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All-round care praised as schools focus on integrated services

Stirling's commitment to inclusion and integrated working for "the all-round care and education of children" found firm favour.

"Some of the most vulnerable children and young people and their families were receiving more integrated education, social work and health services," HMI states. "This was particularly the case for vulnerable children at the pre-school age and children who were looked after."

Inspectors found that even the most intractable obstacle, professional barriers, was being eroded and shared understanding "was beginning to become embedded".

Much of this work focused on the development of integrated community schools, which has now been extended to all Stirling schools. The director and his head of schools were closely involved in chairing the groups that kept an eye on progress.

A recent report found growing improvement in understanding across primary and secondary sectors, successful staff development, a "discernible impact" on vulnerable youngsters and some good practice in developing personal learning plans in primary schools.

Among very effective work in integrated practice, HMI hailed:

* The community early assessment team, which combines education, psychological, medical and social work staff in identifying what support youngsters need from birth until the age of five.

* Staged interventions for youngsters requiring additional support, a process in which social workers were interested.

* More consistent support for children looked after by the local authority, with an innovative "Well Chosen Initiative" addressing their health needs.

* The multi-agency support group (MARG) which is jointly chaired by the heads of schools and of social work and which helps target resources on the most vulnerable.

* The family support and community childminding project which looked at the needs of drug-dependent parents and their children, although HMI found the links with health services were at an early stage.

But the report does not neglect the challenges facing integrated working.

It highlights the shortage of trained social workers and the difficulties in forging relationships with health services.

Inspectors also admit that there remains a need "to build capacity among teaching staff to give them greater skill and confidence in supporting young people with social, emotional and care needs in mainstream schools".

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