Interact Manchestermodellen

 

 

Lärarrutan

Om utmanande barn

Om modellen

Målgrupper

Tim Walker,  artikel

 

 

 

Om Manchestermodellen i Storbritannien och Sverige

 

 

I början på 1990 talet startade ”the Manchesterexperiment” i Manchester; Storbritannien, starten på det som i dag i Sverige kallas Manchestermodellen. Initiativtagarna har alla haft ledande ställningar i offentlig verksamhet, och varit ansvariga för barn och ungdomar, inom social- och utbildningssektorn.

 

Erfarenheten var att barn placerade i offentlig vård inte fick det utbildningsmässiga stöd de var i behov av, och hade rätt till. Att socialtjänsten inte inkluderade pedagogik som ett redskap som stöd i arbete med barn och ungdom. Skolan saknade information och kunskap om vad denna grupp barn och ungdomar hade för behov och hur de kunde möta dessa.

    

Gruppen fann det man kallar den ”strukturella klyftan” som är ett glapp mellan socialtjänsten och skolan, i synsätt, språk och kultur. Det två system och den klyfta som fanns mellan professionerna fick som konsekvens att enskilda barn och ungdomar hamnade mellan olika ansvarsområden,och blev någon annnans ansvar.Resultatet blev att barnen inte av någon fick den hjälp och det stöd de behövde.

Barnen behövde båda professionerna och samarbete dem emellan, en brygga som fyllde tomrummet och där barnen inte längre var en eller ingens ansvar utan bådas. Detta blev det mål och den uppgift de verksamma i Manchester gemensamt formulerade och skapade modellen för.

 

Då man nådde stor framgång med skolgång i vanlig klass för en grupp barn och ungdomar med mycket stora svårigheter, skapade man sitt och verksamhetens motto: Fungerar det för denna grupp så kan det fungera det för alla.

Idéer och metod utvecklades gradvis och kom sedan att användas för andra grupper av barn och ungdomar.

 

Brittisk forskning visar att 70 % av barn i vård lämnar skolan utan godkända betyg. I normalpopulationen är siffran 6% och från familjer med likartad socioekonomisk bakgrund är siffran 11%. I Sverige saknas motsvarande forskning men det är sannolikt att det finns likheter för placerade barn och ungdomar även här.

 

National Teaching and Advisory Service grundades 1998 av delar av ledningen ur den ursprungliga ”Manchester experiment”. I dag finns i organisationen ca 100 medarbetare, varav de flesta lärare. Verksamheten har tio kontor över hela Storbritannien. Huvudkontoret finns fortfarande i Manchester.

 

Under de fem år NT&AS har funnits som fristående organisation, har de genomfört uppdrag för kommuner, socialtjänst och skola, fristående familjevårds- organisationer och enskilda familjehem. Man arbetar 2004 med ca 600 barn och ungdomar. Organisationen har med sin modell visat på en väg att ge barn och ungdomar med olika svårigheter och behov tillgång till och framgång i vanliga skolor.  NT&AS är erkänd som Storbritanniens landets ledande organisation  av utbildningstjänster för ”utmanande barn” .

 

Verksamhetens ledare och VD Tim Walker håller föredrag om utbildning av barn i behov av särskilt stöd vid  de flesta nationella konferenser som hålls i ämnet, i Storbritannien.

 

Modellen från Manchester har introducerats i Sverige av en den brittiska verksamhetens ledare Tim Walker som i Storbritannien är ansvarig för arbetet i Sverige.

Interact är en svensk- brittisk verksamhet och den plattform där Manchestermodellen finns representerad i Sverige, med metod, kompetens och erfarenhet.

 

Introduktionen i Sverige av verksamheten gjordes redan 1999.

Interact Consensusverkstad/Manchestermodellen Sverige bildades hösten 2000 i syfte att introducera och implementera modellen i Sverige.

 

Från 2001 har det genomförts nationella, regionala och lokala seminarier i Sverige, från Kiruna i norr till Malmö i söder. Höstterminen 2002 påbörjade den första svenska Manchesterläraren, utbildad i Storbritannien, sin anställning. Metoden har under 2002 anpassats till svensk lagstiftning och svenska förhållningssätt med godkännande från Storbritannien. Hösten 2003 påbörjades utbildadningen av den första läraren i kommunal regi.

 

Interacts primära målgrupp är barn 8-16 år som finns inom skolan och/eller socialtjänsten. Modellen är skapad för barn och ungdom som behöver stöd av fler professioner och kompetenser i samverkan med fokus på arbete i hem med föräldrar, och skola i närmiljö.

 

Manchestermodellen står för inkludering och normalisering samt en övertygelse, att barn och ungdomar har

 

Rätt att lyckas i vanlig klass  och  Rätt att lyckas i livet.

 

 

Manchestermodellen är på gång för ungarnas skull.

Hälsar,

Vi i Interact/Manchestermodellen Sverige

 

 

 

                                                      Lärarrutan

 

När jag sökte till lärarutbildningen var det för att jag ville hjälpa barn. Jag är utbildad lärare i idrott och matematik, och på idrottshögskolan fick jag lära mig om olika diagnoser och vad för slags behov barn med diagnoser har. Diagnoserna är oftast inte fysiskt betingade och de är bara ett beteende hos barnet. Som student undrade jag mycket varför en del barn har vissa beteenden och vad det kan bero på. Jag undrade också över, varför de hade fått en diagnos. Det vanligaste svaret var att de var till för att få resurser. Jag tror att vi som vuxna behöver diagnoserna för att säga att det inte är vårt fel att vi inte klarar av barnen. Vad vi behöver är att jobba tillsammans och hjälpas åt för att ge barnen det stöd de behöver.

                                                                        Martin

 

 

 

 

Om Interacts och Manchestermodellens syn på utmanande barn

 

 

 


När vi talar om utmanande barn så menar vi de barn som genom sitt agerande utmanar vuxenvärlden till att ta större ansvar. Andra talar om barn med ex. ADHD, DAMP, Aspergers etc. Vi gör inte det.

 

Alla dessa nya eller nygamla diagnoser har det gemensamt att de beskriver ett barns beteende. Det finns alltså inga belägg för att beteendet har sitt ursprung i hjärnskador, ärftliga faktorer eller liknande. Vi vet att detta är en het diskussionsfråga och vi vill därför förtydliga vår uppfattning och vårt förhållningssätt när det gäller diagnostiserade barn – de som vi bland andra kallar utmanande barn.

 

Vår grundläggande uppfattning är att alla barn kan och vill utvecklas. Alla barn vill vara som andra, d v s gå i skolan, ha kamrater, osv. Vissa barn har svårigheter med detta. Men är det verkligen barnens svårigheter?

 

Vuxenvärldens ansvar för barnen kan aldrig delegeras. Barn har inte problem, de bär vuxnas problem. Att beskriva barns svårigheter på det sätt som görs med dessa diagnoser innebär:

 

v  att man fokuserar på barns tillkortakommanden istället för deras möjligheter.

 

v  att man använder språk som patologiserar.

 

v     att man satsar mer på att anpassa omgivningen till barnens beteende än att

      hjälpa barnen att utvecklas.

 

v     att man deltar i en allt ökande sortering av ”normala” och ”onormala”, barn där normen för det normala förändras efter samhällsekonomin och efter vuxnas förmåga att förstå och samarbeta.

 

Varför? De argument som framhålls i debatten är främst avlastningen av föräldrars skuld samt att man genom diagnosen kan få resurser och särskild hjälp. Båda dessa argument beskriver hur diagnosen löser vuxnas problem. Barnet får betala priset genom en stämpling som sällan helt kan tvättas bort. När barn utmanar vuxenvärlden till större ansvarstagande, svarar vuxenvärlden med att göra utmaningen till ett fel i barnet så att vuxna kan förklara sig fria från ansvar. Och då kan också vuxenvärlden ta fram resurser som man anser sig behöva för att hantera det avvikande eller ”sjuka” barnet.

 

För oss som arbetat med utmanande barn under lång tid, står det klart att diagnosen är utan betydelse när det gäller själva arbetet med att skapa en situation där de kan finna sig tillrätta och utvecklas.

Diagnosen ger ingen hjälp annat än till den som ska remittera barnet till någon annan som ska ta ansvaret. Vad diagnosen däremot gör, är att ge vuxna en möjlighet att inte samarbeta då ingen bär skuld eller ansvar. Det är ju barnet det är fel på.

 

Vi letar inte efter fel. Vi letar möjligheter. Och vi menar att det är vuxna som ska skapa förutsättningar för barns möjligheter. Finns förutsättningar så finns möjligheter. I varje barn finns en utvecklingskraft som spirar när förutsättningar ges. Vårt synsätt innebär inte att vi negligerar de svårigheter som barn kan vara utsatta för. Tvärtom. Men vårt förhållningssätt och arbete med Manchestermodellen utgår från det enskilda barnets behov, inte från ett samlingsnamn för vissa beteenden.

 

Vi mobiliserar vuxna runt barn utan att stigmatisera dem. Vi tror inte att det är fel på utmanande barn. Men de behöver en vuxenvärld som vill och förmår utmana sig själva att samarbeta för att ge dem dessa möjligheter.

 

 

      

 

 

     Intressen och intressekonflikter runt

     ”barn i behov av särskilt stöd”

      eller ”utmanande barn”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Om Modellen

 

 

Manchestermodellen är en strukturerad tvärprofessionell modell för vuxna i arbete med ”utmanande” barn och ungdomar eller för dem som har behov av särskilt stöd. Manchestermodellens mål är normalisering i vanlig skola i vanlig klass.

Modellen innehåller två delar, dels ett förhållningssätt som handlar om värderingar, tilltro och synsätt på barn och ungdomar, och hur vuxnas förväntningar, ansvar och möjligheter att skapa en god miljö som stimulerar barns och ungdomars utveckling dels en strukturerad metod, ett arbetssätt som möjliggör detta arbete.

Manchestermodellen erbjuder möjlighet till flexibla helhetslösningar med mål att inkludera och integrera barn i vanlig klass, där fokus är lagd på en fungerande skolsituation. Den innebär också stöd till föräldrar i rollen som skolförälder samt en fungerande fri-tid där läxor och aktiviteter är två viktiga komponenter.

Modellen arbetar gentemot barnen med Manchesterlärare, lärare med kunskap om och erfarenhet av arbete i skola. Den innebär både ett resurs och kompetenstillskott för lärarna.

Utgångspunkter i arbetet är att;

 

v   alla barn vill vara som andra barn, gå i vanlig klass i vanlig skola och

       lyckas där.

 

v   alla barn som har svårigheter i sin skolsituation bör bli bemötta

       utifrån sin unika livssituation med sina behov.

 

v   behandla alla barn som vi kommer i kontakt med som det var våra

      egna.

 

Manchestermodellen arbetar med skola och kunskap i centrum. Bra pedagogik är god behandling. Manchestermodellen har ursprungligen tillkommit i syfte att föra in pedagogik som en viktig del i socialtjänstens arbete med barn och ungdomar men utbytet blir ömsesidigt - den för in socialtjänstens kompetens i skolan. Psykodynamisk teori med systemiska, nätverksteorier, och ett lösningsfokuserat salutogent förhållningssätt. Den är målrelaterad och arbetet dokumenteras kontinuerligt.

Manchestermodellen erbjuder kvalitet och kvantitet i stöd, i skola för unga med de största svårigheterna, av de bästa lärarna. Läraren blir den unges kunskapsförmedlare, förespråkare och samordnare.

Kvantitet genom att ansvara för helhet och ansvarstagande av vuxna under hela dygnet.

 

 


 

         Bilden illustrerar glapp för barn och vuxna och  

        där arbetet med Manchestermodellen fyller dem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Målgrupper

 

 

Manchestermodellen är ett redskap att använda för barn och ungdom med svårigheter i skolan och eller under övrig tid. Den bygger på en helt individualiserad bedömning av behov, resurser och svårigheter och insatser baserat på detta.

Modellen erbjuder en struktur för vuxna att ta gemensamt ansvar för och samarbeta för barn och ungdom med kunskapsinhämtning och alla övriga möjligheter, möten och erfarenheter som skolan har att erbjuda.

 

 

 

För socialtjänsten;   Barn och ungdom 8-18 år

 

 

v   Placerade utom hemmet. I familjehem och på HVB.
v   Som efter placering skall återgå till sin ursprungsmiljö, hem och skola.
v   Med övriga insatser och som har svårigheter i skolan, t.ex. kontaktpersoner m.fl.
v   Som är aktuella och som man hyser oro för.
v   Som öppenvårdsalternativ med skola/pedagogik som huvudkomponent

 

 

För skolan;   Barn och ungdom 8-16 år

 

 

v   I särskilda undervisningsgrupper.
v   Med elevassistentstöd.
v   Med sociala, beteende eller känslomässiga svårigheter.
v   Med enskild undervisning.
v   Utan, eller med sporadisk skolgång.

 

 

 

 

ARTIKEL AV TIM WALKER

 

 

 


THE PLACE OF EDUCATION IN A MIXED ECONOMY OF CHILD CARE

Tim Walker

The education of children in public care is almost certainly at the highest point on the political agenda it will ever reach. The extent to which levels of educational attainment for looked after children and young people are likely to influence their future life chances has been fully recognised, understood and provides a new context within which specific central government policy and guidance is now based.  The DfEE/DH guidance on the education of looked after children provides powerful evidence that central government has been prepared to act and promote the interests of children in public care through a degree of prescription that seemed inconceivable only a few years ago.

 

Whilst there is little doubt that significant progress has been made, there is no room for complacency. A significant minority of looked after children continue to be disproportionately represented among pupils who are excluded from, or do not attend school, and may feature among those who present teachers and schools with significant challenges.  The majority of looked after children attend mainstream schools without apparent difficulty and yet continue to underachieve at an alarming rate and become significantly over-represented in national statistics on homelessness, unemployment, poverty and within the adult prison population.

 

With these clear links in mind Frank Dobson, then Secretary of State for Health, publicly stated that he considered education outcomes for looked after children as possibly the single most important indicator of the overall effectiveness of the public care system. As a consequence local authority structures and professional practices which comprise the public care system have been provided with a unique opportunity to adapt and change against the background of a sympathetic and supportive political climate.   That many of the most disadvantaged of all children continue to be systematically denied educational entitlements that others take for granted is particularly scandalous as we have reached this point with no absence of hard evidence and remarkably few inconsistencies within research findings, in both cause and effect.   In meeting this challenge local authorities would be wise to take into full account the reasons for our collective past failures.

 

In 1987, the ‘structural marginalisation’ of children in public care, where their educational interests fall rather than are shared between local education and social services departments was identified by the editor of this book as providing the conditions under which so many so disastrously and disproportionately underachieve in comparison with almost all other groups of children.   Those who left public care in the subsequent twelve years may be forgiven for being reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s “The speed with which absolutely nothing happened was breathtaking.”   The evidence provides a strong indication that in the past we have either resisted change or simply have not known in what direction we should move.   We have usually agreed on the ends, but not the means.

 

The problem of organisational boundaries

All children, including those in public care, have a fundamental entitlement to access to the highest quality educational opportunities and the means to sustain them.   For the overwhelming majority of pupils within the general school population the distinct and separate roles and functions of local education and social services authorities are largely irrelevant and lead, therefore, to very little adverse effect.  The opposite is more frequently the case for children who are looked after, whose only uniform characteristic is that their interests legitimately cut across departmental boundaries.

 

Social workers commonly identify education disadvantages which significantly impede their own planned objectives for children in and on the margins of public care. They then instinctively look to their local education authority who they understand have the responsibility to respond to what it is that they have identified, only to discover that the nature of local education department administration, its statutory framework and organisation of services is such that it is frequently unable to deliver within social work time-scales, and in a manner which takes into account what may be termed the ‘looked after’ context.

 

Field social workers regularly report too that a small investment of support at critical points in children’s educational lives would have prevented much higher costs to their own departments even in the shorter term.  That their managers were unable or unwilling to make the investment and then incurred the greater cost directly themselves provides a clear enough indication of the extent to which they consider the delivery of direct education services to children who are looked after as outside their own terms of reference and a matter exclusively for their counterpart education departments.  Within any complex bureaucracy it is a great deal easier to overspend a budget that exists than to commit smaller sums from those which do not.

Furthermore the prevailing education climate creates additional difficulties for many looked after children with its culture of open competition between schools, performance league tables and a renewed emphasis on raising educational standards for all children.   These factors are, however, frequently the subject of exaggerated claims that they are somehow incompatible with the educational interests of disadvantaged children and lead to disproportionate levels of school exclusions and other difficulties faced by children in public care.  They are often used to explain the educational underachievement of children who are looked after as if previously these children somehow thrived and succeeded alongside their peers in the general school population.  

 

The schools’ perspective

The challenge for the public care system is to develop new ways to meet the needs of children who face significant difficulties and simultaneously to meet the requirements of our mainstream schools. The pressures on classroom teachers and schools in general are immense and needs to be taken into full account in circumstances where they are expected to provide high quality education to children who may, at times, present serious challenges to teachers and to other pupils. The vast majority of schools are invariably prepared, willing and able to provide high quality education for all pupils where they feel adequately supported, practically and psychologically. They also widely perceive the present levels of support available to them as at best well-intended but wholly inadequate in their nature and extent. This perception frequently leads to entrenchment, defensiveness and resistance on the part of many schools to provide opportunities to those children they perceive as having the potential to drain their own resources and to have a negative impact on the smooth operation of a school, including its public reputation and standing.

Additionally schools may suffer from considerable stress and low morale, made more acute by the extent of social deprivation in some regions, the fragmentation of information systems and a lack of cohesion within external support services.  There may be concentrations of pupils with entrenched difficulties within individual schools and locations, with disproportionate numbers of exclusions particularly affecting black children and those who are looked after.  These factors may be further exacerbated where schools are facing falling rolls and deficit budgets leading to a downward spiral of despair and falling morale within staff teams. It is becoming increasingly clear that the looked after system is not only failing to meet the needs of its children but is also becoming increasingly detached from the expectations and requirements of mainstream schools.

A further impediment to change lies in the instinct of most local authorities and most of the independent child care sector to interpret the extent and nature of the education ‘problem’ within public care in terms of the numbers of children who are not in school or in some other kind of day provision.   One local authority reported recently that it did not see any major difficulty with the education of their own looked after children as there were only 16 per cent of them out of school.   The local authority’s ‘problem’ as they viewed it, was this 16 per cent cohort.   The strong likelihood that many of the other 84 per cent were failing disastrously within their mainstream schools and within other education provisions, according to almost all the research, was either not recognised, understood or considered a particular priority for action.  The difficulties faced by looked after children were of concern to the local authority for the inconvenience they created for professionals and carers, rather than for children’s collective educational underachievement.

 

Whose failure?

Almost all research and analysis on the educational difficulties faced by looked after children points strongly to the inherent weaknesses within the public care system which then inexorably lead children towards failure.   Collectively we have always behaved as if the opposite is true, as if the real difficulty with foster care and group care is the degree of disturbance children carry with them into these provisions.   The assessments of education, social work and health professionals and our responses to them still largely reflect the powerful professional instinct to pathologise individual children, with the child constituting the ‘problem’ rather than how they respond to external factors such as our institutions, professional structures and services, including the looked after system itself.

We continue to place too much emphasis on what we assume looked after children are incapable of, or unwilling to do, and as a consequence pay insufficient attention to their capabilities, strengths and potentials.   In this way, aspects of the current organisation of education and social work practice facilitate a traditional drift of children through processes which may unwittingly take them out of their families, schools and communities, by drawing them into a cycle of identification, assessment, treatment and deepening dependence on the very systems they should be helped to escape.

If we are serious about the need to have a real and positive impact on the lives of children and young people who are looked after we must comprehensively re-examine the detail of the public care system and consider what it should consist of, how it should be organised, staffed, trained and supported.   One of the more obvious and yet most difficult starting points for this process has to be an understanding and recognition that the status quo has persistently failed to deliver. The present looked after system is in significant parts of it at least, an anachronism, which not only does a great disservice to those children who rely on it but also to the many thousands of dedicated professional careers and staff who commit much of their lives to working within it.  The Children Act, 1989 and in more recent times an even greater emphasis on the role of the whole authority as corporate parent, have not led to the kind of sea-change in professional attitudes and patterns of service delivery that children and young people in public care might have expected and certainly deserved.

 

Foster Care and Education

Within the looked after system itself the general trend away from residential or group settings has re-emphasised the role of foster care as being the main placement provider for children within all local authorities.   Foster carers are now routinely expected to meet the needs of children and young people who formerly would have been looked after within institutional settings.   At the same time local authorities have not in strategic terms reviewed the extent to which children and their carers are supported as a direct consequence of this shift in emphasis and the greater demands placed on individual placements.   The picture which emerges is one of foster carers under considerable pressure to care for children who are experiencing increasing levels and degrees of difficulty.   At the same time local authorities frequently testify to the deficits in the overall number of available foster carers, many of whom leave the fostering service through what they perceive as inadequate professional support.   These factors are further exacerbated by overt competition for experienced carers from a significant number of independent fostering agencies.

Within local authority and independent sector foster care, placements frequently become vulnerable and break down as a direct and indirect consequence of what may present as the intractable educational difficulties faced by individual children.   Similarly any instability within such placements and in many cases their complete collapse, further impedes successful educational outcomes for individual children.   It is clear that in establishing and maintaining high quality foster care, social work and educational objectives are completely interdependent.   However, there are at present no local authorities within the United Kingdom whose fostering services are specifically staffed and structured to take this fully into account.

The extent to which the absence of effective educational arrangements within the public care system leads to inefficient and ineffective local authority social work practice is still largely unclear.  It is highly likely, however, that children are not the only casualties of inadequate education arrangements within foster care as local authorities routinely invest huge sums of money in residential provisions for children whose foster placements continually break down in circumstances where successful attendance at school may have led to stability within the foster home. In these circumstances residential care admissions are invariably explained through the changing needs of the child, rather than being the result of any inadequacies in the nature of professional services to children and their foster carers.

 

The role of the independent fostering sector

Within the mixed economy of child care provision the independent fostering sector in particular has been much maligned and in part deservedly so.   The general acceptance of the validity of the role of the independent residential sector, in contrast to the independent fostering sector, is partly borne out of the misplaced view that residential provision is an end-of-the-line service which must cater for children whose difficulties are so severe that they will have previously exhausted all local authority resources. In this regard the independent residential sector is considered to complement local resources by providing specialist services which local authorities do not see themselves as being able to develop.

In contrast foster care represents the first, most widely preferred and least restrictive local authority placement option for looked after children. The independent fostering sector is not, therefore, regarded as complementary by many local authorities but as being in direct conflict with the strategic and operational concerns of their own service managers and providers.  Furthermore, the absence of an effective regulatory framework and inspection arrangements for this sector, long overdue and now planned by central government, has undoubtedly led to dubious professional and financial practices through the scandalously high levels of remuneration paid to a few agency directors, as well as the deliberate poaching of existing foster carers with cash inducements, at levels local authorities are unable to match.   Many local authorities are concerned, too, at what they perceive as being held to ransom by some agencies as significant numbers of foster carers transfer their allegiance to the independent sector with children remaining in placement, with the local authority then subjected to substantially increased costs.

 

These factors, both singularly and in combination, have provoked a widespread political and professional hostility to the independent foster care sector in general rather than seeing individual agencies as specifically culpable. There is little doubt that this has served to deny what might otherwise constitute a dispassionate and informed exploration of the professional contribution of independent foster care to services for looked after children as part of a vibrant mixed economy of child care provision.  The sector is, in truth, as varied and diverse in nature and quality as its residential equivalent with many local authorities developing successful partnership arrangements with individual agencies to provide a wider choice of accommodation placements for children who may have a range of complex needs.

 

The majority of independent agencies have reacted to the adverse educational circumstances faced by many of their children by developing direct education provisions ranging from small teaching units, home tuition services or teachers employed in advocacy roles who focus on access to schools and untangling administrative impediments and bureaucratic delays within and between local education authorities.

 

Almost all of these initiatives however constitute a largely pragmatic response to the understandable difficulties presented to their foster carers by children being out of school rather than being motivated by the need to raise substantially children’s levels of educational attainment or to relieve the pressures on mainstream schools.  In this respect much of the independent sector continues to mirror the prevailing attitudes and concerns of their professional colleagues within local authorities.

 

Placing education at the centre of care

In contrast, a number of Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) have undertaken a reappraisal of professional services to looked after children and their foster carers which has led to new approaches and patterns of service delivery being established. These agencies include Premier Foster Care (Manchester), Foster Care Services (North West), Safehouses (North & Essex) and SWIIS Foster Care (Birmingham, Newcastle & Manchester). As a consequence, these independent agencies are demonstrating a capacity for developing services for children and their carers which appear to be highly innovative and from which the public care system may have a great deal to learn as educational and other outcomes for children within these agencies become clearer.

Within these independent agencies there has been an explicit rejection of the current and traditional organisation of foster care provision as an exclusively social work led and delivered professional activity.  The agencies are seeking to leave behind the inherent weaknesses and the established failures of the public care system and move towards a new internal structure of inter-disciplinary professional services which take full account of the difficulties faced by children, their foster carers and, significantly, of mainstream schools. 

Education is no longer seen as an area of peripheral concern on occasions where foster carers themselves may be put under pressure through children’s difficult educational circumstances. The education of children is now placed at the heart of professional activity and understood as almost certainly the only means through which corporate aims and objectives for children may be effectively realised. It is considered, too, an area of practice with a crucial role to play in the recruitment, assessment, support and professional development of foster carers themselves.

High expectations are placed on children themselves to attend and succeed in mainstream schools. No alternative education facilities such as separate units or classrooms are provided within these agencies as experience has demonstrated that they may prolong rather than reduce the exclusion of many children from mainstream schools. Furthermore, schools are valued not only as centres of learning but equally for providing important opportunities for the personal and social development of children outside the classroom itself. As one social work manager stated “We don’t think that educating children on the premises is the right thing to do. Normalisation is the idea, encouraging children to do what other children do, and most don’t go out each morning into a classroom in the garden”.

Mainstream schools are too often caricatured as hugely resistant to providing education to children who may present significant challenges to teachers and other pupils.  Experience demonstrates that the majority of schools are genuinely sympathetic to providing mainstream opportunities for all children where they feel adequately supported by professional teachers who understand not only the social work system but, critically, the context in which schools themselves operate. 

A key professional objective of these agencies, therefore, is to develop a practical response which acknowledges the potential dichotomy of interests of the mainstream school and the child facing serious difficulties and then provides ways in which this may be prevented and resolved. Furthermore, for those children who do attend mainstream schools without any overt difficulty there is an important focus on raising levels of educational attainment rather than being satisfied with their regular attendance and general compliance with the  school’s code of conduct and routines.

The social work service provided by each of these agencies is now equally matched and complemented by a team of teachers directly employed by The National Teaching & Advisory Service (NT&AS) who provide each child with an individual education casework service.  Teachers are deployed to work within and across each respective agency to provide children and mainstream schools with the quantity and quality of professional support they require to secure access to schools and successful learning within them. This may include up to full time teacher support within each school for those individual children facing the most serious and challenging difficulties.

Schools equally value the intensive preparation and research of each school placement prior to the pupil’s admission, which is undertaken by NT&AS teaching staff.  School teachers, young people, their parents, foster carers, social workers, and other professionals are all active participants in the planning of school induction programmes.  NT&AS teachers administer baseline curriculum assessments, prepare differentiated and extension materials in support of each curriculum area where required and plan with the school to determine the nature and style of support appropriate to each teacher and pupil setting, in advance of pupil admission.

After two or three weeks of full-time support the programme is formally reviewed and evaluated and used to determine the specific requirements for the next phase of establishing successful attendance and learning.  This takes into account the experience of the first phase as to how the individual child has responded to each element of school life. Through this process it is possible to reduce and effectively focus professional support on any continuing weak-spots within the school placement, including those within individual subject areas. The review also takes account of other aspects of the child’s personal life and routines that may support or impede their educational progress. The process of planning, support and review continues until the child is successfully included in school. Continued monitoring also ensures informed and immediate intervention should unexpected difficulties begin to emerge or where new areas of underachievement are identified.

NT&AS teachers also provide education expertise within the agency as a permanent resource for the training and development of foster carers and to promote a range of educational initiatives within each foster home designed to complement the work of teachers within mainstream schools. Teacher assessments of potential foster carers include a perspective on their own educational experiences, attitudes and willingness to prioritise school attendance and successful learning throughout their daily routines. Approved foster carers are visited as regularly by teachers as by social work staff to promote effective home/school communications and to develop their role in supporting children’s educational lives.  Children themselves are provided with direct assistance with homework, individual literacy and numeracy programmes and, progressively, skills in information technology for which each foster home will eventually be resourced with appropriate computers and software, and the training and support required.  Children will have access to NT&AS summer school provision during which they will be able to participate in a range of education-based activities to broaden their educational experiences.

 

The impact on children placed within these agencies and within those local authorities currently working to the same methodology is being evaluated and measured through monitoring individual and collective outcomes matched against baseline assessments administered during the initial stages of each placement. The participating independent agencies themselves have high expectations on behalf of children in their care. They are already able to demonstrate significant improvements in levels of school attendance, a higher proportion of children facing significant difficulties being successfully educated within mainstream schools and substantial reductions in incidences of school exclusion as key indicators of the effectiveness of the service.  There should also be a measurable improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of support as understood by children themselves, their foster carers and by mainstream and special school teaching staff.

 

Table 1    Looked after Children Placed in IFAs worked with by NT&AS

(January 1999 to September 2000)

 

TOTAL NUMBER OF SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE PLACED

 155

Without school place at point of admission

 82%

Without school placement after four weeks following admission

   8%

Number attending mainstream schools after two months following admission to IFA

 78%

Number attending special schools after two months following admission to IFA

 14%

 
Table 2    Looked after Children Placed in IFAs worked with by NT&AS

(Information collected after Summer Term, 2000)

 

EDUCATION PERFORMANCE OF CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE IN PLACEMENT

 

Key Stage One

English

Level 2

100%

Key Stage One

Maths

Level 2

67%

Key Stage Two

English

Level 4

65%

Key Stage Two

Maths

Level 4

45%

Key Stage Two

Science

Level 4

86%

Key Stage Three

English

Level 5 or above

47%

Key Stage Three

Maths

Level 5 or above

56%

Key Stage Three

Science

Level 5 or above

73%

 

 

The “acceptable” level of achievement described in Social Services Performance in 1999 to 2000 is the National Priorities Guidance target for at least 50% of children leaving care, aged 16 or over, to have one (or more) GCSE pass (Grade A* to G) or one (or more) GNVQ passes by 2000/2001. The average across the looked after population in England was 30%, a figure significantly below the target. In the general school population of 16 year olds, 94% gained one or more GCSE or GNVQ qualifications.

 

In the summer term of 2000, of those young people placed within these IFAs who were eligible to take examinations, all did so, and all exceeded the National Priorities Guidance target. Their results ranged from 2 to 8 GCSE passes, together with other nationally recognised certificates of achievement. Of these 25% gained 8 passes or more, and one achieved the highest possible grade in two subjects. Significantly, 25% of these young people had been out of full time education for two years or more.

 

The two case studies that follow illustrate how the service has been able to effect a fundamental change for the better in the lives of individual children while reducing the demand for enormously costly specialist residential placements, thus releasing resources for more constructive purposes.

 

 

Case study 1

John is aged ten and looked after by the local authority.  At the outset of John’s four previous foster placements education was identified as a major area of concern.  John had not attended school regularly for two years and was permanently excluded from three primary schools.  He had not taken up a place offered to him at the authority’s school for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties as he was moved by his social worker to new carers outside the borough.

 

It was recognised that John’s education circumstances directly contributed to breakdowns within his previous care placements leading to moves which further complicated attempts to meet his educational needs.  John’s new carers expressed frustration that his education difficulties were already creating intolerable pressure on their capacity to care for him effectively.  The education department were sympathetic but considered appropriate education provision had been made available but rendered ineffective due to the number of times John had been moved.

 

His social worker requested funding for a specialist residential provision with education at a cost of £75,000 per year and suggested there was no alternative.  Application was made for joint-funding of provision with the LEA who rejected the request as they felt they had met their responsibilities to John through the SEN Code of Practice, offered a place within their EBD school, and should not therefore incur further expense as a consequence of social services moving John out of the Borough.

 

The social services manager referred John for placement within an independent fostering agency which worked alongside The National Teaching & Advisory Service. NT&AS teachers planned and supported John’s full induction into a mainstream primary school local to his new foster parents.  His carers welcomed the programme as it provided John and his new school with full-time teacher support to maximise the possibility of success within the school and within his foster placement.  John’s current success in school has greatly contributed to stability in the foster home and prevented significant further costs to his local authority.  John is no longer being considered for a specialist residential placement.

 

 

Case study 2

                                                 

Georgina is 15 years old and lived at home with her mother and two brothers until April 1998. Another brother had put himself into voluntary care approximately two years previously. In April 1998, Georgina presented herself at the police station and asked them to find her somewhere to live. There had been allegations of neglect and lack of supervision concerning the family for a period of time prior to this. Between April and September 1998 Georgina had five different foster homes which each ended in crisis as a consequence of what was described as “her uncontrollable behaviour”. In September she was admitted to a local authority Children’s Home.

 

Georgina had been on roll at Secondary School 1 since year seven. Her attendance had always been sporadic, but deteriorated so seriously by the time she reached Year 9 that she attended school on only four occasions during the summer term. At the start of Year 10, in September 1998 Georgina’s attendance had become an unusual event and when she did attend she would often leave school after being marked present. Her punctuality was also poor. At one stage during this year, a taxi was provided to support her attendance, but Georgina refused to use it. When Georgina did attend, staff at school felt she had a negative and hostile attitude and regularly distracted other pupils. Academically Georgina had completed little work since December 1998. Her Head of Year felt Georgina was inevitably working so far below the level of her peers, given the large gap in her attendance that “the acquisition of skills was virtually impossible”.

 

The School showed a high level of commitment to Georgina and was anxious to find a way to help her succeed. However, Georgina seemed to misinterpret their concern and felt allowances were being made because she was in care. Georgina saw herself as needing to be more independent in her life choices. On November 28th 1998 a referral was made to the National Teaching & Advisory Service. It became apparent that Georgina needed urgent and intensive help in order to access education within a mainstream school setting.

 

The National Teaching & Advisory Service allocated a teacher who compiled a comprehensive social and educational history and subsequently researched all of the possible education options for Georgina. Following discussion with Georgina, The NT&AS teacher then arranged an education planning meeting.  Options were explored and a school about three miles away from the children’s home was identified and approached as the option that would be most likely to meet Georgina’s needs.

 

Following a meeting between Georgina, her key worker from the Children’s Home, her social worker, the NT&AS teacher and the School Head of Year, an admission date was agreed. It was also agreed to review formally Georgina’s progress after the first two weeks of full time support, following the date of admission. The NT&AS teacher then arranged to discuss professional support with individual teachers in each relevant subject area within the school and subsequently agreed its detail. The style of support varied considerably across each subject area and took full account of Georgina’s level of confidence in different elements of the curriculum and the requirements of individual teachers. The teacher then discussed with Georgina and the residential staff at the home the practicalities of transport, uniform, equipment requirements and the details of her new school timetable.

 

Georgina started school once more at the beginning of term in January 1999 with the NT&AS teacher supporting her on a full time basis for the first two weeks. In Mathematics the NT&AS teacher taught the full group on three occasions during the first week and on two further occasions in week two. At the school review it was agreed that there were a number of curriculum areas where Georgina had settled remarkably well and in which there were no concerns. It was agreed that NT&AS support would be withdrawn from each of them on a planned basis. In all other subject areas, in breaks and in lunchtime periods it was felt that intensive support should remain and be further reviewed towards the end of the half term period.

 

At the half-term review further areas of significant progress were identified and support from the NT&AS was reduced significantly. By the end of March Georgina had become part of an established group of friends and expressed the view that she felt part of the school and no longer an outsider. She continued, however, to experience some difficulties and the school themselves expressed some concern about her attitude to particular teachers within the school. The school acknowledged, too, that Georgina’s placement had been far more successful than they had expected, given her previous education history. Of particular note, they felt, was Georgina’s excellent attendance which, from January to October 31st, 2000 had been around 92%.

 

On 26th September 1999 The National Teaching & Advisory Service was advised that a new foster parent had been identified for Georgina and that her social worker was confident that the prospective placement stood an excellent chance of success in spite of the number of foster placements she had previously had, as Georgina was, "for the first time in ages, now fully occupied during the day”. As of November 30th, 2000 Georgina continues to attend school with enthusiasm and has settled well with her new foster carer. The NT&AS teacher now visits Georgina at home about once a fortnight and continues to support her in school for around two hours a week.

 

Conclusion

There has undeniably been significant progress in recent years in addressing the educational needs of looked after children. In this respect we should not underestimate the commitment of central and local government to providing fresh opportunities to those thousands of children in public care who have previously been systematically denied them. At the same time there is no room for any relaxation in our collective efforts to ensure that the scandalous education underachievement of these most vulnerable of children can confidently be consigned to the past.

 

The aspiration of central government and of all professionals working on behalf of looked after children is, rightly, that they increasingly and demonstrably achieve in line with other children in the general school population. The extent to which we are able to deliver this without a fundamental re-examination of the nature and extent of those direct professional services currently available to looked after children and their carers is an important consideration which requires urgent and rigorous analysis, beyond the rhetoric. As part of this re-appraisal of services there is emerging evidence that a well-supported fostering service that gives equal weight to care and education can give looked after children their rightful access to mainstream education, substantially improve their levels of achievement and as a consequence enhance their longer term potential for full and successful social inclusion within our communities.