Getting it right calls for a change in culture

19th October 2012 at 01:00

So many people in education talk about Girfec - Getting It Right For Every Child. But what does it really mean, and how does it work in practice? We set out this week to come up with some answers.

In News Focus (pages 12-15), we look at the policy and what the Scottish government is trying to achieve through Girfec. Its consultation on proposals for the Children and Young People Bill ended last month and included three suggestions for giving statutory weight to Girfec: every child should have a named person; all the relevant services should cooperate to keep the child's well-being at the forefront of their actions; and a single "Child's Plan" should be in place to support youngsters who need the help of various services.

Everyone seems unanimous in their support of the principles, but at odds over its implementation. Talk to heads or children's organisations, and there are concerns over paperwork, resource implications, who the named person would be and how the different services would work together. Talk to Highland, though, the first pathfinder authority for Girfec, and it will tell you how referrals to the Children's Reporter have fallen by 70 per cent.

Our main feature (pages 18-21) looks at how Girfec works on the ground. This arose from a discussion with South Lanarkshire staff at last month's Scottish Learning Festival. An English teacher working in learning support, an NHS worker and a local authority officer all sang the praises of Girfec - how it had transformed their jobs, how they now worked so closely together - and with such enthusiasm that it had to be followed up.

So we report on the young people and families at the heart of this policy. Two brothers with Asperger's syndrome talk about how their lives have changed with the help of teachers and speech and language therapists. The school nurse and family support worker are "part of the fabric of the school" at Stonelaw High in Rutherglen. Education, health and social work have "a culture of shared responsibility" and the network of support produces quick responses.

Girfec has distinct parallels with Curriculum for Excellence and its focus on the whole child, writes Elizabeth Buie (page 12). But the parallels go further and can be seen across different areas of Scottish education where they have been developing over a number of years.

Whether it's headteachers in the Borders having to rethink their school's whole approach to the curriculum (page 5); teachers in the University of Stirling research struggling to change the way they teach (TESS, 12 April); or Edinburgh staff collaborating on an interdisciplinary creative project with the Lyceum Theatre (TESS, 14 September), the message is the same. And it's about culture change. It's about looking at the bigger picture and transforming the way you work.

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