Published: 22/04/2002, Volume II4, No. 5902 Page 31

Three weeks at a day unit turned an aggressive and unmotivated student into a model pupil, writes Fiona Stephens

Last summer, Ishrat Ali, a pupil at Bradford's Rhodesway School, spent three weeks on work experience at Heaton House, a Bradford District Care trust day centre for people with mental health problems.

But by the end of her first week, staff were so concerned about her attitude and behaviour that they felt they might have to end the placement.

'Ishy did not show courtesy to our clients and staff, ' says unit manager Nick Marlborough.'She would take out her phone and text her friends in meetings and dressed inappropriately.'

Ms Ali explains that she had not wanted to take up the placement.'I thought everyone with a mental illness was waiting to attack me.But now I know that It is not like that. I got to know that the clients are just the same as me. I know I can help them and make them feel equal to everyone else.

'I had been giving lip to all the staff, like I did to teachers at school.But the thought of losing the placement made me want to change. I had found something that I really cared about and didn't want to jeopardise it.'

Ms Ali is now taking part in training sessions with a view to joining the trust as a healthcare apprentice.'I have become a much happier person, ' she adds.

'I used to get in trouble with my parents every day and was always being sent home from school because of my temper.Now I just smile at everything. I have even learnt to cook through working with a group at Heaton House.'

Heaton House has hosted more than 200 placement students in the last four years.