Unit 1 – Use and develop systems that promote communication
1.1 Review the range of groups and individuals whose communication needs must be addressed in own job role
There are a large number of groups of individuals whom I communicate with on a regular basis within my role as manager of special needs school.
These include Deputy Head, SENDCO (special education needs coordinator), SENDCO assistants, teachers, classroom assistants, therapists, office staff and outside agencies.
I may use various modes to correspond with these people: Verbal, emails or other electronic messages and written.
I must use different skills when conversing with different colleagues. For example one member of staff who was struggling with personal situation needed to feel validated and supported when I was discussing school related issues. This meant I had to be more sensitive when communicating with her. Rather than send a written note of my concerns I chose to speak with her and approach the matter at hand in stages so as to ensure a positive outcome. I made sure she understood that lesson plans had to be on a high standard due to Ofsted requirements and for the benefit of the children.
I discussed any issues she had with planning, offered her support she may need during this difficult period in her life.
Allowing fair opportunities for all staff to present their opinion and position is another obstacle that could get in the way of being a successful manager. At times during meetings with staff there are certain subjects where people have differing views and opinions which can be difficult for others to agree with. There may be situations where many ideas are presented and some people feel the need to raise their voice in order to get their point across. This is counter-productive as it confuses others and we may risk not hearing some valid opinions. At this point I may decide stop the discussion, summarise what has been discussed, giving people a chance to gather their thoughts and I may request written responses so that all opinions can be considered allowing the best decision to be made.
Sometimes staff don’t listen effectively when they are busy working with the children. I usually ask them to come and see me when they have a minute.
I encourage staff to write in daily link books to parents to create open communication.
The local NHS send in Occupational therapists, Physiotherapists and speech therapists to help our children. They will complete a “session feedback sheet” which describes exactly what treatment they have done and the next step of the process. This is then shared with the relevant staff and parents.
1.2 Explain how to support effective communication within own job role
I lead a large team with a variety of communication needs, I have learnt over the years that open communication is the basis of a good setting.
In the past I would have texted a parent a sensitive question, which didn’t go down so well! For example: “Have you checked her eyesight”? I got feedback that the parents were so upset and felt untrusted as parents. The parents of special needs children are vulnerable, require allot of support and regular communication. Nowadays, I have had to learn and work on slowing down and thinking what is the most effective way to communicate. I would take the time to call the parent if it was urgent or wait till the next progress meeting comes up and discuss it then in a supportive environment.
Once a child joins our setting we offer termly progress meeting. The following people attend the meeting: classroom staff, the school social worker the parents and myself. A new child will be invited in for a progress meeting within a month of admission.
I find these meetings take up a lot of time but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. In the past before we offered such meetings there used to be undercurrent moaning on the park bench, as we are a close knit community. The agenda of these meetings are generally progress /concerns and action plan. These are recorded and filed so we can recap and review them before the next meeting comes up.
I arrange twice a year parents evening, there used to be long queues way in to the evening to see the therapists. Parents were stressed that they had to wait around and then only had a few minutes before the timer went for the next person to be seen. I recently created a better system for parents to speak to therapists about their children. I call it “therapist open week” where parents can call in to the office to make an appointment to see the therapist during school time. I sent out questionnaires to parents to feedback to us if it was successful – Parents felt well informed and were even able to observe some therapy in action if they wanted to.
Parents know they can call in to the office and I will call them back within 24 hours. Parents tell me efficient communication is so appreciated.
Our school social worker visits a new child applicant at home to gather background information, this gets typed up and sent on the governors and myself so we are well informed about the child’s needs. For the next part of the process I give new parents a tour of the whole school so they are aware of the severity of the needs of the special children that will be integrating the child’s class. During the school tour, parents are encouraged to ask any questions about the setting they have. Once the social worker is involved from the beginning then if any concerns come up at home or in school then she is made aware through our “concerns” book and she will visit the homes regularly. She gives me feedback both verbally and electronically regularly. Staff feel supported this way that she will deal with any issue that arises. Social worker’s home visit reports are made available to the relevant staff and stored safely in locked cupboard with other sensitive information.
I meet with my secretary daily when I set her work for the day. I explain in detail what I need doing to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings. She ends her shift with a feedback sheet for me so I know exactly where she is up to, to avoid doubling up work etc.
I circulate the classrooms regularly every day and make myself seen and available. Staff know they can ask to meet me in my office to discuss something private at any time. I do regular supervisions with the teachers and I empower the teachers to do supervisions with the classroom assistants. These supervisions are recorded and staff feels supported and appreciate the positive opportunity for open communication on both sides. I make time at the end of the academic year to do appraisals with most of the staff myself as I feel it is so important to make that connection with the staff and show an interest in their CPD etc.
I lead weekly teachers meeting where we discuss progress of the children and it is generally a forum for staff to offload and share ideas. The important points are recorded and circulated to all the other staff members that could not attend the meeting. I also offer monthly “classroom assistants” meetings so they can also have their voice heard.
1.3 Analyze the barriers and challenges to communication within own job role.
Adapted from www.academia.edu
There are many different barriers to communication.
Anything which gets in the way of communication is called a Barrier.
One should ensure one is not the creating the barrier oneself.
One should communicate with colleagues at a time that is convenient for them so they can concentrate and listen properly. If they are busy teaching or leading a session then it disrupts and causes frustration. Handover time at midday when staff finish the morning shift and afternoon staff start their shift is a tricky time to make sure all important information is passed on to the correct people. We use different methods of communication in our setting, home/school link books from parents, white board on wall, communication (AM/PM) book and office emails. I find the most reliable form of communication that works well for me is all points relevant for that day are written on my clipboard; I update it each day and carry around with me as I circulate all the rooms constantly. I also note down any requests or concerns that need action-ing for me to deal with at the end of my shift. It is important to use clear and appropriate language without professional jargon, so it is easily understood by all.
Physiological barriers –these could include sight, hearing difficulties or tiredness and illness. Our music specialist is hard of hearing, when I speak to her I make sure to do it in a quiet place with no other distractions and so that she can see my face clearly to lip-read.
Psychological barriers – This may vary from depression, personal problems and worries which can all loss of concentration and memory. One of my classroom leaders goes through phases of behaving depressed; this has an effect on the rest of the colleagues in the room and staffroom. She needs nurturing more than the other staff.
Language or cultural differences – People from different background and those with diverse religious beliefs may use gestures or offensive language .Language barrier could lead to poor choice of words and offend. My SENCO (special education needs coordinator) is French and often misunderstands jokes in our meetings; I usually explain what was said afterwards to make her feel included.
Negative feelings barrier – People can resist change, behave upset and challenge effective communication. This may be due them not agreeing to what/how you are doing it or unable to get on with the people they work with. This can also be to do with the persons changing need for example early pregnancy /hormone changes. I recently did supervision with one of the teachers in the early years rooms, we discussed an undercurrent lack of tolerance with the under twos in that room. She went back to discuss with her colleague the changes she would like to see put in place. That Assistant sulked for a few days giving her the cold shoulder. We discussed ways to make changes in the future including supervision techniques.
Physical Barrier- This could be due to the environment for example too much noise like the music blaring or if the room is too hot or cold. Last week the staff was moaning that the high up windows were open and the kids and staff were freezing. They said they had told the office a few times but nothing was done. Within a short time I asked the builders who were on a job in the setting at the time to bring the tall ladders and bang them shut. Staff felt understood and cared for.
My role as manager is to make good connection with the staff and build strong relationships, I must show respect to all which will build confidence and trust in the work place.
Be able to improve communication systems and practices that support positive outcomes for individuals
2.1 Monitor the effectiveness of communication systems and practices.
Adapted from Bla Bla writing.
During induction period of a staff member or first term of a child attending the setting I would establish the way each person communicates, their skills and methods they use. This needs to be recorded in the individuals care plan, updated as necessary and made available to other members of the team. AAC (alternative augmentative communication) devices are used regularly for our nonverbal children to help them communicate. They are recording switches which the children press to hear or record a message. This is monitored by the speech therapists who advise the staff and parents. In order to monitor plans effectively, it is important to schedule regular meetings or reviews. As manager it is my duty to gather this information, update the teams about additions to care plans and monitor changes.
2.2 Evaluate the effectiveness of existing communication systems and practices
Adapted from www.heroessays.org.
In my role as Manager, I believe that my communication approaches are effective. I communicate with a range of people including governors, administrator, secretaries, deputy, classroom staff and therapists on a daily basis. I talk over all situations or events with the senior leadership team. Examples of communication would be to discuss a therapy plan or new referral with a therapist for advice and support for staff or home. The main weakness of therapist communication in my setting is ensuring all the relevant staff gets to see the therapist written feedback within the right time fame.
2.3 Propose improvements to communication systems and practices to address any
Study moose used as a guide.
I feel that the setting has issues with communication in connection with our school social worker. I am trying to implement this change, a regular drop in to the classrooms will be made by the social worker to observe positives and relay to parents. She will also support staff whilst dealing challenging situation as she can explain a bit of background information or history of what the parents are dealing with their special needs child. Previously staff would record concerns in a “concern” book but it takes time to be dealt with. A more efficient and supportive approach would be if social worker made regular drop in to the classrooms. This is something I feel needs bringing into the setting as effective communication with staff and social worker is essential to maintain efficient service and address shortcomings.
2.4 Lead the implementation of revised communication systems and practices.
Adapted from Bla Bla.
As Manager it’s my role to lead implementation of any changes needed to communication systems /practices. It will need to be monitored and evaluated. The next step will be to implement any necessary changes which will improve communication in the setting. This will involve a clear plan at how the changes will be put in place. I reviewed the previous daily “link book” template that staff use to communicate to parents. It was felt that a simple bullet point system was becoming tedious as I found staff writing endless paragraphs of non-relevant information and unprofessional comments, for example “child X is so adorable , we love him”. Staff was writing the content of curriculum sessions too which is a double up of the weekly newsletter.
Together with one of my colleagues, we devised a new template with a clear tick box system, including space for important information like bowel movements , seizures and challenging behavior.
As Manager of various different departments, it is my duty to model effective communication systems. I recently revised the communication system I had in place with one of the governors wives. She helped set up the school before I started my role, we worked very closely together and spoke very often for many minutes each time. It became too intense and she was advised to take an awkward step back for a few years. Recently there was a need to set up a post 16 unit, this same lady applied for the position. She went through the recruitment process and was accepted for the job because she had the most skills for the job. This time round we were both very careful to communicate effectively as we both didn’t want it to go wrong again. Partnership working is so important, we feed back to each other constantly via email, text or verbally. She didn’t have a texting phone or email but she understood the necessity and got both in place pretty quickly – it is working well. We have outgrown our premises so fitting in the post 16 students was and is a constant struggle for space but I wanted to make it work as we provide service to the community. I supported her by listening to all the teething problems of setting up the unit, but the space issue came up often. I helped her find solutions to the problem by renting the upstairs training room for the sessions that she needed. At times the manager of the training upstairs center got very angry and abusive to her staff for various reasons, the post 16 manager wanted to give up the job many times but I supported her through every hurdle by having open communication, compromising on our own space at times, finding solutions together and supporting my staff through the change of adding on post 16 in to an already small premises.
3.2 Compare the effectiveness of different communications systems for
3.3 Propose improvements to communication systems for partnership working
Communication systems must be effective for an institution to run efficiently and smoothly, over the year in my role as manager we have used a few different types of systems.
Every Monday Morning, my secretary knows to lift off the google calendar, the relevant points that staff must be informed off – and put it into a staff briefing on the staff room table, for staff to read up before nine am. As much as she tries she just can’t seem to get it out on time (due to her large workload) for staff to be aware of appointments of children, meetings coming up or additional professionals coming in.
Recently, I gave access to the key members of the team to access the calendar them self in their own time to be informed. Staff feels trusted, are able to be more organized in their job and have time to share the important information in good time with their own team.
Another communication system that has room for improvement in our setting is our weekly staff meetings, all the classroom leaders join and I come along with a whole list of important points to discuss or inform. The staff seems to need this time to share ideas and offload to each other about the stresses of the job or different behavioral issues that they have experienced over the previous week. Staff all goes off on their own discussions between themselves and I end up listening and hearing the staff out rather than getting through my list of points. I was discussing this in detail with my deputy. We came up with 2 ideas: 1. Draft the agenda points on an easel for staff to see and stay on target. Or 2. Email the points out the day before so staff have time to think about what will be discussed.
Staff was moaning that they didn’t have enough access to computers in the staffroom that meant they couldn’t share information or request advice from the professional’s team efficiently. I managed to persuade my finance department to add 2 more computers in the staffroom.
We use “bulk sms” texting online system to text information to staff and parents, I find this an super system but then we have a few people without texting phones! I have to make sure they get a typed up memo from the office.
4.1 Explain legal and ethical tensions between maintaining confidentiality and
Data Protection Act 1998 demands that we don’t share information regarding individuals in their care. As manager it’s my responsibility to ensure that all staff have appropriate safeguarding training which includes Data protection Act, with annual refresher & updates. Staff must be particularly vigilant when using assistive technology. However there will be situations where disclosure is vital for the benefit of the child. This may be to further the childs development, to ensure the childs safety or for any other needs that can be of benefit for the child. Every member of the team must be aware of how to share information and with whom.
Excerpts from our school policy that I created with my colleague:
Both Staff and Pupils have a right to request to view any data about themselves. If someone wants to know what the school holds on them, they can ask for this information. A parent/carer can also request to view the data held on their child. This information will be presented as soon as possible. If there is a cost of retrieving this information, such as copying or printing, they may be asked to pay the costs.
Access to data and disclosure:
Personal data about pupils will not be disclosed to third parties without the consent of the child’s parent or carer, unless it is obliged by law or in the best interest of the child. Staff are encouraged to disclose data for the benefit of a child to the following third parties without consent; other schools that a child is transferring to; health authorities; police or courts; social workers and support agencies. Any disclosure of information for any other purpose will lead to disciplinary action.
School staff will have restricted access to pupils’ personal data and will be given access only on a ‘need to know’ basis in the course of their duties within the school. All staff are well informed of the Data Protection Act and how their conduct must correspond with this.
Location of information and data
Private or sensitive information should be stored out of sight and in a locked cupboard. The only exception to this is medical information that may require immediate access during the school day. This will be stored in the first-aid box in the staff-room and in each relevant classroom.
4.2 Analyse the essential features of information sharing agreements within and
Organisations should have agreements for sharing information. These should include the key elements like duty of care and the best interests of the children whilst respecting the rights of privacy and dignity. The Caldicott Principles outlines six key principles that an organisation should consider before disclosing information to others. These ensure the data is only shared when absolutely essential, with parties that require the information and that they are only given the information that is crucial for them to be aware of.
These are: (adapted from https://www.igt.hscic.gov.uk/Caldicott2Principles.aspx)
Justify the purpose:
Sharing of personal confidential data others should be clearly defined, scrutinised and documented, with regular reviews by designated person .
Only share data where absolutely necessary:
Confidential data should only be included when it is relevant and essential for the specific purpose of helping that individual. If possible one should try to hide the identity of the individual.
Limit personal confidential data:
Where disclosing personal confidential data is deemed necessary, the inclusion of each item of data should be considered and justified thereby ensuring that minimal data is shared as is necessary.
Access to personal confidential data should be on a strict “need-to-know” basis:
Only people who need to be aware of the data should have access to it, and they should only have access to the data items that are applicable to them. This may mean introducing access controls or splitting data flows where one data flow is used for several purposes.
Everyone with access to confidential data should be aware of their responsibilities:
All staff should be trained to ensure that those handling personal confidential data are fully aware of their responsibilities and obligations to adhere to the policies and respect patient confidentiality.
Comply with the law:
Every use of personal confidential data must be lawful. Someone in each organisation should be nominated to ensure that the organisation complies with legal requirements.