AHDS supports the delivery of multi-agency services for pupils in mainstream where this is agreed by all professionals to be in the best interests of the child but only where it is adequately supported by appropriately trained staff, resourced according to needs and mechanisms are in place to facilitate the effective multi-agency working in terms of access to other professionals and a shared ethos and partnership. All schools should have appropriate access to a home/school worker and a member of the school management team should have management time protected specifically for liaison with external partners.
AHDS recommends full partnership working with other agencies particularly with relation to sharing of information and engagement of all involved.
Education can not be the only or main driving force for the delivery of multi-agency services. All agencies must be equal partners if this worthwhile strategy is to have a long term future.
Most schools and clusters in Scotland now have the principles of integrated multi-agency partnership working firmly embedded in their practice. This partnership plays a significant role in supporting pupils in becoming successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. However, many issues have arisen which create barriers to providing this support to all children and young people in Scotland, not least that there are potentially 32 different perceptions and ways of delivering this.
The Scottish Executive launched the New Community Schools initiative in 1998 in recognition of the importance of inter-agency working in support of children and young people.
The five key goals were:
- The modernisation of schools and the promotion of social inclusion
- Increasing the attainment of young people facing ‘the destructive cycle of underachievement’
- Early intervention to address barriers to learning and maximise potential
- Meeting the needs of every child, ensuring that services are focused through New Community Schools
- Raising parental and family expectations and participation in their children’s education. (NCS Prospectus, Scottish Executive, 1998)
The Executive envisaged this as being ‘at the leading edge of the strategy to promote social inclusion and to raise educational standards.’
There has been increased provision and support for vulnerable families in many areas, however this has not been sustainable, equitable or transparent across the country.
- Some schools and clusters initially reported a significant reduction in exclusion rates, but there are questions to be asked about the reasons behind this and whether it can be attributed to the changes in practice or a reluctance to exclude due to SEED, HMIe and resulting Local Authority expectation to keep exclusion rates down. Schools are still suffering from increasing low level disruption and violence in classrooms.
- Case studies indicated that increased support, such as anger management, where adequately resourced and supported, was helping to keep some vulnerable pupils in main stream education.
- Progress has been made towards involving and supporting the families of pupils with additional support needs.
- The initiative has brought a wide range of complementary activities and developments, such as health promotion, personal and social education, parenting and adult literacy.
- There has been an increased emphasis on the importance of effective multi-agency working
The time is now appropriate for a review of the process to monitor the efficacy of multi-agency working, the value for money and value added impact for children.
- Strategic management of this initiative has varied greatly between authorities and between partner agencies.
- Initial levels of resources provided to pilot schools and clusters are proving increasingly difficult to sustain and more schools are being asked to deliver within existing or decreasing resources.
- There is still a need to take greater account of the correlation between low attainment and factors of deprivation. The envisaged reduction in the attainment gap has not been as successful as predicted.
- This highlights the need for a refocus on early intervention partnership working for those children with emotional, mental health and well being needs and tackling the more obvious issues associated with poverty.
- Resources and finance should be prioritised and distributed appropriately to tackle prevention.
- Schools are being asked to bid for funding for their vulnerable pupils and this results in inequitable and non-transparent methods of accessing the support required. This should be an entitlement for these vulnerable pupils and time spent formulating these bids is taken from the valuable time that could be spent supporting these pupils and their families.
- Partner agencies have also become over loaded as their resources did not expand to meet the demands
- Inclusion and the increased exercising of parental choice of school, has resulted in a wide and more even spread of support needs across schools
- A ‘meetings culture’ has tended to develop resulting in disproportion between the time involved in facilitating these compared to the action which arises from them. For example, educational psychologists can spend 50% or more of their limited time in schools in multi-agency meetings.
- Staffing shortages and limited resources in most of the partner agencies such as social work and health can make effective consultation and continuity of care very difficult to maintain, resulting in a lack of consistency.
- Issues of confidentiality, particularly when dealing with medical support needs, act as barriers in the sharing of information.
- Community engagement as outlined in the original documentation (1998) has been difficult to achieve and progress has been patchy, particularly in primary schools.
- Introduction of the Additional Support for Learning Act (2005) has significantly increased the workload and pressure for the Head Teacher