Support Services and Mainstream Schools - a guide for working together

1st October 2004 at 01:00
SUPPORT SERVICES AND MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS - A GUIDE FOR WORKING TOGETHER. By Mike Blamires and John Moore. David Fulton. pound;16.

This book is a timely contribution to the debate about the role of local education authorities. It illustrates how support services and schools can work together to develop best inclusive practice and enable children to thrive socially and academically.

The editors top and tail the book with a framework of understanding how collaboration between schools and LEAs might develop. They ask questions which will be useful for both.

The case study chapters present snapshots of the progression from a situation of crisis management of children in need to one of greater collaboration between schools and LEA officers, particularly in the areas of inter-agency working with school refusers and looked-after children, and managing transition. These chapters will be welcomed by teachers, but other areas of discussion - developing integrated teams, establishing the local education authority as a "business unit" and the thorny problem of funding - will be of more interest to LEA officers.

The book is written from the perspective of the officer and only one contribution offers an alternative voice - that of parents in a pre-school to first placement transition. It discusses behaviour issues, but it highlights the depressing trend to see meeting the needs of exceptional children, particularly when managing disruptive behaviour as the need to establish projects outside ordinary school practice. A project has short-term funding gathered from central government or other agencies, dedicated personnel and seems to require an absorption of resources in meetings, setting agendas, performance targets and evaluating outcomes rather than meeting the needs of children.

The book also shows how projects depend on school assistants. While the Government is addressing the needs of learning support assistants, it shows the degree to which meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children is met by the lowest paid and least trained school staff.

Phil Bayliss

Senior lecturer in special educational needs, University of Exeter

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