In watching my Twitter feed over the past few days, it has been interesting to note the concerns raised in response to some colleagues coming together to express concern about the use of excessive isolation for some individual children. It made me go back to a number of school visits that I made with inclusive practice in mind. Perhaps it’s always better to look at realities rather than just to express an opinion. I am happy to accept that the schools concerned were wishing to demonstrate their inclusive credentials, so will have been a self-selecting group.
In no school, out of over fifty visits, did I encounter isolation facilities. The closest example would be a school that set up a restorative centre, in a small building at the centre of the school where children could either be sent or take themselves, should there be a need to do so. There was always at least one member of staff on duty, available to offer a listening ear. Other staff were available around these listeners, to provide greater help as needed. For some children, being able to articulate their feelings and needs was sufficient for them to see a way to resolve what they had perceived as a problem. For others, who needed signposting to wider help, resolution took longer, but identification, advocacy and coordination helpd to reduce the time between identification and help.
I am struck by the similarity of approach with the Samaritans, available to listen to people in need. This is also available in prisons, with prisoners acting as listeners to others. Articulation of a problem can sometimes put it into a practical frame with commensurate practical actions to be taken, in order to resolve the issue for oneself. Articulation also allows another to question further, to seek additional clarity.
In looking at this area, we have to accept that each school operates in a specific context, which includes the community, families, and available staffing, so each has to determine internal practices that address issues that arise. Current school funding may well be putting pressures on school ability to provide nuanced support to individuals. Sadly, this can lead to off-rolling as an alternative to supporting a child through their personal issues.
The route to exclusion should be well documented for most children, especially where issues are identified as persistent low level. For this, clear documentary evidence should be kept, for future reference as needed. I’ve appended a copy of an earlier blog that seeks to do this.
There are occasions, in any social situation, and we should recognise schools as always being a microcosm of their context, where the issue is immediate and dangerous, so requires immediate response to keep others safe.
In simple terms, every school decision should be capable of justification in the face of robust challenge, with evidentiary statements available for external review; in the first instance the school Governing Body, especially if faced with parent requests for review or complaint.
There is much evidence of creative and innovative practice. This is broadly shared within a staff seeking to develop its own capabilities. Within a challenging environment, staff often exceed what might reasonably be expected. This is fully recognised by parents and students, who expressed fulsomely their praise for the staff, individually and collectively.
Staff development is a strength of the school. Starting from being valued for the role being undertaken, staff accept challenge, which is not only met but often exceeded. Individual staff are enabled to take on responsibility, supported to succeed and enjoy personal growth as a result. This is a staff with considerable personal and collective expertise. They also present as happy, throughout the staff group.
Innovative practice is encouraged from all categories of staff.
There is much joined up thinking, with staff articulating their working relationships with others. This was particularly evidenced in conversations with the staff who are involved in Inclusion, where each found ways to describe how they work together for the good of children. This was endorsed through other conversations focused on curriculum entitlement, where children are supported to succeed. All conversations had a focus of building capacity, taking personal responsibility, good communication, demonstrating that each child in this school has an identifiable Team Around each Child, should they need that level of support, always looking to enhance opportunities.
Joined up thinking is also evident across other aspects of the school, with staff describing how roles interlink and sometimes overlap, to ensure coherence and consistency as well as a high level of adaptability to personalised needs. This was clearly described with regard to KS4 routes. The discussions about the timetable also showed flexible thinking. The timetable does not create curricular constraints.
The staff are enabled, supported and challenged to ensure that the best possible opportunities are created for children, that, where possible, barriers to progress are identified and remedied to minimise the impact of disruption. The whole staff are the eyes and ears of the systems. They are vigilant, proactive or reactive as necessary or possible, developing functional capacity in the child, the family, with support, or the school, where individual staff may be coached in specific skills.
Documentary evidence shows the interactive approach that is taken within the school to ensure that all vulnerable children are identified and supported through an internal Team Around the Child, as well as utilising appropriate external agencies for focussed work, both inside and out of school.
Inclusion Group descriptor
Multi agency meetings scheduled termly
Regular meetings with outside agencies re individuals, to help in overcoming barriers to learning i.e. Speech and Language Service, CAMHS, YPSS, YoT, Connexions, Social Services, EWO
Extended Services Core offer & Freetime Project
Extra-curricular uptake is high
Annual Reviews – SEND
Parents meeting with SENCO/ GLs / Inclusion Manager re bespoke programmes for students
The enriched curriculum is evident and the search for quality outcomes is a feature of a walk around the classroom areas, which benefit from a range of well put together displays. Children’s work in progress shows an attention to detail and care in finishing.
Words and phrases that come to mind when thinking of The F Education Centre include: -
Humanity, empathy, complex, personalisation, order and organisation, enriched curriculum, adaptable, creativity, stability, complementary, rigour, fun, expertise, valued, trust, communication, excellent information, distributive management, reflective, coherent, sensitive, independence, participatory, articulate, visionary, opportunities, clarity, team, expertise, problem solving, integrated, coherent, normality, humour, humility, spirituality.
These can be summed up as people matter and a personalised approach as the default position.
These are essential characteristics of the staff team, who work tirelessly to ensure that the pupils attending the Centre are given the best possible opportunity to succeed. There is a significant team ethic, trust and collegiate approach, which ensures that each team member is supported by the whole group.
The college policy can be summarised as a dynamic continuum. There is 1) rigorous analysis of evidence leading to 2) detailed planning, including the provision of appropriate resources and staffing. 3) Students are actively sharing in their learning journey, which is 4) tracked and reviewed at regular intervals with 5) accurate and detailed records being collated and disseminated, allowing the process to be cyclic and developmental.
This process has been evolutionary, with some avenues having been explored, adapted to need or rejected, if not useful to college development. As in all college development, mistakes were the catalyst for rigorous consideration.
As a result, Inclusion is evident in every aspect of college life, ensuring that Every Child Matters and, as an extension, that every person associated with the college is also fully valued.
SEAL is an integral part of college life, ensuring that Emotional Literacy is embedded within the inclusion aspects of college life. This includes active engagement in restorative conversations.
TAs have many individual specialisms, enabling them to be a strength of the system, supporting pastoral and learning needs. Many have been developed to become significant members of staff, including through GTP routes into teaching roles. The college supports staff personal growth.
Record of Actions, Discussions or Decisions, Interventions and Outcomes
(RADIO, in case you missed it!).
Building an individual case study.
Essentially, SEND practice describes a sequence of events, which seek to refine the actions and focus of attention, to identify, quantify and qualify the exact nature of a problem. Once this has been established, remedial action can take place. The longer the gap, the greater the problem can become, as further complications can become built into the experience, not least of which is learner self-esteem, affected by adult and peer responses to the circumstance.
Every teacher is a teacher of individual needs, which often identify themselves as little concerns when a learner either exceeds or does not grasp what is being expected.
The SEND framework 2014 does state that poor teaching approaches will handicap decisions on a child’s special educational needs. SEND is not a substitute for poor teaching or poor teachers. High quality teaching and learning should identify, describe and track needs within a classroom. Work sampling, annotations and record keeping will all contribute to good decisions. Some may say that this is additional work. However, it could be argued that well planned, well focused activities, with good oral and written feedback, to identified needs, in itself constitutes a reasonably clear start point of a record. An annotated personal record, for discrete individuals, as describe below should also be kept.
Teachers receive their classes from someone else, even at the earliest stages, where a parent or nursery member of staff has already become aware of little foibles, or gaps in understanding, or an area where there appears to be extra talent.
The parent is the child’s first teacher; it is to be hoped that their relationship is such that they get to know their children really well, through interactions at home and in places of interest that generate speaking and listening skills. As a Governor of a school in Gosport, as well as my own education career, I know that this is not the case, with children arriving operating at two year old levels, of speech and socialisation.
The adult role, teacher and support staff, is to be vigilant in spotting the child reactions in different situations, noting areas of concern, but also of achievement, so that a balanced picture can be built. The profiles built up during the Early Years stage is a more refined document than may have formerly been available.
If concerns emerge, there are likely to be three phases;
1. Short (wave) term, classroom based. The teacher and other adults become aware that an area of need exists. They develop a short-term plan to address the issue and agree a monitoring approach that allows them to spot and track the outcomes. Where feasible, discussions with the learner might deepen the adult understanding of the learning issues. Outcomes are checked carefully to deduce any patterns arising, which are then shared with parents and decisions reached about next steps.
2. Medium (wave) term, involving internal specialist colleagues. Where an issue goes beyond the current capacity of the classteacher, the school internal specialist, the SENCo, should be involved to oversee the record, to discuss with the teacher and the parent possible ways forward and to agree a new plan of action in the classroom. This may involve using a discrete approach to the identified problem, with some specified time need. For example, a child with a specific reading issue might need some individualised time with an adult, whose role is to undertake a miscue analysis during each session to deduce with greater accuracy the nature of the problem. The SENCo may be involved in classroom observations, keeping records of on/off task behaviours, relationships, task application, with outcomes being photocopied and annotated to deepen the understanding of the problem, thereby refining the classroom action. Interventions strategies must be SMART targets. Too often in SEND situations, classteachers operate at too global a level, so that the refined needs of the individuals are missed, until they become more critical. There is a need for regular work sampling and annotations to describe the learning journey and issues still arising. The lack of such a record could handicap a child and the teacher, as it will be requested before specific help can be offered, especially if the school SLT has to allocate additional funding/adult support to address the issue.
3. Long (wave) term, the school will involve a range of specialist experts, to support the diagnosis of the issue. Diagnosis depends on the quality of record keeping in the classroom and the school, if patterns are to be describe and the area for investigation is to be narrowed. As a result, a programme of action is likely to be agreed, timescales set and evidence needed identified. This is likely to be similar to the needs above, but within a refined remit.
Over time, a case study emerges, with a record of actions, discussion, decisions, interventions and outcomes. It may be, at this stage, that the collective wisdom is that there is a problem that is greater that the system capacity to identify and remediate the need. In the new SEND framework, schools will apply for consideration of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
The evidence file is sent to a panel for consideration, along with other applications. Each case is judged on its merits and there is no guarantee that awarding an EHCP will be the outcome. Equally, an EHCP may not guarantee extra funding or alternative education placement. The EHCP, if awarded, is quite likely to be a tighter descriptor of the learner’s individual needs, the education response to be allocated by the establishment, the timescale and regularity of reviews.
SEND issues cause teachers to become worried. I have suggested ways in which a teacher can expand their understanding of teaching and learning outcomes across the range of learners they are likely to encounter, in another post. Scroll down the page and click on download.