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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

Creative resourcing

The Children’s and Families Bill has now become an Act and while the regulations and accompanying Code are debated and approved, SENCO colleagues are in a difficult position as to how they can prepare for September onwards.

I don’t assume to be able to foresee the SEND landscape clearly enough to write about what will be a ‘blueprint’ for provision from September onwards; however I do have some ideas that serve us well at my school and may allow you to be in a stronger position for the challenging times ahead.

Rights-based model

I have always tried to established provision based on a rights-based model of inclusive education defined in the Salamanca Statement, and represented in the ‘recognition of the need to work towards "schools for all” – institutions which include everybody, celebrate differences, support learning, and respond to individual needs’. I have been keen to establish as much specialist provision ‘at my fingertips’ as possible, and remove the need for bureaucratic process-driven models that are often additional barriers to access for our vulnerable young learners.

Trainee educational psychologists

One recent addition to our provision has been from two Trainee Educational Psychologists (TEPs). Working in partnership with the University of Manchester and our feeder primary schools we established a TEP model across our patch of community schools. ‘EPs are moving to a more varied pattern of employment... All employers will have the potential to offer bursarial placements’ (DfE, 2011: Developing sustainable arrangements for the initial training of educational psychologists, p6 and p12)

Practicalities and impact

The addition to statutory EP provision has demonstrated a significant impact on the outcomes for our students. They have been able to support a range of direct and indirect work with young people, including:

  • direct work with students for learning and academic needs – standardised cognitive assessment, curriculum based assessment and dynamic assessment
  • direct work with students for social, emotional and behavioural needs – therapeutic approaches; assessment of self-esteem, social skills and behaviour
  • eliciting the voice of the child
  • early transition work – developing student passports
  • observation of students and classes
  • consultation with SENCOs, teachers and other school staff
  • consultation with parents/carers
  • review meetings – formal and informal multi-agency meetings and liaison.

All this can be achieved for the £15,000 doctoral bursary fee, plus supervision costs. For a little more (financially) than an additional member of support staff you can develop provision with a Trainee EP; for this you get three days per week – which can make a significant impact. An additional strength for us has been the work with feeder primary schools, supporting transition but also family groups within our community of schools. Impact over the last 18 months has been significant.

Speech and language therapist

‘To teach an adult who has lost his larynx because of cancer might be considered as treatment rather than education.

But to teach a child who has never been able to communicate by language, whether because of some chromosomal disorder... or because of social cause... seems to us just as much educational provision as to teach a child to communicate in writing.’ R vs Lancashire County Council ex parte M (1989) We should note that legally it is as important to be able to speak as it is to read and write; yet schools spend thousands on literacy interventions and support packages and nothing on speech, language and communication!

This year we decided to go one stage further than having a specialist member of support staff delivering language and communication support. We appointed our own SALT.

Practicalities and impact

Working in partnership with the local NHS Trust, we employ our SALT on a term-time only contract (these are often usual health contracts) for a little over £16,000.

For one day per week the NHS has our SALT for their case-loads in lieu of training and supervision. In short, you can be a newly qualified SALT in any setting as long as you can meet the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists professional standards. Although it’s early days, some of the short-term impact on our students has been impressive, not only with specific areas of language and communication, but also with associated academic grades and progress when compared to individual starting points.

Psychotherapist

One of the first things I did as SENCO was to appoint a psychotherapist as part of my team, to deliver specialist support for young people experiencing specific emotional problems and mental health conditions. Psychotherapy can help you to discuss feelings you have about yourself and other people. This provision enhances pastoral care and as a more immediate response than CAMHS, has had significant impact upon our community. 

I am always amazed as to how such provision permeates throughout the school setting. I hear young people openly disusing ‘... having a therapy session next, so see you in PE...’ It creates openness about positive mental health that supports my inclusive agenda and is an essential part of our whole-school provision, especially in relation to recent headlines.

Practicalities and impact

Lots of information can be found from the BACP; you could get a therapist for your school for around £50 per therapeutic hour – money most definitely very well spent, especially when considering impact on exam performance and in supporting bereavements and family difficulties. (For additional information read my paper on setting up a counselling and therapy service in school).

Postgraduate social work students

We also take up opportunities to support postgraduate Social Care students from the Manchester Metropolitan University. With a focus on advocacy and parent/carer support, they are well placed to provide key working for young people at your school.

Practicalities and impact

One of our previous students and a parent co-authored a piece on the impact of their work – this is just one example of significant impact on a family at a time of change. Unlike the other provision, in this instance the school receives a small fee for supporting the placement!

Think differently!

Ultimately there is a need to think differently, whatever 2014 and beyond brings. It is entirely possible to create an inclusive provision with a range of specialist services at little additional financial cost that has massive impact on young people as a whole and with regard to academic outcomes. The more inclusive schools can be the better our young people are served.

A timely reminder from Albert Einstein: ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ Don’t do more of the same.

Do different and make a difference!

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