Integration

8.30-9.50am Directorate Meeting. We had missed Monday’s slot due to my attendance at the ICT Summit. Our meeting scheduled for this coming Monday will be focussing upon the four proposed structures for the department – of which more later.

10.00am Department Briefing

10.10 Senior students from Knox Academy, who included my neice BJ raided the department dressed in their pyjamas to raise funds for Children in Need.

10.30-11.30 Meeting with Liz Morriss of the EIS to agree the agenda for the Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers. Number of key issues coming up for consideration including our plans for meeting the additional non-contact time due to come into force next session; management structures; Supervision of NQTs; and Business Managers for primary schools. I also asked Liz to nominate one of her members with a background in ICT and Learning Support to join our ICT group who are due to meet on the 20th December.

My meeting with Phillip Rycroft was then cancelled – he had to attend a funeral – rescheduled for 8th December. The questions we will be addressing at that meeting are as follows:

Will we receive funding for the reduction in class contact time?

Will the pay award of 2% for 2006/2007 be met externally?

Will we receive funding for Chartered Teachers?

Will we receive funding for the planned reduction in class sizes in S1 and S2 Maths and English classes?

I’m also keen to explore what the Executive’s expectations are in relation to monies identified in Grant Aided Expenditure (GAE) and what council’s then allocate to education departments.

Met Sheila Ainslie, our Pupil Support Manager and my former SMT colleague from Dunbar Grammar School. Sheila was responsible for creating one of the first integrated pupil support teams in Scotland which included Guidance, Learning Support; Inclusion and external agencies. The success of this development was recognised in Dunbar’s Inspection report from 2004. The current debate in the department is whether or not to bring together our Pupil Support Section and our Integration Team together into a single entity under the line management of the Head of Education.

The Integration Team, started off its existence in Education but migrated to Children’s Service’s for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that it was deemed not to be working effectively under Education. The team is now well established and (almost) fully staffed. It is well led, by Raymy Boyle and morale within the team has never been better , whilst it links well with the “hard end” of Children’s Services. It is therefore ironic, or should that be unfortunate , that the current debate is undermining that confidence and growing uncertainty is leading some of the team to seek alternative employment.

There are many persuasive arguments to leave things as they are – in fact there is argument to move pupil suppport to Children’s Services. So I thought it might be useful to give my reasons for supporting the eventual bringing together of Pupil Support and the Integration Team. One of the challenges we are addressing is a change in culture within our schools. We want to move towards a notion of our “ownership” of every child in our community. We would like to develop systems which enabled us to “keep” vulnerable children in our communities and provide co-ordinated support to enable them to take their place in society. At the same time we don’t wish to compromise the education of other, less vulnerable children. For this to happen we need to develop systems which are seamless and which have no points where children can either drop through the net or be “handed” on. The current system of schools and their associated school based support systems and associated Integration Teams varies from cluster to cluster. However, there is a dissonance between what schools think they are doing and what Integration Teams think they are doing. We could, and some do, argue, that this will all be resolved in the fullness of time – and they may indeed be right.

One of the challenges often put to schools is that they need to take “ownership” of integration. The problem with this concept is that when Education does say “OK let’s get our hands dirty” it can be construed as a desire to gain control. I see a huge difference between ownership and control. For me ownership is about accountability. Without accountability it is too easy to pass on responsibility to another agency when you feel you have done everything in your power to solve a problem. This, it seems to me, is the core of the problem. If Integration Teams can be perceived, or characterised, as being outwith education then the mental model of handing something over is simply reinforced. This model goes all the way through education – where teachers say to guidance “get this kid out of my class” as opposed to taking some of the responsibility for helping the child to change their behaviour.

Of course, education in this scenario is open to criticism – “so why don’t you tackle your own problem?” – “why should Integration Teams change to help you solve a problem within your own system?” I understand such sentiments but it should be recognised that we are changing . Our recent committment to adopt the concept of Collective Responsibility lies at the core of a changing Education and Children’s Services Department. However, collective responsibility needs some form of collective accountability. For example, if a school cluster suggests that they have not been given the appropriate support from the Integration Team they might complain to me. If an Integration Team decides that a school cluster is not conforming to agreed practice they might complain to Alan Ross (Head Of Children’s Services). The easy response to this is to say that Alan and Don will sort to out but this is to miss the point that the sort of cultural change we are engaged in needs coherent and clear lines of accountability.

The next obvious question is why should Education “take control?” Again we need to explore the mind set in schools. If we agree that there is still a tendency in schools to “Hand on” problem children to other agencies, then by moving school-based pupil support to Children’s Services merely serves to reinforce the perception which must be challenged. The challenge if Pupil Support and Integration Teams come under Education is to ensure Education is held accountable for an integrated system which reinforces the concept of Collective Responsibility.

Finally, if the Integration joins with Pupil Support, will it not not merely serve to increase the gap between education and “hard end” Children’s Services e.g. LAAC, children in residential care, child protection cases?

For me this is the big challenge – we are currently exploring how we might look at the huge amounts of money being spend on care programmes for such children and for us think about how we could use this money for alternative programmes which kept the child in education and within the community.. There is certainly a perception from staff in Children's Services that Education does “abandon” some children. I don’t think I can defend education here but again – we are committed to changing. Instead of looking at how things used to be, we should challenge our own perceptions of our colleagues’ practice and values.

Alan Blackie, Alan Ross, Myself and Clare O’Sullivan (our consultant) will be considering all this on Monday.

Lastly – I’ve been doing a lot of research and reading on the concept of social mobility – you might like to take a look at some of these research papers.

Rob Lewis popped into my office late in the afternoon to suggest that we might like to set up a section in Exc-el for admin’ support staff. Great idea – see
admin support. We have finalised a date for our admin support conference 15th February 2006 in the Brunton Hall.