the edge of care.  Details of the Outreach service can be found here.

Service Delivery Model

Stepping up support to step down needs

Outcomes and achievements to date:

Included in the Department of Health guidelines to “what works” in relation to the provision of Quality and Efficiency Improvement by the National Development Team.


Regional finalists in the Health and Social Care awards for partnership working.


Rated as Good and Outstanding in the last two OFSTED inspections.


Attendance rate consistently over 93%.


Direct savings to statutory services – currently circa £2.9 million per annum.

No permanent exclusions since opening in 2009.


Presentation at the 2014 National CAMHS conference organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (QNCC).


Awarded 2015 CLARHC Fellowship funding by the National Institute for Health research to expand the evidence base for the Compass Approach.


Presentation at the 2015 International Youth Mental Health conference in Montreal.

Compass Outreach Service

The Octagon Business Park

Little Plumstead


NR13 5FH


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