The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

Keeping parent and carer confidence high on our agendas

Engaging with parents and carers is a vital component of the SEND Code of Practice 2015. Gareth D Morewood examines what strategies work well to ensure that it is still a key priority.

The Lamb Inquiry

Ever since the Lamb Inquiry into special educational needs and parental confidence there has been a renewed focus on engagement with parents and carers. However, despite this being an important part of the SEND Code of Practice and the Children’s & Families Act (2014), there are considerable ongoing tensions with the current SEND system and the engagement with parents/carers. In the Lamb Inquiry, Brian and his team reported on the following important aims for a good school and parent relationship:

  • a clearer focus on outcomes for the pupil
  • a stronger voice for parents
  • a more strategic local approach to SEN provision
  • a more accountable system.

One may argue these key points were the cornerstone of the recent SEND reforms. However, reports like the Driver Youth Trust Report, ‘Joining the Dots’, demonstrate that the reality is currently far from that aspiration. I think the stand-out quote for me was that the Joining the Dots report found that there ‘was a “systems level” issue involving “a lack of transparency and openness” about the services offered by local councils’. Not something to instil parent/carer confidence at a time of significant change in systems, let alone all the associated pressures.

Developing a confidence measure

A few years ago Dr Caroline Bond and I developed a parent and carer confidence measure and wrote about it in the Support for Learning Journal. Often I refer to this work during training and suggest that, in light of the earlier commentary, this is more important than ever. Maintaining a consistent and positive focus through all aspects of work within the school is central to creating and supporting a positive ethos, and helps to challenge stereotypes and raise expectations (Humphrey and Lewis, 2008). Some examples from our study include:

  • postcards home
  • text messages to parents/carers
  • letters and telephone calls to parents/carers that support and reward positive aspects of each student’s day
  • positive reward charts and target sheets linked directly into areas of challenge, with immediate short-term rewards
  • positive focus in training and development activities.

All of which should be key parts of a positive, inclusive school environment. Other key points from our work include:

  • keep parents/carers informed
  • make sure parents/carers know who to contact and how
  • provide honest communication (there is no long-term benefit in providing anything but the truth)
  • listen to parents/carers – give decent time to discuss things
  • try to avoid uncertainty or misinterpretation – be as clear and explicit as possible.

As I am often asked for the confidence measure you can now download it for free from my website; all we ask is that it is suitable referenced and cited when used in your schools/settings.

What to do next

Ask your parents/carers what they think and how they feel about provision. Then act upon the feedback and make improvements. Finding positive solutions can be hard in the current climate but I think we can make a massive different to some families with an open, honest and transparent approach. However difficult things may seem, the key for me is the importance of knowing your rights – this useful blog post from @ERA_tweet provides a helpful summary, along with previous SENCology posts regarding the law.

References

Humphrey, N. and Lewis, S. (2008) ‘Make me normal’: the views and experiences of pupils on the autistic spectrum in mainstream secondary schools. Autism, 12, 1, 23–46.

Lamb, B. (2009) Lamb Inquiry: Special Educational Needs and Parental Confidence. 01143-2009DOM-EN. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

Morewood, G. D., & Bond, C. (2012) Understanding parental confidence in an inclusive high school: a pilot survey. Support for Learning, Vol. 27 No.2, p53-58 Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

 

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