School SEN Information Reports – putting them into ( person-centred!) practice
14 December 2016 | By Amanda George
Our guest blogger this month is Garry Freeman. Garry is Director of Inclusion and SENCo at Guiseley School and Lead Secondary SENCo in Leeds.
I guess I am like most professionals in education: we are all so busy, with many demands on ourselves and our time, so many things to do – and always looking for a way to work more smartly.
Last week, we had an interim review meeting for one of our students who has an Education, Health and Care Plan. The room was pretty busy as they say – 5 adults as well as the student herself who is in Y10. She has found it challenging to adapt to the demands and expectations of the new GCSE courses – as have so many of our students – as well as manage the constant daily impact of her educational and health needs. I knew as SENCo that a major task for us had always been and would always be to embed the flexibility of provision to meet need as well as enabling her to become more independent in both her learning and her peer-group working.
As so many of us do, we began with an outline agenda in the context that the discussion, and therefore any outcomes, would flow according to how our student and her parents felt.
First up was a strong emphasis on all the positives: her strengths and positive characteristics as an individual and everything that had so far gone well. Everyone then recognised that challenges and difficulties were a normal part of life and what helped some people to stand out was how they faced those difficulties with the help and support of those around them at home and at school.
In all meetings with students and their parents, we hold to our principles of transparent self-evaluation and welcoming constructive criticism. For us, it is always about improving what we do and how we do it for the ultimate benefit of our students. It matters that this isn’t just focused on academic issues and, for this Y10 student, our support to further develop her social and per-group skills were just as important.
Our conversations moved on naturally to what effective, empathetic support looked and felt like from the perspective of the person receiving it; how can school maintain that support whilst also developing someone’s independence; how can home and school continue to work effectively together as the demands of school work increase.
By the end of the meeting – an hour of very focused, open and transparent discussions – what struck me is how we had brought together all the central strands of the support we offer here at Guiseley School.
We had all been person-centred throughout our discussions without anyone needing to say so at any point. Positives flowed through everything from the first to the last. We had all agreed a way forward to embed effective support, identifying at the same time how we could perhaps slowly, occasionally take more of a ‘back seat’ in class to encourage and enable independence.
The parents made an observation before they left. They had helped us to review our SEN Information Report a few weeks earlier, and they commented that their experience today and at other times confirmed for them that the Report was a totally accurate reflection of what we do as professionals to support special educational needs. Subconsciously – because it is so ingrained and embedded in what we do – we had covered all the aspects of our practice outlined in our Information Report. On reflection, what was particularly rewarding was that it wasn’t just me as SENCo and Director of Inclusion whose default approach to supporting our students is the one in the Information Report. Also in the meeting we had an Assistant Headteacher, Form Tutor and Head of Year, all of whom consistently throughout the discussions exemplified the values, ethos and practice we showcase in our Report: exactly what the Information Report is there for!
I was able to use this as an example for our whole staff of how important it is to remember that our Report should be and is a showcase of what we do – and how well we do it. All of it, of course, founded on person-centred practice.
At the end of a long, busy day it was good to have parents tell us that there was a clear ‘connect’, clear harmony between the various elements of our work: in-class support, enabling independence, the accuracy of our website information for parents, students and others – all underpinned by an unyielding focus on positive person-centred practice!
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