How some schools are leading the way in implementing the new SEN Code of Practice’s partnership approach
The statutory SEN Code of Practice, recently arrived in schools, encourages greater collaboration between all involved parties in the support offered to children with SEN. Teachers, parents, carers, psychologists, councils and their local health partners are charged with working together to deliver appropriate support.
Out of all these relationships, though, bridging the gap between home and school has been identified as the key focus of the new Code, aiming to give parents a greater understanding of the services that they can reasonably expect to be provided for their child, as well as ensuring that that they will be fully involved in decisions about their child’s support.
Camberwell Park, a primary special school in North Manchester, made an early start on its journey towards compliance with the new Code; its multi agency approach has already resulted in notable outcomes for many students, including Blake, a Year 6 student who has profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) and complex health needs. His team consists of a carer, school staff and physiotherapist, who all work closely together to support Blake’s needs in school and at home. In Blake’s case, if he is doing something in school that his parent/carer doesn’t know about, then it confuses him, which makes a continual open dialogue between all individuals key to providing him with proper care.
The National Teaching and Advisory Service and foster carers are two other agencies who come into the multi-agency mix at Camberwell Park. The foster parents of Jaden, a pupil in Year 6, were trained by the school to be part of this collaborative professional team. Ron and Angela explain that “as foster carers, we perhaps have a different attitude towards school compared to normal parents; we are talking the problem over and trying to change it. We go on lots of courses to make our ability to work with children better.” They both clearly recognise the importance of being treated as part of the care team, rather than being outside of it at home.
Lisa Williamson, National Development Manager at the National Teaching and Advisory Service, stresses that their job as mediators is “to give Ron and Angela a voice, allowing them to talk about what their wishes are, regarding entry to a specific secondary school, for example, and taking into account what they know about the child. We then present this to the school.”
The Camberwell Park also goes a step further by working with the mainstream schools in the area. Assistant Headteacher Johanne Henstock describes how the school’s outreach service involves teachers in mainstream schools in meeting the needs of pupils with SEN: “If a school in the area needs support, they would contact us for a referral form which would be looked at as a team. If, for example, the school needs help working with a child with autism, they will often come in and observe our lessons. We then go to the school and observe the child and suggest further strategies.” This collaborative approach not only supports mainstream schools, it also means Camberwell Park get to experience good practice first hand from the mainstream schools.
Empowering teachers and learners
Managing behaviour and the challenges this can present to many is something that is also addressed well at Frederick Bird Primary School, a national teaching school in Coventry. Natalie Franklin-Hackett, SENCO and Assistant Headteacher for inclusion, decided to employ an educational psychologist and a clinical psychologist directly, and the impact this has had on staff and pupils has been remarkable. The psychologists explain how they work to promote good behaviour with symbols on a board: “We aim to empower the teacher to help them implement some of the strategies to improve behaviour themselves. They are then given time to try new strategies before then meeting with us to review how they have worked.”
At Guiseley secondary school in Leeds, Deputy Headteacher in charge of the curriculum Paul Clayton explains how their nurture provision over the past two years has been very beneficial for their students who weren’t achieving what they could. “Nurture is not about taking the kids out and leaving them out, it’s about taking them out to develop them in terms of their social skills, in terms of improving their behaviour and probably most importantly for us, in terms of their academic progress.”
Garry Freeman, SENCO and Inclusion Manager, adds: “It’s about helping children to feel comfortable and happy at school. If we can secure their wellbeing at school, so they feel happy coming here, the results will follow.”
The identification of children for the nurture group starts by talking to their feeder primary schools before the students even get to Guiseley.
Kelsey, a Year 8 student with behaviour difficulties at Guiseley, is an example of how the nurture group students are offered a collaborative approach to their support. Freeman outlines the importance of home/school communication in promoting her positive behaviour: “Kelsey constantly wanted attention from teachers and other staff, so we worked to have daily contact with her carers by email and telephone three times a week. By bringing all parties together, we were able to gather different knowledge about Kelsey so we could work as a partnership to support her in the best possible way.”
Guiseley takes the nurture club one step further by offering the students a skills based, bespoke version of the National Curriculum. Most of the learning is topic based, bringing out the historical skills and geographical skills. As part of this, a lot of literacy and numeracy development is included. Freeman concludes: “For us, it’s all about positives, always fostering that sense of achievement so we don’t focus on what they can’t do; we focus on what they can do. It’s also a lot to do with how we break down the work into tasks, so they can just take one small step at a time, feel success with that, move on to the next task, experience further success, move on to the next one and so on. So it’s a very structured approach. We found this works tremendously well for self-confidence and self-esteem.”
Making a difference
From a parental point of view, this increased level of involvement is certainly welcomed. Jeanette, parent of a son with SEN at Lakes College and West Lakes Academy, stresses the importance of school and parents working together: “Going to college was a big step for him and I was concerned over whether he would settle. However, support from both school and college meant everything went into place and I always felt very involved in the process, spending time at the college throughout the year at various taster days. The school met with us to explain the process so the transition process was dealt with both at home and school.” Jeanette’s son is now settled and doing well at college.
All these outstanding providers have a set of key principles in common: they have whole school commitment to a shared vision and values base which provides a whole setting ethos that respects individuals’ differences, maintains high expectations for all and promotes good communication between teachers, parents and pupils.
The provision and continual investment in providing knowledgeable and sensitive staff who understand the processes of learning, and the impact that SEN can have on these, leads to creative and innovative adaptations to classroom practice enabling children and young people with SEN to learn inclusively and meaningfully, alongside their peers. By building bridges between home and school through an inclusive and unified approach, the end result is that both children and their families feel supported throughout every stage of education.
Jane Friswell is CEO of nasen, which promotes the education, training and advancement of those with SEN: