Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Classroom Practice - Set the Cogs in Motion to Help 'Actor' Children: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Classroom Practice - Set the Cogs in Motion to Help 'Actor' Children: Resources

Article excerpt

Hidden problems can be tackled through a system that encourages a creative approach to providing the appropriate level of support.

Some children are simply good actors. While inwardly they may be struggling with emotional and societal issues, outwardly they manage to maintain a performance that makes it hard for other people to see there is anything wrong.

Pinpointing, and then supporting, these children is a difficult business. One UK school recently enjoyed some success in this area, however, by adapting for its own use an off-the-shelf model for helping children with hidden problems. And its success has grabbed others' attention.

The innovative school in question is R.J. Mitchell Primary School in Essex, England, for children aged 4-11. Struggling with less than favourable reports from schools inspectorate Ofsted, it decided that, as part of a wider strategy of improvements, the "actor" children needed to be better supported.

It looked at the methods on offer and found that EdisonLearning's Student and Family Support Systems (SAFSS) appeared to have everything it needed.

This system sets out ways of gathering data on students - such as attendance, lateness and teachers' notes on behaviour - and how to evaluate that data in meetings between staff and external professionals, such as psychologists or social workers. It then classifies students as needing one of five levels of support.

R.J. Mitchell deputy principal Kevin Lee says that SAFSS is a useful guide to implementing a structured strategy for children with hidden problems but adds that it is a very "complicated, multidimensional system". To get the staff support required to make the programme work, he felt it needed to be simplified. He also wanted creativity to be central, rather than just part of best practice.

On the first point, Lee developed a visual "cog" system to help staff understand and use the scheme. He took the strategy's five levels of support and allocated a coloured cog to each level, which staff could recognise as requiring a certain action.

A green cog is the base level of support that every child should receive in school. A blue cog indicates that low-level intervention is required, such as subtly giving a mother a "spare" coat for a child who consistently comes to school without one. A yellow cog dictates more substantial input, such as providing a regular mentor for the child or meeting frequently with parents. A pink cog necessitates the informal input of outside agencies. Finally, a red cog shows that formalised involvement of outside agencies is required.

"If you present information through complex PowerPoints or flow diagrams, it can stop the whole process in its tracks. …

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