I am spasmodic, infrequent in my blog posts. So much of my day is spent writing, of late, in my consultancy work, and in spare time, more creatively, that to blog also, seems somewhat excessive.
But here are my comments on a matter that has bothered me somewhat of late. I guess I have a hope that blogging my concerns may be some cathartic process that clarifies and ameliorates. We’ll see.
Frequently, in the line of duty and contractual obligations, I prepare assessment advice on individual pupils in mainstream educational settings.
I pride myself, as an independent consultant, that my reports are all individually and well written (no cut and paste or wholesale re-use of set phrases). Practically, this advice follows a format that I have developed, in response to client needs, over the past eight years. There are few Local Authority Services that still provide detailed assessment advice, since many have given over to more formulaic approaches. I do not subscribe to that point of view.
The response from client schools, fairly unanimously, has been in favour of detailed, comprehensive reports that provide an action plan for implementation over a period of 6 – 12 months. Each report represents many hours of labour, and much deliberation, in the completion of its 3,000 or so words.
While the response from schools may be in favour of receiving advice, the follow up actions of schools can differ greatly. I have been heartened over the years by schools who are willing to take the time to discuss and implement recommendations term by term, on each subsequent visit to the school. Where there is a will, an impetus to change practice, provision, to change expectations, attitudes, there is nearly always a way to make those changes.
Sometimes I am disheartened, frustrated, wearied and angered by the apathy which greets the receipt of such advice – which has been commissioned, do not forget, by the school in the first instance.
And just occasionally, infrequently, there is a different response, and that is one of disbelief, of a refusal to accept or appreciate or comprehend what has been written, about someone of whom the school feel they know everything.
Sometimes it is so inconvenient to believe the truth about a situation.
All reports take a while to compose, to bring together, to consider what is possible to include, what is diplomatic to exclude, what is necessary to say. Always, there is a need for evidence to support decisions made, for data to support recommendations.
The young person, at the heart of the advice, must have a voice. That is essential. Over the years, I have worked in various ways with young people to consider how best do we understand what is really going on, what is driving the behaviour, the learning difficulty, the social isolation, the depression, the obsessions. It is about looking beyond the surface, trying to understand a myriad factors that influence, shape and form the lives of each young person.
It is why it is of upmost importance that children and young people are not seen in isolation, that there is a need to see and understand something of the context which frames their existence. This may be through observations, in the classroom, the lunch hall, the playground, through meeting parents, teachers, influential figures in their lives. It may be through a range of means, as the need to understand a certain aspect, drives the exploration.
That young person’s voice, once it has been found, given freedom to speak, unadulterated, must be heard, must be recognized, or else everything is in vain.
At times, for some schools, for some teachers, or Head Teachers, what is uncovered is too unpleasant, inconvenient, to deal with, to recognize. It does not lie easily with their own perceptions of a school that may be measured as outstanding, or good, by Ofsted. It does not fit with what the school wish to hear.
And so the report that brings forth and lays bare the reality of a context, of a young person’s need, of a young person’s fears and concerns about their safety and welfare in a school, of a young person’s desperate wish for attention, for recognition, is not to be welcomed.
The school may far rather then lay accusation elsewhere, of course, this is only a snapshot view, this professional does not know this young person well, we have to consider our own advice..
The reality of a situation, the truth, is sometimes, just so inconvenient…