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On the Same Page

Schools are vital inter-professional hubs for the support of all children including those with high and complex needs, despite never being designed to function as such. School leaders, teachers, families, and service providers need systems and structures to support them in navigating this complex multi-system and multi-disciplinary context. Without practical structures to support collaboration, schools become fraught with misunderstandings and conflict around who is responsible for what, spiralling frustration, isolation, defensiveness, confusion, and finger-pointing that increase costs, multiply complaints, reduce outcomes for children, and negatively impact the well-being of staff and families.

Students with high and complex (support) needs attract multiple external service providers. These service providers produce reports with up to 20+ pages of recommendations and accommodations for schools to implement so that education and learning is accessible to that child. Schools accept that they have a primary responsibility to include and educate a child; that they have a responsibility to the child and their family about that child’s learning. Schools also accept that they have a responsibility to ensure that the circumstances and conditions at the school are appropriate and conducive for the individual student to learn and take advantage of the education on offer. Schools often find themselves holding a huge amount of responsibility without the authority, practical resources, or financial capacity to make that responsibility manifest.

For the school to do its job, every education, health, and human services provider involved in the support and care of a child with high and complex (support) needs has responsibility to provide the school with all the required information to ensure the child is appropriately resourced. Without adequate resources the child cannot fully participate in learning and get the education to which they are entitled. The unequal distribution of practical resourcing for high and complex (support) needs students between schools across all systems is alarming.

Schools need protocols for collaboration between the multiple health and human services providers drawn to families and students with high and complex (support) needs. This places the less than equal citizen (child and family) into a close and complicated relationship with the more than equal institutions of the society and state. Genuine collaboration is difficult to achieve when any of these external parties refuses to cooperate or promotes fracture through the exercise of unequal statutory power. The extraordinary benefits that come with collaboration are evaporated by fracture.

bower(note) is a protocol that provides the structure needed to minimise the risk of fracture and maximise sustainable collaborative relationships within school communities and beyond the school gate. bower(note) manages the inequality implicit in the relationship between the citizen and the institution. It helps all parties or stakeholders navigate the complications of shared responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of child and adolescent in an educational setting.

Principals, wellbeing, inclusion leaders, and teachers often find themselves carrying an order of responsibility without the congruent authority to carry out such responsibility. A healthy relationship is collaborative, and a healthy collaboration aligns responsibility with authority and manages inequalities that exist between systems. Quality Area 6 in the Quality Framework for Australian Schools states that “Collaborative partnerships enhance children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing” and that collaborative partnerships with families and communities is necessary.

How do schools establish effective collaboration? How do we get all stakeholders on the same page? Protocols to manage the responsibility/authority equation is at the heart of all collaboration.

To learn more about bower(schools) visit bower(schools) | Bower Place

To see how bower(schools) can support you and your school community book a free Schools Support Assessment meeting at bower(schools) | Bower Place.

For more articles and to learn more about the protocols used within bower(schools) sign up for bower(knowledge) here:

For more information about the National Quality Framework for schools, read: Quality Area 6: Collaborative partnerships with families and communities

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