Masterclass - Working with partners - Help comes from all sides

7th August 2009 at 01:00
The Government's extended services policy means partnership is high on the agenda. Here's how to manage it

The Government's Every Child Matters programme aims for every school to offer extended hours by 2010. This means that schools must now work with an ever increasing number of partners and agencies. The aim of these partnerships is to provide pupils with a seamless service. But how can you, as a busy school leader, make it work in practice?

The big idea in Every Child Matters was extended schools: the vision of school sites being used to deliver all manner of integrated public services in one place.

The core offers of extended schools could be summed up as: wrap-around childcare all year round (in primaries); parenting and family support; a range of activities, including study support, sport and music clubs; swift and easy referral to specialist services such as health and social care; and community use of facilities, including adult and family learning and information technology.

This is a big departure from the traditional role of a school. Even if management of the new services is shared with other agencies, it is still a major change in terms of facilities and resources needed. The number of queries about managing extended schools The Key has received has more than doubled this year compared with 2008.

At the last count, in February, more than 14,000 schools offered access to extended services in partnership with voluntary, private and independent providers. More schools are adding to that total every day.

With extended schools come many more people to manage. Schools need to recognise that the more people they welcome into their space, the more room, resources and funding they will need. Having properly designated spaces helps external partners to feel part of the permanent staff rather than temporary lodgers. And providing quality resources is a lifeline to those delivering services of a high standard.

Make sure your multi-agency staff are made to feel part of the school. Remember that they will be outside their comfort zone for a while and without their regular peers. They are likely to feel a bit exposed and should be given plenty of opportunities to build relationships with your staff.

If you continue to promote personnel from other agencies as long-term partners and valuable resources, rather than a quick fix, your staff are more likely to feel comfortable with them. They will probably be more willing to invest time in getting to know them too.

Continue to work to service level agreements and protocols, and regularly review them. These need to be agreed with the other agencies on site and communicated to all staff. A good understanding of who is doing what will make the job of co-ordinating a multi-agency approach much easier.

Staff from other agencies will also be keen to understand your role and get to know your pupils. Involve them in the curriculum. They are bound to have ideas and resources you can tap into.

Ofsted views extended schools very positively. Its reports suggest that becoming an extended school could help to improve pupil attainment, self- confidence, motivation and attendance, reduce exclusion rates, better enable teachers to focus on teaching and learning, and enhance children's and families' access to services.

In May, a National Foundation for Educational Research report on the value of social care professionals working in extended schools found that extended schools can help achieve earlier identification of pupils' needs and a better understanding between social care and education colleagues.

As 2010 approaches, and schools have an obligation to provide extended services and work with external partners, those that have embraced this programme already are reaping the benefits and are working to make it part of everyday school life

Fe McKerrell is The Key's specialist researcher in curriculum and learning. The Key is an independent service that supports school leaders in all aspects of school leadership and management.


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