Auditing professional and agency partners working in and around schools for learning and wellbeing
In this blog post, Dr Julia Everitt discusses her school co-ordinator background and thesis, which explored the professionals and agencies involved in four schools. She reports on her analysis of the tools used to support schools, audit current partners and identify provision gaps. The aim was to enhance community schooling initiatives, but the last decade of “austerity” has resulted in a lack of investment in support for such ventures. Julia presents tools, outlined in detail in her book (O’Connell & Everitt, 2010), that could be of use to schools today. These ideas are arguably becoming even more relevant as society realises the increasing importance of community cohesion.
The New Labour government (1997-2010) demanded education to community partnerships in all of England’s schools. The demand for partnerships was integral to the extended school agenda, which was the delivery mechanism for the Every Child Matters (ECM) policy. ECM aimed to improve agency collaborations and support parents to improve children’s outcomes (DFES, 2003, 2005). The impetus was the child neglect case of Victoria Climbé, which led to the Lord Laming Inquiry (Laming, 2003). Laming proposed national outcomes for children delivered through partnerships, which became enshrined in the Children’s Act (Great Britain Parliament, 2004). ECM aimed to improve agency collaborations and support parents to improve children’s outcomes by offering universal services, together with more specialist and targeted services for those with identified needs (e.g. SEN or those who live in a disadvantaged area). There was the suggestion that staff members from different professions should collaborate with schools and form multi-agency teams to deliver activities and services (DfES, 2004). These policies placed a duty onto all of England’s schools to develop a ‘core offer’ of activities and services on a scale that was bold in comparison to previous community schooling initiatives (Cummings et al. 2011; Coleman, 2006).
Local structure, co-ordination and support
To deliver the government’s vision of every school in England becoming an extended school, each local authority received funding for management and co-ordination at local authority and school level. Local authorities and schools employed personnel to develop extended services, which included Cluster Co-ordinators (O’Connell & Everitt, 2010). In 2007, I began working with a group of 15 schools and children’s centres on behalf of the local authority and my role was to audit the schools to identify the current partnerships, consult with stakeholders and provide access to or commission activities and services to meet these needs. I was one of 27 Extended School Cluster Co-ordinators for the local authority, but these geographical networks of co-ordinators spanned the whole of England.
Auditing local provision
The government produced resources to support schools to develop extended services, which included Toolkits for Governors developed through the Training and Development Agency (TDA) (TDA, 2007, 2009). These Toolkits included resources and tools for schools to identify, its vision, audit provision, determine needs and locate partners. The 2009 toolkit (p.42) included the Stakeholder Map, together with the tool’s value and instructions of how to use it:
Starting with the immediate team, map out the stakeholders with whom you are already working and/or would like to work. Mark a boundary line around the stakeholders who will be actively involved, another line around those who will provide input through consultation and a final line around those who may simply need to be kept informed. You may also want to look at which stakeholder groups cross different boundary lines. This will help you to identify how stakeholders are interrelated and where they may be able to represent or broker links with other partners.
As a cluster co-ordinator, we would use a template created by the local authority to capture information about the activities and services on offer by the schools and in the local community that linked to the ‘core offer’ of extended activities. This included the following information:
- Varied Menu of Activities or Study Support: Art, sports and ICT, catch-up activities, gifted and talented or competitions. It would also capture if the school is a member of Children’s University.
- Childcare or Activities for Young People: Breakfast clubs, holiday clubs, pre-school, nursery or childminders.
- Parenting Support: Local and national information; support at transition points and details of any parenting programmes.
- Swift and easy access/referral to specialist services: Including CAMHS, Speech and Language, other health and social care and if staff had attended Common Assessment Framework (CAF) training.
- Community Access or Community use of the facility: What takes place and if it is charged. Any provision or access to adult learning.
As co-ordinators, we would attend community meetings, map community activities and secure funding. In 2010, a head teacher approached me to co-write a book aimed at practitioners who were developing extended school activities and services on school sites (O’Connell & Everitt, 2010). The book included a range of templates and tools such as methods to audit those involved in schools, across clusters of schools and in the local community. The school audit on pp.29-30 included the following:
- School Information (head, contact, number on roll, learning mentor)
- Consultation Information (e.g. date of last community consultation)
- Core offer information example for ‘Parent Support’ (e.g. Newsletters, workshops, link books, PTA/Friend of groups, parents’ evening, group calling/text, transition sessions)
Funding cuts and research into provision
The government spending cuts following the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review removed the extended services start-up funding and cut sustainability grants. The impact was evident in the nationwide redundancies of Cluster Co-ordinators. I encountered redundancy and formed a social enterprise in 2011 with a colleague. For several years, I offered extended activities and services in schools and partner organisations such as children’s centres. This meant that I worked as a commissioner of professionals and agencies in schools and then became an external agency myself, prior to my doctorate (Everitt, 2018).
Doctoral Research Findings
In 2012, I commenced a doctorate as I was interested to examine what remained of the partnerships between professionals, and agencies that had been encouraged by the New Labour policies. A staff member in each of the four case study schools completed a pro-forma with the names of the professionals and agencies involved in their school and the activities. The pro-forma was organised by seven categories, which emanated from the literature including:
- extra-curricular activities, parental support and adult & community learning which link to the above extended school audit.
- Individual pupil support, which is activities and services where pupils required extra one-to-one support.
- pupil group support which included workshops or assemblies for pupil groups in relation to the national curriculum or wider curriculum subjects (e.g. Citizenship, PSHE or careers)
The findings discuss the range of professionals and agencies in the four schools and I have written about the implications of the policies on practice (Everitt, 2020). What I wanted to share in this blog post was that the identification of professionals and agencies was not a straightforward task. The knowledge of partners did not reside in a uniform manner or pattern. There were instances of partial information on each pro-forma such as the use of collective terms (e.g. companies) or the activity (e.g. healthy eating). I interviewed a staff member in each school, but supplemented the pro-forma with documentary analysis of documents obtained from each school’s website. It is clear that the professionals and agencies I identified were only a ‘snapshot’ of the involvement at the time. It would be useful for schools to be able to audit the professionals and agency involvement in schools (Everitt, 2018). Furthermore, I suggest that some of the tools that we used as cluster co-ordinators working with the local authority or as shared by the TDA or myself in the book that I co-wrote are still of use to schools today. In addition, the pro-forma that I created in my thesis could be of use to schools that want to run their own audit to identify those partners working in their school.
Author Short Biography
Dr. Julia Everitt is a Research Assistant in the Centre for the Study of Practice and Culture in Education (CSPACE) at Birmingham City University. Julia has a background in education as a FE lecturer, community learning manager and local authority commissioner (for 15 schools). In 2014, she shifted to a research role during which she has worked on externally funded research projects in schools, colleges and universities. Julia has researched inequalities in education, access to post-16 pathways and student experience of higher education. Julia’s thesis investigated the rationales for education to community partnerships and the implications on practice.
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