Brief Description of The Provision
The Inclusion Support Base (ISB) in North Lanarkshire is part of the continuum of educational provision offered by the local authority (LA). It supports young people who are disengaging from mainstream school, both in school settings and away from mainstream school settings.
Content and Delivery
ISB provide three main services as part of the continuum of educational provision across the local authority:
- Flexible Learning Programme .
- Looked After Children (LAC) Team
- Nurture and Development Team
The Flexible Learning Programme has been in existence since 2006. The young people who participate attend the centre either part or full time. They are considered to be learners who
“…were not able to reach their full potential in school and that may well be due to social, emotional behavioural difficulties or it may be the young people who are facing a crisis and they’ve had a permanent exclusion for a particular reason” (ISB handbook).
ISB’s aim is to work with the mainstream school to keep the learner there as much as possible, but in some cases it is more suitable for the young person to transfer to the provision for a period of time. ISB offers learners a fresh start and an individualised learning plan that is far more flexible that they would receive in mainstream school, and far more vocationally orientated.
The ISB team consists of five coaches and a manager. The young people arrive at the centre by pre-paid taxis in the morning. Not all of the young people are in the centre at the same time as they engage in a range of subjects, most of which are provided elsewhere by other quality assured delivery partners. Their alternative curriculum provides them with the opportunity to sit national qualifications in English and Maths. They also have a national qualification in Art, ASDAN qualifications and Youth Achievement Qualifications. These qualifications can make the difference between the young people being accepted onto an access course at post-16.
The following vocational and alternative courses are available, in addition to maths and English: Music; hair and beauty; karate; motor mechanics; hospitality; football; Art; artistic and media interventions such as voice overs and film making; t-shirt designing; mountain climbing; child care; theatre arts; Duke of Edinburgh. This variety affords the staff team the flexibility to provide appropriately for young people with different needs, in ways that mainstream schools cannot.
ISB outsource a lot of these activities but a member of their own staff always stays with the group. There is a maximum of 6 per class so all sessions are ‘adult intensive’. ISB can have five different interventions taking place in a single session. There are only a few students at the centre at any one time so that they can carefully manage peer dynamics.
Young people are rewarded with trips, for example to a local golf driving range, for good behaviour and progress. ISB have an awards evening/evening of recognition at the end of every academic year to which people from the LA and parents/carers are invited.
In addition, the ISB also run:
- The Looked After Children team.
There are three members of staff on the LAC team. Schools look to the team for support. The team work with children who are in foster care or residential/children’s houses. They mainly get mainstream referrals, although some are from special schools. The team visit and support the children in school on a weekly basis and try to prevent disengagement. They support the young people to complete qualifications.
Another aim of their work is to educate mainstream staff about looked after children and assist them to adapt their practice to better support these students. They provide training to the school staff on attachment issues.
The team observe a student in class and depending on what they see they will either
(a) support the staff to build a relationship with the young person. Teachers may just require strategies to support the young person. This is a shorter term intervention. Or
(b) they establish a longer term relationship with a child in cases where the difficulties are more challenging. In this case a team member comes in to support the young person with work or social tasks, and to develop their peer relationships. They aim to put important developmental blocks in place that are not yet there or to strengthen them. They can take the young people out to other locations but this is a carefully thought through strategy. Some young people get years of engagement with the team.
LAC provision varies as it is dependent on the needs of the pupil, with some students requiring more or less time. A placement is over when the young person starts to cope better, has developed relationships with people in the school, has a secure placement and there are no longer any serious concerns about school. The team gradually steps back.
All LAC information is recorded on a central system so it can be accessed by all relevant parties. They have regular verbal, informal catch ups with one another and with other agencies (the key agency is social work). They see themselves as an advocate for the young person.
- Nurture Development Offices.
The aim of this team is capacity-building in mainstream schools through professional development of staff. This is accomplished through two main areas of work:
(a) Schools can contact the team if a particular student is having difficulties. The team visit the school and spend time in the classroom, observing a particular young person (without them knowing) to understand what might be going wrong, and to assess where the child’s development. The team generates strategies for and with the teachers. The NDO support teacher may stay for up to four weeks, to kick start the transformation, but this is not always achieved within the four hours allowed. NDO services are mainly aimed at primary but increasingly secondary schools are requesting their input too.
(b) NDO provide programmes in school, either working directly with the young people, or training for teachers and/or whole classes. The aim is capacity building. Their courses include: the restorative school; supporting LAC and children with attachment issues; the nurturing school. Through this work the team might identify opportunities for transforming the wider culture of the school; it may not just be a difficulty for one or two children, but a wider issue in the organisation that is causing problems. The team see their job as filling in gaps in teacher training. They also summarise relevant policies and documents for school staff. Identifying Features of Quality
ISB supports young people at risk of disengaging, or who have disengaged, from mainstream school. Through their different strands of work they aim to offer in-school support to young people at risk of disengaging, including LAC, and to build capacity amongst mainstream teaching staff. Where students have become disengaged, their aim is to provide an appropriately flexible educational programme which enables successful reengagement with learning and post-16 transitions. Social and emotional wellbeing are seen to be key to school readiness, so getting these right is a priority across the board.
ISB cater for young people who are at risk of disengaging from learning, and young people whose mainstream placement has broken down. They target vulnerable groups such as looked after children, who have been a priority from the beginning of the provision. The young people they work with have a wide range of school based issues including social, emotional and behavioural problems; communication difficulties; SEN. The ISB flexible model means that they can cope with a range of needs and difficulties.
The flexible learning team support those who cannot reach their full potential in school, due to social, emotional and behavioural difficulties or because the young person is facing a crisis in their life.
Roles at the ISB unit are regularly filled by teachers seconded from mainstream LA schools. Positions are advertised on the council website. The LA and the provision manager shortlist and interview candidates. They look for teachers with a good knowledge of systems and national strategies too e.g. Getting it Right For Every Child. Teachers and support staff are paid according to the same national scales used in mainstream schools.
The job description for work at the ISB includes: being a qualified teacher with relevant experience and CPD in the area of working with challenging/underperforming looked after children; clear knowledge of relevant local and national priorities and developments; as well as a range of personal skills and qualities such as communication and a non-judgemental attitude. There are also a range of desirable qualities e.g. experience in development work with disengaged learners; experience of multi-agency communication; experience of flexible working with partner agencies; recent and extensive delivery of staff training.
ISB staff have significant expertise and experience:
Darren is the current manager of the unit and is on secondment from his role as deputy head in a LA high school.
Andrea is a member of the LAC team. She is on a two-year secondment from a mainstream school. She has been a P.E teacher for seven years. She sought a new and challenging opportunity through which to reflect on, and improve, her practice. She believes that secondments are valuable and that all teachers should do them. Her experience as a mainstream teacher means that she has been able to sympathise with teachers, and provide them with relevant and appropriate advice. She is going back to her mainstream school at the start of the 2014-2015 school year and wants to share her experiences and learning with colleagues. North Lanarkshire are keen on secondments and see them as an important development opportunity.
Frank manages the flexible learning team. He originally got involved in the programme via a secondment. He was working with the LA on a programme called Expanded Level of Opportunity – ELO – which is a practical vocational programme integral to the curriculum for the SEBN sector. Through this work, he gained relevant experiences which drew on when developing the flexible learning programme.
Ethan is a nurture development officer, and a trainee for the wider nurture group network.
There are additional needs support assistants at the ISB base.
“In terms of our staff, we have people with a wide range of skills and with massive major background experiences from people from career’s guidance; pupil support and learning support” (Frank, flexible learning team manager).
Former students, now at college, have been involved in ISB staff training.
Frank described flexible learning as a creative community where all the staff have got the same ethos; they operate very differently from a mainstream school as they have to work with a range of external and private organisations. Frank felt that AP staff need to have a high level of tolerance; be able to get past petty comments; be able to befriend a young person yet be firm when they need to be “because it’s about the development of those life skills and that is crucial to their moving on because it was those lack of life skills that got them into that situation in the first place”; be forward thinking; be realistic; be grounded; have a real interest in helping young people to progress; have patience; be non-judgemental; and possess the ability to separate the young person from the behaviour.
“You should never hear people saying ‘oh I hate him; he’s a pain in the arse’. No young person chooses to be in the situation they are in. And that’s why we choose to do the work that we do because no young person chooses to have chaos and crisis in their lives. And our job is to let them know that we value them as a young person. We need to work on their behaviour and separate it and try and let them understand how we can separate it” (Frank).
Conversations are valued within ISB as a way of exchanging information. The Flexible Learning team have monthly meetings with the Educational Officer. They explain how they are doing, what is going well, and they address issues of concern.
Safety and Safeguarding
ISB follows the North Lanarkshire anti-bullying policy, which is considered to be a national model for excellence and has been used by other local authorities. They have a national model for excellence in the LA.
Rules and Discipline
ISB’s aim is to limit the causes of young people’s problems issues in mainstream school – e.g. there were too many students in the classroom and an unsuitable disciplinary approach – thus limiting the opportunities for them to get into trouble. Many of the young people feel that they should be treated like adults, and “we say that we will treat them like adults if they behave like adults. That tends to work here quite well. So a lot of them can’t manage the level of discipline within a school”(Frank).
Monitoring of progress and Outcomes
ISB use a Strength and Difficulties questionnaire as a “soft indicator” (member of delivery staff) when the young people arrive. They use this to measure the starting point for these young people and how they improve, but are not yet satisfied with their current system. They are working with Skills Development Scotland on some employability measuring tools.
A daily report on attendance leads to monthly reports. Attendance is tracked and available to relevant parties such as the local authority and referring school. They have an average attendance of over 85%; “for some people that might not sound very good but for this particular group it is excellent”. Most of the young people pass their English and Maths. In terms of positive post-school destinations, in 2014 30 out of 32 pupils have a destination, “so, from where they were a year and a half ago, it’s been an amazing turn around for them”.
ISB has a weekly case conference where Frank (senior member of staff) meets every member of staff to look at each young person in turn and discuss any issues. Where necessary, that meeting may stimulate other meetings, for example with parents/carers or social work staff. Transition meetings, to discuss new referrals, happen once a term.
A member of ISB staff attends all of the off-site activities the young people engage in with other alternative providers. This provides staff with the opportunity to see what their students are learning, how they are progressing, and how they interact with other staff and students away from the ISB.
Parents /carers evenings are quite informal and provide an opportunity for ISB to explain the work that staff are doing with the young people and to discuss progress.
The Scottish Government promotes an inclusive approach and frames education as a continuum of provision, rather than there being separation between mainstream and special education. All educational provisions sit under the LA umbrella, are funded by the LA and staffed by LA staff. This means that the ISB has a duty to support any young person from the LA area who is referred to them.
The ISB also work with mainstream schools to promote an inclusive culture. For instance their work with looked after children is directed to ensure the educational entitlement of this group – ISB acts as an advocate for their needs, and promotes their educational attainment and achievement (North Lanarkshire Council Website).
Flexible Learning Team:
LA panels decide on the “allocation of specialist resources”. It is at these allocation meetings that the head of service decides where the young person should be placed. There are core meetings twice a year, and there may be emergency placements done in-between. Transitions are carefully planned at entry and exit. When any young person comes to ISB they expect to receive evidence of all of the interventions that have been put in place, and to receive all of the relevant paperwork. ISB staff are clear about expectations of behaviour and whether they can deliver what the young person wants. ISB aim to work in partnership with the school and, where possible, to keep the young person in the mainstream school. In some cases this is not possible. In such cases young people still remain on roll at mainstream school while they are at ISB. Schools are sent regular attendance data.
ISB support the young people to get national qualifications in English and Maths which they know can make the difference between getting accepted onto an access course or not. ISB have an understanding with New College Lanarkshire that these qualifications will count towards their entry requirement. ISB have a formal planning meeting every term involving the young person, their parents/carers and the professionals working with them. The emphasis is on transitions and clarifying where the young person is going when they leave ISB, and putting timescales in place. This is particularly important in cases where the young person is not getting support from home; these young people require an enhanced transition service. Many of the young people on the flexible learning programme will be able to use the services for a year before they actually move onto post-16 so they are able to make an informed decision. The young people have been provided with prior exposure to a college community and environment because a lot of their flexible learning courses take place in this environment. The young people are also given the opportunity to try out the courses before they go. This process supports the young people to become life-long learners, and to have the relevant skills.
LAC Team: School fill in a ‘request for assistance’ referral form. They use a ‘what I think’ tool with the young people and speak to the school to gather additional information. They arrange to visit the school first and observe the young person to see how they are getting on. They may do this 2 or 3 times as well as speak to the head teacher and/or pupil support staff.
Relationships with Students
The staff emphasised the importance of consistency: all staff, including external providers, should have the same ethos. Staff are on first name terms with their students. There are no uniforms and they treat the students like young adults. Their approach is to befriend young people, and avoid petty conflict, whilst still ensuring firm boundaries. Young people say that they want to be treated like an adult, so staff use this to challenge them when they behave in a way that is not adult. Staff regularly need to “pull a young person back from a precipice” and “it’s the relationships that make that happen” (Frank).
Although ISB receive a lot of young people who have been permanently excluded for violence, drug taking or major behavioural issues, they tend to find that young people take the opportunity for a fresh start “because nobody knows them here and they’ve not got that peer group pressure”. It is vital to enable students to have this fresh start if their behaviour is to be transformed.
Relationships between pupils
ISB follow the North Lanarkshire anti-bullying policy.
As noted above, ISB find that the young people come to them seeking a fresh start, away from peer pressure and their existing peer relationships in mainstream school. Even though there are young people with a wide range of complex issues in the programme, they all seem to be working well together and merging into a peer group. Staff find that the young people are good at supporting one another. Sometimes there are conflicts between students and staff work to resolve these quickly.
Relationship with parents
ISB have regular meetings where they discuss how each student is doing, and where necessary they will involve the parents/carers if this is felt to be beneficial. There are parent evenings which are usually quite informal and provide an opportunity for staff to explain the work that they are doing with the students
Resources and Networks :
ISB have wide networks across the LA as they use a lot of different kinds of providers, including colleges and private businesses. This is key to them being able to provide a flexible and diverse set of opportunities for their students. ISB have good links with New College North Lanarkshire, which is crucial for providing post-16 options.
ISB have sessions run on-site by external providers, for instance they had a sexual health session for students done by NHS Scotland.
They also invite external speakers to do sessions for the young people, for instance Jenny Malloy did a session.
Relationships with other Services and Agencies
ISB’s building is new and well-maintained. There are larger ‘session’ rooms and small rooms for individual sessions, as well as office space for staff. Visitors are buzzed in and sign in at reception.
All of the teachers are paid through the LA budget, and there is an annual budget for the unit.
Well-managed, led and accountable
Darren oversees the work in the unit, and he is accountable to the LA Educational Lead Officer and Head of Service. They have regular conversations, and meet more formally once a month where they discuss progress and highlight any issues.
Evaluation and Quality Assurance
ISB work with head teachers and with the Educational Lead Officer to identify programme partners, and to negotiate will be provided. Relationships with external providers are built up over a long period of time, and Frank (senior member of staff) regularly draws on his considerable experience of providers across the LA. ISB expect quality and commitment from providers. They use a service level agreement and if they are not happy with a provider they will not renew their contract:
“I don’t mean to sound cutthroat but we are paying good money for the delivery of
something with the commitment and the understanding of staff who are going to go the
extra mile. So that is how we identified the partners and a lot of it was just through
experience. After this summer there is partner who won’t be back just because it’s not
In terms of their training and outreach work, all courses are evaluated by ISB staff and students. They are soon to move over from paper based to electronic surveys.
The school outreach part of the programme is inspected by The Care Inspectorate; they are examined through the lens of care, wellbeing etc. rather than education.
Transformation (Choice and autonomy)
Ex-students are invited back to attend whole-staff training. Young people are provided with opportunities to establish wider networks, as they are exposed to a range of providers and post-16 options.