Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC): case studies

Examples of effective working.

Buddy support (trusted adult)

This practice exemplar is about a child who was a pupil in a primary school in Dundee. The child was in P7 and she had additional support needs. She was transitioning to S1 to continue her education.  

The child previously had a social worker as her lead professional, this changed to the head teacher once the situation had improved for the child. She had a child’s plan that was carried over from her involvement with social work.

The practice exemplar is written from the point of view of the head teacher of the school.

“As a school, we wanted to better ensure that we were listening to children’s voices in 'Team around the Child' meetings, and the introduction of buddies for children has really helped to achieve this.

"A Buddy is a trusted adult, selected by the child, to represent the child's voice - like an advocate. The role of the Buddy has been developed over time within my school, following support from Children 1st who had developed the Buddy approach. My staff have had time, support and training to undertake this role.

"In this school, the Buddies are support staff  - Primary and Early Years Support Assistants (PEYSAs), Learning and Care Assistant (LCAs) and Health and Wellbeing Assistants (HWAs) but other schools could have different staff becoming Buddies. All support staff within my school have wanted to take on the training provided by Children 1st and become Buddies in the school. It has been a very positive experience for them.

"What works really well for us is having timetabled time for the Buddy to meet with the child during the school day. This puts value onto the relationship between the Buddy and the child and the piece of work they are jointly working on, such as getting to know each other or understand the child’s views before a Team around the Child meeting. The Buddies also have protected time together every week where they can share best practice and support each other.

"Through my own experience of the Buddy training, I have actively sought to adapt the way I chair meetings so that the child is central to them. For example, when chairing a 'Team around the Child' (TATC) meeting, I ensure that I welcome everyone and then start with the child and what they want to contribute to the meeting. This absolutely sets the tone for the meeting and ensures that they are listened to.

"By starting the meeting with the child, the child’s voice comes first. To help, the Buddy has a variety of resources which they use to gather the views of the child in preparing for the meeting.

"A child might not stay for the whole meeting but I ensure they are welcomed back when we are summarising the plan so they can agree to the next steps. The Buddy is given a copy of the plan and they will go over this with the child again after the meeting to check their understanding of the agreed actions and next steps.

"Parents and key partners are always invited to 'Team around the Child' meetings, and their views are included as part of the plan. This child was working with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and an Educational Psychologist, who both contributed specialist assessments to the plan.

"The plan is based around the SHANARRI headings, although we do not necessarily look to identify an action for every SHANARRI heading – just the ones relevant to that child at that time. Everyone was able to contribute to the actions to make sure that each outcome was met for the child.

"This child did not want to attend the Team around the Child meetings but her views were gathered by the Buddy beforehand. She contributed her views about a P7 residential trip and also her transition into S1. She completed a questionnaire at the end of the process and she shared she ‘felt listened to’.

"When considering the residential trip, the child said that she was anxious about going away but she definitely wanted to take part in the trip. She did not what it would look like when she got there. The child asked if she could attend for part of the residential trip and this was facilitated by my school. We were able to get an extra member of staff to go on the residential and the trip was successful for the child.

"In relation to the transition to S1, the child was not sure about the building so we facilitated visits to see where she was going. We were able to support her to meet key people, and experience some of the timetable. The child was able to meet some key members of staff who would be important during her transition to high school. This helped the child become less anxious about what was going to happen when she went to high school.

"The parent was also happy that the child was able to take part in that experience and they knew it was well planned and supported. The family knew the clear plan to go to high school: transport was arranged, a timetable was in place and key people were identified so she knew them already. The plan was set up while she was in P7 for the family to know what would happen when she went to high school.

"There was a real difference for the child when she received a Buddy. The family felt she was listened to and they felt valued.

"We have had great successes working this way. Every child that comes to the Team around the Child process is now offered a Buddy. A trial happened in the first place and then this was expanded to all children who have an unmet need.

"The Buddy support model is now being expanded to other schools in Dundee and we have had interest from other parts of Scotland.”

Related information

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC)


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