Working with Parents or Carers and Colleagues in School
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This unit is an introduction to a key area of your course and will help you in maintaining an environment where all learners are included. The tasks provide some of the key information on current policy, theory and practice that you will be required to engage with through your course of study and professional practice. Take a critical and evaluative attitude as you engage with each of these self-study tasks, annotating and keeping relevant notes which will later contribute towards your professional development profile. Bear in mind that the issues and strategies of inclusion are an exciting area which are constantly evolving. It is also worth noting that many of the interventions suggested for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities will often benefit all of the pupils you work with. Key Learning Outcomes:
* have an understanding of the statutory responsibilities and rights of parents and carers * know how to involve parents and carers appropriately and effectively * understand the importance of collaborating and communicating with colleagues who have responsibility for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities * know the range of roles that additional adults carry out, and the issues around managing them Professional Standards addressed:
Q4 Communicate effectively with children, young people, colleagues, parents and carers. Q5 Recognise and respect the contribution that colleagues, parents and carers can make to the development and well-being of children and young people, and to raising their levels of attainment. Q6 Have a commitment to collaboration and cooperative working. Q21 (b) Know how to identify and support children and young people whose progress, development or well-being is affected by changes or difficulties in their personal circumstances, and when to refer them to colleagues for specialist support. Q27 Provide timely, accurate and constructive feedback on learners’attainment, progress and areas for development. Q32 Work as a team member and identify opportunities for working with colleagues, sharing the development of effective practice with them. Contents Page
Activity 1Working with parents 3
Activity 2The SENCO’s roles and responsibilities 8
Activity 3Roles and responsibilities of other colleagues in school 9 Activity 4Reflection12
Working with Parents
The SEN Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) has a chapter on working in partnership with parents and carers. Parents/carers identify the ability of teachers to listen to their perspectives on their children’s education and respond appropriately, as key to successful partnerships. Parents’ and carers’ knowledge and expertise are invaluable when planning for social and academic success in school for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities. Recent research (e.g. Hallam, 2004) suggests that while parents/carers are happy to be involved in some way with their child’s education, the ways in which they wish to or feel able to help will vary greatly. For example, while many parents/carers of pupils with SEN may be happy to work on educational tasks on a regular basis, others may feel it is not their role or something they feel equipped to take on. It is important not to make assumptions about the quality of support that parents/carers will give their children based on, for instance, ethnicity, social class, education or marital status. The SEN Code of Practice emphasises this point: “There should be no presumption about what parents can or cannot do to support their children’s learning. Stereotypic views of parents are unhelpful and should be challenged.” (Para 2:6)
Read chapter 2 of the SEN Code of Practice, Working in Partnership with Parents. This short chapter provides an effective summary of issues concerning partnership with parents and carers. Under the Education Act 1996, schools must:
* inform parents where they are making special educational provision for a pupil because the pupil has SEN * use their best endeavours to make sure that the appropriate special educational provision is made for pupils with SEN. * Record any issues you consider particularly important for partnership with parents/carers in relation to a pupil with SEN. Records any issues you consider particularly important for partnership with parents / carers in relation to a pupil with SEN and / or disabilities that you know or have encountered during your school placement.
Paragraphs 2:4 and 2:5 of the code define parental responsibility. “‘Parental responsibility’ means the duties, rights and authority that a parent has in respect of a child.” Throughout the code, the term ‘parents’ is taken to include all those with parental responsibility, including ‘corporate’ parents and carers. There have been some developments in relation to the law on parental responsibility since the SEN Code of Practice was published. The current position is that if the parents of a child are married to each other, or they have jointly adopted a child, they both have parental responsibility. This is not automatically the case for unmarried parents. According to current law, a mother always has parental responsibility for her child. A father, however, has this responsibility only if he is married to the mother or has acquired legal responsibility for his child through one of three routes: * by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother * by a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, or * by a parental responsibility order made by the court.
Looked-after children and personal education plans
If a child or young person is looked after by the local authority, a care order gives the local authority parental responsibility. Where a child is accommodated by a local authority, the day-to-day responsibility may be with foster parents, residential care workers or carers/guardians. If a pupil in your class with SEN and/or a disability is a looked-after child, they will need a personal education plan (PEP), even if they have an individual education plan (IEP) or a similar record of target-setting. The scope of a PEP is broad and covers life outside and inside the school. It should contain short-term targets, the pupil’s long-term plans and aspirations. Government documentation1 suggests that every child in public care needs a PEP as it: * provides access to services and support by detailing the provision to be made to support the achievement of targets in the plan * contributes to stability, minimising disruption and broken schooling by supporting all professionals in providing an integrated service * signals particular and special needs
* establishes clear goals and acts as a record of progress and achievement. Social workers lead on the preparation of the plan, though coordination of the implementation is likely to fall to the designated senior person in school (usually a headteacher or deputy headteacher) who has oversight of all pupils in public care in the school. You may be able to access support and advice from your local authority’s Children in Public Care Team. Meeting both parents
You will need to think carefully when arranging meetings with parents as it may prove problematic to meet with both at the same time. This might be because both are in full-time work, or one partner may either work long hours or far from home. You should be alert to the possible pressures on the parents’ time and resources.
Sometimes parents/carers (or pupils themselves) may share information with teachers, eg about a pupil’s disability, which the teacher may wish to pass on to others. Sharing information is vital for intervention to make sure pupils get the services and support they need. However, it is also important that people remain confident that their personal information is kept safe and secure and that teachers and others maintain the privacy rights of individuals. It is important, therefore, that teachers understand when, why and how they should share information, so that they can do so confidently and appropriately as part of their day-to-day practice. Look at the Government’s information sharing guidance (2008).2 You will find other useful information on this site, including case studies. There can be significant consequences to not sharing information − as there can be to sharing information. Ultimately, teachers must use their professional judgement to decide whether to share or not, and what information is appropriate to share. It is important to build trust from the outset by clarifying issues and procedures surrounding confidentiality and information sharing. Teachers must adopt the right approach to information sharing by following the correct procedures and by ensuring that the parent/carer (and the pupil, where appropriate) understands the process.
Advice on sharing information
There are seven ‘golden rules’ for sharing information:
1. Recent legislation (such as the Data Protection Act) is not a barrier to sharing information − it provides a framework to ensure that personal information is shared appropriately. 2. Be open and honest with people from the outset about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could, be shared, and seek their agreement − unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so. 3. Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person, where possible. 4. Get consent to share information, where appropriate and possible. But respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. Teachers may still share information without consent if, in their judgement, that lack of consent can be overridden in the public interest. They will need to base their judgement on the facts of the case. 5. Base your information-sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and well-being of the pupil and others who may be affected by your actions. 6. Make sure the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those people who need to have it, is accurate and up to date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely. 7. Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it – this should apply whether the decision is to share information or not. If you decide to share, record what you have shared, who with and for what purpose.
Information Sharing Guidance
Is there a clear and legitimate purpose for sharing information? Why do you or the other person want the information?
What is the outcome you are trying to achieve?
Could the aims be achieved without sharing the information?
Does the information enable a living person to be identified? If the information is about an identifiable pupil, or could enable a pupil to be identified when considered with other information, it is personal information and is subject to data protection law. This is likely to be the case in the course of your work. You should be open about what information you might need to share and why. However, it may not be appropriate to inform a person that information is being shared, or seek consent to this sharing. This is the case if informing them is likely to hamper the prevention or investigation of a serious crime, or put a child at risk of significant harm. Question 3
Is the information confidential?
Not all information is confidential. Confidential information is information of a private or sensitive nature that is: * not already lawfully in the public domain or readily available from another public source, and * has been provided in circumstances where the person giving the information could reasonably expect that it would not be shared with others. Question 4
Do you have consent to share?
You should seek consent, where possible, and respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement on the facts of the case, that lack of consent can be overridden in the public interest. You do not always need consent to share personal information. There will be some circumstances where you should not seek consent − for example, where doing so would: * place a child at increased risk of significant harm
* prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime, or * lead to unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of significant harm or serious harm.
Information Sharing Guidance continued
Is there sufficient public interest to share the information? Even where you do not have consent to share confidential information, you may lawfully share if this can be justified in the public interest. Where consent cannot be obtained or is refused, or where seeking it is unsafe or inappropriate (as explained in question 4), the question of whether there is a sufficient public interest must be judged by the practitioner on the facts of each case. Where you have a concern about a person, you should not regard refusal of consent as necessarily to mean that you cannot share confidential information. In making the decision you must weigh up what might happen if the information is shared, against what might happen if it is not, and make a decision based on professional judgement. Question 6
Are you sharing information appropriately and securely?
Only share what is necessary to achieve the purpose, distinguishing clearly between fact and opinion. Share only with the person or people who really need to know the information. Make sure the information is accurate and up to date.
Understand the limits of any consent given, especially if the information has been provided by a third party. Check who will see the information and share the information in a secure way. For example: * confirm the identity of the person you are talking to
* make sure a conversation or phone call cannot be overheard * use secure e-mail, or
* make sure the intended person will be on hand to receive a fax. Establish with the recipient whether they intend to pass it on to other people and make sure they understand the limits of any consent that has been given. Inform the person who the information relates to that you are sharing the information, if it is safe to do so, and if you have not already told them that their information may be shared. Question 7
Have you recorded your information-sharing decision properly? Record your information-sharing decision and your reasons, including what information you have shared and with whom, following your school’s arrangements for recording information and in line with any local information-sharing procedures in place. If, at any stage, you decide not to share information, you should record this decision and the reasons for it. For more details, see the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) document, Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers.
The SENCO’s roles and responsibilities
Many colleagues can help you develop your expertise for working with pupils with SEN and/or disabilities, but the most important source of advice and support in school will be the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). In some schools, this role is part of the work of the inclusion coordinator or manager. The SEN Code of Practice explains that the SENCO:
* works closely with the headteacher and governing body on strategic development of the school’s SEN policy and provision * is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy * coordinates provision for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities, working closely with staff, parents and other agencies, and * provides related professional guidance to colleagues.
“The [primary] SENCO should collaborate with curriculum coordinators so that learning for all children is given equal priority, and that available resources are used to maximum effect.”SEN Code of Practice, para 5:31 “The [secondary] SENCO should collaborate with Heads of Department or Faculty, the literacy and numeracy coordinators and pastoral colleagues to ensure that learning for all pupils is given equal priority and that available resources are used to maximum effect.”SEN Code of Practice, para 6:34 If necessary, the SENCO can direct you to:
* other professionals who can offer more specialist advice and support, and * other local and national sources of information.
Many SENCOs are members of the National Association for SEN (NASEN), (see www.nasen.org for more details) which has information on research, publications, events and courses. More about SENCOs’ roles and responsibilities
Every maintained school must appoint a teacher to coordinate provision for pupils with SEN.3 The school’s governing body decides what role the SENCO has in relation to the leadership and management of the school, and what the SENCO’s key responsibilities will be. The governing body must also monitor the SENCO’s effectiveness in carrying out their responsibilities. Regulations suggest what the SENCO’s responsibilities might be. They reflect, to a large extent, the description of the role in the SEN Code of Practice (the Code of Practice gives guidance on the role of the SENCO in mainstream primary and secondary schools). In general, the role of the SENCO is to lead teaching and learning and coordination of provision for pupils with SEN in their school, so that the pupils can learn and develop. The person appointed as the SENCO is not expected to carry out all of the functions of the role themselves, and SENCOs are often supported by others. It is up to individual schools to decide how to organise the coordination of SEN provision, and arrangements vary from school to school. But all schools must have regard to the guidance in the SEN Code of Practice and comply with statutory regulations.
Roles and responsibilities of other colleagues in school
Teachers who have previously taught pupils with SEN and/or disabilities in your class will know a lot about them. They are likely to be able to help you with suggestions on differentiating lessons for them, including ways to group pupils or specific resources they found useful. Learning mentors or behaviour mentors
Most secondary schools and some primary schools now have learning mentors or behaviour mentors to help pupils focus on their learning and manage their behaviour. They may be able to offer you useful advice, from their training, about positive behaviour management strategies which you can put into practice. Subject specialist teachers
Subject/curriculum leaders have a responsibility to advise their colleagues on the subject aspects of meeting the needs of pupils with SEN and/or disabilities. In particular, they should be able to offer direct advice on teaching pupils with the more common types of SEN and/or disabilities. For example, they should have:
* ideas on adapting schemes of work to share with you
* subject resources which have proved particularly helpful for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities, and * access to associations that can help with strategies that are particularly relevant to the subject (all subject associations’ websites can be found through the Council for Subject Associations’ website: www.subjectassociation.org.uk).
Schools often have someone who coordinates pupils’ transfer from one phase of schooling to another (nursery to infant, infant to junior, junior to secondary, secondary to further education). The changes when they transfer to a new school can be hard for most pupils, but often very difficult for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities.
Roles and responsibilities of teaching assistants
With your own classes, you have overall responsibility for the pupils and for the deployment and management of any additional adults who work with you. A significant part of this, in relation to supporting pupils with SEN and/or disabilities, is likely to be the development of your work with teaching assistants. Teaching assistants should not be expected to plan differentiated activities for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities on their own − teachers are responsible for this. Briefly explore the literature
Read the following information about research on support from additional adults in class. Supporting pupils with SEN and/or disabilitiesOfsted (2004) found that, “Support by teaching assistants can be vital, but the organisation of it can mean that pupils have insufficient opportunity to develop their skill, understanding and independence.”Some key issues about the way teaching assistants are used to support pupils with SEN and/or disabilities have been identified by research over recent years. Effects on pupils’ progressSmith et al’s literature review (2004) found that teachers identified teaching assistants as having many positive effects on pupils’ performance. Longitudinal research (mostly in primary schools) in the UK and the United States (Blatchford et al, 2004; Gerber et al, 2001) suggests, however, that the evidence for these positive effects on pupils’ academic progress is limited. Typically, the research found that teachers valued the work of teaching assistants, and teaching assistants enjoyed their roles, predominantly working with groups of low-attaining pupils or supporting pupils with behaviour difficulties. Ofsted (2006) reported − after a survey of 74 schools in 17 local authorities − that teaching assistants provided valuable support and many were taking on difficult roles.
However, they recognised that support from teaching assistants was not a substitute for focused, highly skilled teaching, and that pupils in mainstream schools, where teaching assistant support was the main type of SEN support, were less likely to make good academic progress than those who had access to specialist teaching. Time ‘on task’ and its impact on learningHowes (2003) found that teaching assistants’ support in class increased the amount of time pupils spend on task, but that this did not necessarily result in an increased rate of learning.Ofsted’s 2008 study of how well new teachers are prepared for teaching pupils with SEN and/or disabilities suggested that new teachers planned the work of teaching assistants and other adults more effectively than they monitored its impact on pupils’ learning. Dependence Research also shows that the presence of a teaching assistant can sometimes be seen as being overprotective and increasing pupils’ dependence on adults. Gerschel (2005) refers to the ‘velcro model’ − where a teaching assistant is always attached to a single pupil − and cautions against a culture in which the pupil may become emotionally dependent on the teaching assistant, and less likely to be fully included in the class or to form relationships with other pupils.
At secondary level, teaching assistants have been seen as “co-learners; modelling how to learn; and less the authority figure than the teacher. However, some students could see interventions by teaching assistants as intrusive and unhelpful.” (Calker et al, 2007) Teaching assistants’ support appears to promote inclusion more effectively when it is directed towards a group of pupils rather than an individual (Lacey, 2001).The teacher’s roleThe presence of a teaching assistant may have an impact on how the teacher sees their own role with pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities. Mencap (1999), for example, studied schools reputed to have good practice in SEN and inclusion, and found that, all too often, the teaching assistant was the pupil’s main teacher, doing all the planning, with few opportunities to liaise with the class teacher.
Ofsted (2002) found that the presence of teaching assistants can improve the quality of teaching, particularly “where the teaching assistant is following a prescribed intervention or catch-up programme, for which they had received training and worked in close partnership with the teacher”. However, research for the Department for Children, Schools and Families on the deployment and impact of support staff (Blatchford et al, 2007) found that 75 per cent of the teachers surveyed had received no training to help them work with support staff in classrooms, and most said they did not have allocated planning or feedback time with support staff. A further report from the research, in 2009, highlighted the negative effect of substituting support staff for teachers on pupils’ attainment and progress.