It is easy to under estimate what is involved in schools managing support for their most mobile and highest needs students.
Effective school support requires clarity and transparency about the planning and management of the support provided, including,
- a good understanding of the student's story
- the current (and long term) goals for the individual student
- the actions and arrangements actually being implemented (who is doing what, when...)
- ongoing (daily) monitoring of the effectiveness of these actions and arrangements
- the sharing of key information and responsibility by the key stakeholders
- ongoing (daily, weekly...) refinement of this support, which means...
- the information involved needs to be readily available and easily accessible according to each stakeholders' responsibilities
Dealing with this amount of information at a school/system level this means having an integrated device that enables the storage of key data and communication between stakeholder. But no device is foolproof. It effectiveness depends on the actual practices of those who use it.
Such devices exist (e.g., my Support Planner used by some 50 schools in Tasmania and NSW). This device has enabled many of them to plan and manage their support for students, as above, in a very collaborative and transparent way with numerous stakeholders including other agencies and external support providers. But supporting students is not a simple matter.
Other schools have been less successful for a number of reasons...
- It is easy for a school to
get stuck at the stage of simply recording data on problematic behaviour
- problematic behaviour often requires urgent attention
- schools may be more reactive rather than proactive
- the data can provide some validation for the schools' responses (including suspensions)
- problematic behaviour tends to (unconsciously) underline the student as the problem
- the data may mask the fact that problematic behaviour is key indicator of a need for support
- Some schools fail to recognise that having a plan is not the same as providing support
- Many schools fail to appreciate that goals need to be explicit, achievable, and known and agreed by key stakeholders (ideally including the student)
- Actual goals (if they exist) are often about what is not wanted (e.g., problematic behaviour), and the real actions are about containment rather than substantial supportive intervention
- Comprehensive multi-page individual
learning plans (ILPs) rapidly lose their effectiveness
- in my experience, most have a 'half-life' of perhaps two weeks;
- they are difficult to share, and are often unknown key stakeholders especially in relation to highly mobile student
- ILPs tend to be monitored and reviewed less frequently than intended (if at all) - schools are busy places and getting stakeholder together is usually difficult
- they are often skewed to educational needs a
- their 'professional' appearance can distract from the significance of simple everyday things
- It takes time and thoughtful effort to integrate the use of any device into the actual day-to-day practices of a school and its staff
- Schools receive little or no recognition and return for their efforts with many of their highest needs students (especially if those students who are highly mobile)
- There are so many other matters competing for the school's attention at this time
It takes time, effort and commitment to address these issues.