Special Schools for the Future: “Getting Personal”

Some time ago I was asked to write an article for a SEN publication. I wasn’t really aware when I wrote it what it was really for or how it would be used (more probably down to the fact that I was asked to do it just before Bob died and life has been a bit of a blur ever since!) On Friday last week I attended the launch of the booklet.

photo SEN Booklet

The Forward is from Dr. Maggie Atkinson, The Children’s Commissioner for England and she was there to speak (I love Maggie Atkinson by the way, she’s the voice of common sense)

It also transpired that this booklet will be given to every special school in the country…I’m pretty chuffed really!

Here’s what I wrote…

Special schools for the future

“Getting personal”

The SEND reforms are proposing far reaching changes to the way we work with disabled children, young people and their families. The 0-25 single plan should ensure that there is more joined up working between the different agencies and across children’s and adult services. The local offer should ensure that all the information parents and professionals need is all in one place and easily accessible (and hopefully jargon free). Whilst this presents huge challenges there are also a number of exciting opportunities.

Underpinning all of the reforms are person centred approaches.

Personalisation has been around for a while now. The use of person centred planning with adults with a learning disability is far more common within social care than in any other agency. Education, however have yet to really come on board with the whole personalisation agenda and in my experience the use of person centred planning in schools has not really been embedded. I’ve seen some great examples of good practice around the country but in training I’ve delivered, many education professionals have argued that they already take an individualised approach to teaching and this has resulted in some resistance to change.

If the reforms are to work then change you must!

The difficulties this has caused have been perhaps more noticeable in the transition to adulthood stage but with a single plan and a greater need to all work together throughout the 0-25 age range it’s imperative that there is a consistent approach, a single way of working and a common language. Person Centred approaches provide this.

The person centred thinking tools used to plan and reflect can easily be used by everyone. They are simple, practical, grounded in common sense and rooted in the principles of inclusion and equality. This isn’t just something that can be used for disabled children and adults; it works for everyone. So, personalising education should be adopted by all schools and not be something different that happens in special schools.

People who have embraced this way of working would now never work in any other way and as a parent it’s the only thing that has ever made any real sense to me. I’ve seen how it’s improved my son G’s life. It helps people understand and interpret his behaviour without assuming everything about him is due to his syndrome. It’s given him a voice and a say in how he likes to be supported, despite having no spoken language and very limited methods of communication. It’s also enabled me to have a continued involvement in his life as an equal partner and have a say in how he is supported. As importantly it changed my thinking and my aspirations for him to live as ordinary life as possible as an adult, instead of a life in “service land”, often the post education route for young people like him.

Person centred planning naturally fosters better partnership working. You have to work together and include everyone and everyone gets their say. Working and planning is done in a way that promotes mutual respect and understanding in a spirit of openness and transparency. By working this way we are more likely to lose the “them and us” mentality. We can move away from” the professional knows best” or the “the parent knows best” view that can become so adversarial and instead look at how we can work together positively and productively for the best outcomes for and, more importantly with the person we all care about.

I blog a lot about person centred approaches and how we’ve used them with G so you can read more here www.abitmissing.wordpress.com

You can check out more about personalising education by visiting this website http://www.personalisingeducation.org/

About Oxfordshire Family Support Network

Oxfordshire Family Support Network (OxFSN) is a not-for-profit organisation run by and for family carers of people with learning disabilities – both children and adults. Oxfordshire Family Support Network (OXFSN) was set up in 2007 by family carers who wanted to use their experience to help others in the same situation, based on our belief that family carers are experts by their lived experience.
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