“GIRFEC has brought a consistent way of doing things — not just within our school but increasingly across Fife as well,” that’s how Depute Head Elizabeth Smart sums up the way the Getting it right for every child approach is making a difference at Waid Academy in Anstruther.
“And if that means it has been easier for a teacher like me to transfer between one school and another, think about the positive impact it can have on children and their families if they need to move schools at any point.”
Waid Academy, in the mainly coastal and rural area of the East Neuk of Fife, is a comprehensive school with 720 pupils. It has eight associated primary schools and the local economy is based on fishing and tourism. Eleven per cent of pupils at Waid get free school meals and the school is above the Fife average for pupils going to on higher or further education or employment.
GIRFEC provides an overarching framework
The school’s GIRFEC journey began around three years ago and Elizabeth says that staff welcomed the Getting it right approach from the start. They saw it as providing an overarching framework for what was already sound practice in terms of supporting their children and young people. All staff have an awareness of the approach and contribute in line with their role.
One of the first things the school did was to integrate its pupil support team –so that all guidance teachers, support for learning teachers and behaviour support staff became pupil support teachers — and each now fulfils the role of Named Person.
“We see the Named Person role — and GIRFEC as a whole — as a continuum of support” explains Elizabeth. In line with Curriculum for Excellence, every child and young person has their ‘key adult’ — someone they can discuss their learning with and someone who can act as a mentor.
“So for most of the young people at Waid, the fact that their key adult is also their Named Person works well and no extra support is needed.
What teachers were doing anyway
“The Named Person role is what those teachers were doing anyway,” adds Elizabeth, “so we’ve not seen anyone struggling with additional work — the Getting it right approach makes perfect sense to them and is wholeheartedly accepted as an overarching framework which supports a shared understanding of children’s needs.”
Of course for some children, extra support will be needed and a plan of action will need to be put in place. That’s where the Named Person can draw on appropriate support from other school resources and other services. “Our multi-agency liaison group, MALG for short, makes sure other practitioners from health, police and social work are connected in — and we know we can draw on their support if it’s needed,” says Elizabeth. This ‘staged intervention’ approach allows the school and others to build appropriate and tailored support to a young person and their family if it’s needed.
“We’re already seeing plenty of examples where this effective partnership working has improved outcomes for our young people.”
Parents see the Named Person as hugely valuable
Parents see the key adult / Named Person role as hugely valuable, says Elizabeth. “They particularly welcome it when their children make the transition from primary to secondary. They may not recognise the label of Named Person, but they know who in the school knows their child and who they can turn to for advice if necessary.
And what if parents or young people need support during the school holidays? “I am the first point of contact,” says Elizabeth and I will make sure they get any help they need when they need it.”
The approach works so well, according to Elizabeth, because it allows the school to act early if a young person is having problems — and put things in place to make their lives easier. We use pupil tracking as part of our raising attainment approach and through this we identified one young man who suddenly started coming into school late every morning,” she recalls. “His Named Person had a chat and discovered that he was a young carer — his mum had just been diagnosed with a serious illness and he was terrified of leaving her on her own. We discussed his concerns with him, organised a bus pass to make his journey to school easier and quicker, and put him in touch with a support group for young carers.
“Sometimes it’s the relatively small things you can change that make the biggest difference.”