School to School Support
With the move towards a school-led, self-sustaining system of school improvement, it is essential that effective working relationships between settings are cultivated, grown and maintained.
Although it is clear that NLEs and NSSs have a central role in this process, I would argue that schools can be proactive in seeking out collaborative relationships for themselves. This is particularly the case where geography may mean that effective local partnerships could be difficult.
Coupled with this school led approach is the continued shift towards teaching being a research and evidence informed profession. For example, we have seen the creation of ResearchED and @ResearchSEND to name two and the recently created Chartered College of Teaching states that one of its aims is to “focus on what actually works in the classroom by equipping teachers with access to high quality research”.
Although a model which is essentially about system leadership, the ethos of this approach, summarised with words such as collaboration, sharing, peer review and support, coaching and so on, is something that should permeate amongst all professionals working with our children and young people.
I feel it is essential that improvement in provision for SEND is at the heart of this way of working i.e. it is ‘built in rather than bolt on’. The SEND code of practice for example makes it clear that high quality teaching is the bedrock of the provision made for learners with special and additional needs and disabilities which underpins and works alongside anything which is ‘additional to or different from’. Although this was embedded in the SEND reforms, the recently published SENSE report, and before that the MAST study both show that we still have some way to go. Having this focus will not only improve outcomes for learners with special and additional needs, but will also be of benefit to all learners.
What we need then is to continue to develop professional learning communities both within individual schools but also, as outlined above, across groups of schools.
One approach to helping this process is through developments that are taking place on the SEND Gateway. One of the aims behind the creation of the Gateway was to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for all things SEND. This was achieved through organisations signing up as publishers in order to share resources, research, news, events and so on. These recent developments included the reorganisation of the Gateway to match its content to the relevant focus areas of the SEND review, developed by London Leadership Strategy with partial funding from the DfE. The review is a school led approach that encourages schools to join together to review SEND across settings in order to identify what is working well and where developments are needed. By reorganising the Gateway according to the focus areas of the review, leaders are quickly able to find content that is relevant to any identified areas of development. As the Gateway contains many class and provision based resources, teachers will also be able to make use of the reorganisation too.
One of the main features of the developments is the facility for settings to be able to share their effective practice for learners with SEND. This means that as well as having access to ‘published’ resources, research and so on, teachers and leaders can now find real examples of practice that others have developed to meet the needs in their own settings. While this is useful and goes some way to helping to create professional learning communities, just sharing practice could have limited impact. Therefore, those accessing the examples from schools have the opportunity to post questions and comments, which others will be able to respond to, to facilitate dialogue, reflection and collaboration. Being web based, this means that schools can collaborate with others regardless of location.
Moving forward then, in developing a systematic and school led approach to school development, we need to ensure that SEND is integral to the process and that the ethos of collaboration is fostered amongst all practitioners, not just those in leadership roles.
This article was first published on the nasen blog.