However, it is not the game that interests me in the field of Special Needs, so much as the strategy. Over my sixteen years as a headteacher, I had many discussions with parents expressing disquiet over the processes of the SEN system, particularly the hoops that they had to jump through in order to get some external views on their child. This was often particularly severe in the case of statements. Over time this became clearer with children having some kind of designation, Early Intervention, School Action, School Action Plus, with funding allocated to specific categories. There were still “blockages”, mainly due to allocation of time by specialist services, but it was possible to develop a system which was understandable to all parties.
Reflecting after the event and also on the practices seen in a number of the Inclusion Quality Mark schools’ reports, it would seem that a system based on the initials, rather than the strategy of Tic Tac Toe would be helpful.
TIC – Team including the child; TAC- Team around the child; TOE- Team of experts
It is arguable that all teams are teams around the child, but it is possible to visualise this as a journey that starts with conversations between the teacher and child, develops with parent-child-teacher, then starts to involve a larger group of internal and external expertise in support of the child’s development. Essentially, the system is creating a series of safety nets through which, it is to be hope, no child can slip.
There are many examples of these systems across the IQM family of schools, with a common thread of high level communication among all participants.
Parents at John Bentley School in Calne, Wiltshire the John of Gaunt School, in Trowbridge, articulated the view that “Contact arrangements with school are very good. There is very good communication with the school staff, especially the Health and Welfare system and Individual Learning Department, with very quick response to queries. There is a quality of access to teachers at all levels, including senior managers. The systems in the school support their children. They value the Parentmail system, improving regular contacts. Staff visit the home to support individual children. Work is provided for children when they have to at home for an extended period. The “time out” system allows students with specific issues to self-refer to support.”
The processes showed that “Inclusion is a strength of the teaching and learning environment, with a range of dedicated staff allocated to support individuals, either in learning or their emotional security. The Calne Cluster Multi Agency Forum has become, over the past couple of years, a significant factor in the assurance of coordinated support action with external agencies. Developed with the aid of NCSL funding, this cluster meets regularly to share good practice, which can be based around anonymous family case studies. It also gives a strong personal basis for Team Around the Child (TAC) as they become necessary to support individuals.”
“Children are safe and secure, basic needs are assured, they feel well cared for by all staff, and have good self-esteem, thus creating the environment where they can make decisions, think for themselves and try, knowing learning is derived from attempting something.”
In West London Academy, Norwood- The underlying philosophy is prefaced on the view that everyone is good at something and that all have the capacity to succeed in some form. Here is the language of possibility being articulated and lived through the students. Staff articulate the view that “We don’t give up on the children” and evidenced this throughout the Academy, with SAFE staff suggesting that support continues after some individuals have left.
Students are safeguarded and have a very clear wrap-around system of support that ensures that, not only do they not “slip though the net”, but are enabled to pursue their personal ambitions.
Children are discussed on a regular basis, eg Primary Phase class teacher, Safe worker and class worker roles, together with HS Safe workers, Key Stage Learning Leader role, Education Welfare Officer, Academy Counsellor all work together to ensure inclusion. Information is shared between them in weekly ECM Meetings.
There is much joined up thinking, with staff articulating their working relationships with others. This was particularly evidenced in conversation with the Academy Counsellor, EAL team member, JCS staff member and the year 8 SAFE worker, where each found ways to describe how they work together for the good of individual 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 Academy has an identifiable Team Around each Child, always looking to enhance opportunities.
Orchard Primary, Hackney held regular meetings across the three schools in its group, checking on the vulnerability of each child, with specific focus on certain children and families. There was a follow-through system, with specific staff delegated to monitor and mentor as needed.
Bethnal Green Academy pastoral care was exemplary, with multiple layers of support, with mentoring and coaching at the heart of the systems.