Special schools owe it to parents and students to bring all the different support services together in schools, says this headteacher
In every school, there should be a buzz at the start of the year. Teams should feel energised about a new chapter in the learning journey of the school community.
At Swiss Cottage School, Development and Research Centre, we certainly felt this way as we began our first Professional Learning Day of the year.
Our theme looked simple but was quite complex: meaningful integrated provision.
We are a special needs school with 240 spectacular students, each individuals who have such potential for their roles in the wider community. They are so much more than the diagnosis or condition that often becomes their identity.
However, that diagnosis or condition is what has led them to their place in our specialist provision. It is also the thing that brings together the various support services and interventions a child may need to access.
The SEND Reforms and Legislation shape all that we do. As the child’s school, we want to make the process of accessing all these services and this support easier for students and their parents. We want to remove the bureaucracy and bring the valuable paperwork of the EHCP into action with equal and shared responsibility.
Our aim on the professional learning day was to engage the whole school community on why we need to transform our offering so that our parents and families can feel part of a truly integrated provision. One where teachers, therapists, and specialists – regardless of employer and different ways of working – are committed to integrating education, health, and social care. We want to do that with our core principle at the helm, so that every child is seen as more than the label the paperwork wants to put on them.
Lulu’s mum was at the core of our Professional Learning Day. She shared her journey with us. She loves the school, she can see how her daughter continues to flourish, and she knows that we recognise the individual beyond her numerous diagnoses.
She candidly took us on the other side of her journey that we don’t see. The numerous meetings in different locations, unpicking reams of reports from a range of professionals.
We step into her shoes and the desire across the school community to get this right for every parent is shared and embraced.
Plan of action
We are ready to get this done through parent perspective:
• A commitment to moving from a whole school vision to supporting our teachers in establishing a shared class vision with professionals and parents, placing them in a strong position to coordinate integrated provision at the frontline
• Strategic plans coordinating EHCP, Planning, and Assessment Moderations with NHS therapists and CAMHS specialists
• Scruffy action plans, ready to be shaped with teams across service providers
• Research on examples of best practice for coordinated services
It won’t be easy, but it will happen because our priorities are always anchored with our children and their families.
Vijita Patel is principal at Swiss Cottage School in London. Find her on twitter @PatelVijita @SwissCottageSch