Following on from the last issue where we considered how to build good parent-school relationships, this issue we look at collaborative working with professionals from a range of agencies and how to get the best out of joint working

Support for SENCOs
Some children and young people need input from a range of services, and as SENCO you may well be the person who takes on the responsibility for pulling together the support from different agencies and keeping open the lines of communication. Since the implementation of Every Child Matters, and the introduction of extended services through schools and children’s centres, there is a wider range of people working with pupils with SEN than ever before. The ‘Team Around the Child’ (TAC) might include any of a number of professionals from health, education, social services, police, drug and alcohol abuse services, housing and voluntary/independent organisations.

In the best scenarios, professionals are made aware of each other’s work and are able collectively to provide an appropriate package of support. This relies on mutual trust and respect, shared understanding and complementary (rather than competing) skills and effort. There needs to be a common agreement among professionals involved with an individual child about:

  • protocols and procedures for identifying needs (possibly those of the family as well as the child) and referring children on
  • sharing knowledge/information (with awareness of confidentiality issues)
  • being clear about individual expertise and the role each professional is to play
  • balancing resources with assessed need
  • working towards the same goals
  • understanding services’ duties and limitations (including finances).

As SENCO, you may be designated the ‘key worker’, acting as the point of reference for all concerned parties and liaising with the family. You will be responsible for arranging assessments and collating assessment information, organising and running meetings and putting together a joint agency plan. Such a plan should:

  • clearly set out the outcomes to be achieved for the child/young person (and possibly the family)
  • define the accountabilities of everyone involved – who will do what, when and where (with costs)
  • detail the processes of evaluation – how will you know if it’s working?
  • set out the arrangements for review.

Training
Anyone who has ever felt tongue-tied in a multi-agency meeting will recognise the benefits of joint training – where individuals from different disciplines come together to share professional development. This may involve something modest like inviting your speech and language therapist to a CPD session on teaching phonics, or something on a grander scale where working practices are discussed across the board. By talking and listening together, a common language and vision can be developed, alongside sound professional relationships. There are various sets of standards which may be useful if you are involved in this type of training: All children’s workforce practitioners should meet the common core of skills and knowledge required for collaborative working, as specified by the TDA. (C4a, C5, C6, C20, C21, C25, C40, C410 www.tda.gov.uk/teachers/professionalstandards/downloads.aspx

There is also a joint statement of inter-professional values, produced by the General Social Care Council (GSCC), the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) which can be found at:
www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/word_doc/0008/56483/Statement_of_inter_professional_values.doc

Some of the main points are summarised below and would be a useful start for some joint training and discussion.

Practitioners should:

  • recognise that respect, patience, honesty, reliability, resilience and integrity are valued by children, families and colleagues. By demonstrating these qualities in their work they help to nurture them in others
  • value the contribution that a range of colleagues make to children’s lives, and form effective relationships across the children’s workforce. Their inter-professional practice should be based on a willingness to bring their own expertise to bear on the pursuit of shared goals for children, and a respect for the expertise of others
  • recognise that children and families, and colleagues, value transparency and reliability, and strive to make sure that processes, roles, goals and resources are clear
  • recognise the need to be clear about lines of communication, management and accountability, as these may be more complex than in their specialist setting
  • be committed to taking action if safety or standards are compromised, whether that means alerting their own manager/employer or another appropriate authority
  • understand that the knowledge, understanding and skills for inter-professional work may differ from those in their own specialism and be committed to professional learning in this area as well as in their own field, through training and engagement with research and other evidence. Practitioners should be committed to reflecting on and improving their inter-professional practice, and to applying their inter-professional learning to their specialist work with children.

In the next issue, we consider some ground rules for organising and chairing multi-agency meetings and reviews.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2010

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.