In this report I will explore the key arguments and issues associated with partnership working. I will assess the validity of the arguments presented and consider the wider implications of this. I will highlight how this influenced my decision to collect data from a range of sources to increase the verisimilitude of the process. The small scale evaluation will focus on understanding why BeSD students fail to make the required levels of progress, even when receiving targeted support. I will try to ascertain the attitudes/values and beliefs of the outside agencies involved with the Academy and identify ways to move forward. Finally I will delineate how this activity has impacted on my current thinking and as a result how this will change my future practice.
Key Arguments & Issues
The original concept of partnership working came about as a direct result of Victoria Climbie’s death in 2000. Lord Laming (2003) conducted an independent inquiry and found the agencies involved to be grossly negligent, which is reinforced by Frost (2005). This led to the formation of the initiative ‘Every Child Matters’ and the Children’s Act of 2004, which outlined how all agencies involved in working with children, should have a shared responsibility to improve health and wellbeing; by leading community partnerships, delivering on national priorities/targets and commissioning/delivering services. The main aim was to protect children of all ages in the UK. MacAuslan (2006) outlines what the benefits are to partnership working; enhanced wellbeing of children and parents, plus an increased accuracy of needs assessment carried out by professionals. Tunnard (1991) defined Partnership working as;
‘The essence of partnership is sharing. It is marked by respect for one another, role divisions, rights to information, accountability, competence, and value accorded to individual input. In short, each partner is seen as having something to contribute, power is shared, decisions are made jointly and roles are not only respected but are also backed by legal and moral rights.’
However, current research suggests that partnership working is fraught with difficulties and even the term ‘Partnership Working’ is considered a contested concept. Burton et al (2009) & JIT (2009) amongst a whole plethora of authors, outline what these potential barriers could be;
• Clarity of roles and accountability
• Behaviour and power relationships
• Varying degrees of skills & knowledge
• Structure and the environment
• Available resources
• External & cultural influences
JIT (2009) usefully explores these above barriers in more depth, using an Ishikawa Fishbone diagram, to ascertain the root cause of these issues;
Glenny (2005) suggests that it will be impossible to control the ‘system’ as outlined in the above diagram (partnership work), but that it may be possible to formulate good practice through the management of communication, in creating an environment of trust. Frost & Lloyd (2006), Pinkus (2005), MacAuslan (2006), Burton et al (2009) & Treseder et al (2003) have all stressed what the key ingredients are for successful partnership working;
• Good communication
• Fostering of trusting relationships through transparent communication, empathy and understanding
• Clear purpose
• Win – Win
• Equal balance of power for all stakeholders
The majority of the evidence points towards partnership work resulting in positive outcomes for children. However, Frost (2005 pp.19-20) intimates that a shift toward increased partnership working would be politically undesirable for the families involved, due to an increase of surveillance, control and as a result increased social exclusion, which is a very plausible argument. However, I think that without partnership working the possibility of social exclusion would increase. So we need to ask ourselves which is the lesser of the two evils.
In our Academy children with BeSD are still underperforming, achieving way below expected standards and are at risk of permanent exclusion but more importantly social exclusion. From the research conducted and a development of my understanding of this concept, I was led to believe that there is an inherent problem within our partnerships. In an attempt to discover what the root cause was, I decided to investigate this particular issue further focusing on our work with outside partners.
During the initial stages I selected data that would highlight which students were underperforming due to the amount of time they had lost as a result of detentions and exclusions. I then used the vulnerable student’s database to ascertain if these particular students had been identified as BeSD. The CAFs and TACs were then reviewed; to gain a flavour for the agencies involved their attendance, the attendance of parents, the action taken and the progress to date. It was clear from this evidence that the majority of the outside agencies were attending regular reviews, as were the parents, but progress was slow.
I decided to carry out a structured group interview of all the outside agencies involved in an attempt to unpick the problem further. The information collated suggested multiple causes for lack of progress. One particular theme that aspired was the lack of follow through in the classroom of work being done by outside agencies. Goodman & Burton (2010) corroborate these findings. They relate how partners felt that their work was ‘undone’ when the individual went back to school and how teachers did not feel supported and lacked the information and relevant skills to deal with students who have BeSD.
Another theme that emerged was how the partners felt that the behaviour management system was inflexible and did not cater for these particular students, hence resulted in exclusions. The partners also suggested that further intervention to work more closely with these students and their parents was needed. They suggest how both of these themes impacted directly on their remit, which caused them further frustration. Treseder et al (2003) describes how all partners need to be able to fulfil their remit to achieve success, which the themes suggest is not happening. Hence it is important to regularly review practices and procedures to ensure the key ingredients are incorporated to achieve success.
Much of the evidence collected suggests that partnership working is indeed fraught with problems. The research evidence is from the result of a small scale study. The majority of the data collected came from the interview group structured questions. Hence, it is plausible to suggest that I could have influenced the data. As a result this type of data collection does have its dissenting voices concerning its reliability, due to the lack of quantitative data and empirical value. However, it can be argued that quantitative data does not give the thick descriptions required for this type of study. I do believe that I have influenced the investigation, as I originally thought that this may have been a problem and therefore the questions I asked may have dictated the outcome.
In hindsight it may have been more pertinent in this instance to have conducted unstructured interviews or possibly to take a more organic approach and allow the hypothesis to be determined from the data gathered. It would have also been more beneficial to have recorded the interview group, as I may have missed out important information. The recordings would have allowed me to pick through at my own time and in much more detail. The transcriptions were possibly of poor quality compared to a full time researcher, who would potentially have access to software that would identify the themes that occur, plus they would have more time to go through the data.
Before carrying out the research for this assignment I was totally unaware of all the issues that partnership working faced and the tensions between policy and practice. As a school leader my main aim is to achieve governmental targets, whilst incorporating inclusive practice. I believed with absolute conviction that my core principles values and beliefs were centred on inclusive practice. I now realise that I could not make this judgement, as I did not have the required knowledge or skills to identify the core issues and therefore resolve them. Reading around the subject has developed my knowledge on what partnership working is and what the key ingredients are for it to be successful, which has given me the tools to question our policies and practice.
It may be concluded that our current practice can be attributed to the underachievement of students with BeSD. It is clear that there is a need to review our current teaching and learning practices and policies, to involve teaching staff as partners and provide the required information and the necessary training but also giving partners the opportunity to share strategies with teaching staff. What is also apparent is the need to create a second layer within the behaviour management system for students who display these types of behaviours. Furthermore, it is important to implement further strategies to prevent exclusions and aid the partners involved to achieve their remit. It is imperative to include parents at all stages of the process to ensure our practice is truly inclusive. Above all however, it is important that our procedures and practises are regularly reviewed to ensure our partnership working sustains the key ingredients for success and helps these students to achieve.
Burton, D. M. et al (2009) ‘Are the contradictions and tensions that have characterised educational provision for young people with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties a persistent feature of current policy?’ Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 141-155:
Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Frost, N. (2005) ‘Professionalism, partnership and joined up thinking: a research review of front-line working with children and families’, Totnes: Research in Practice (eds) Partnership Working Reader
Frost, N. & Lloyd, A. (2006) ‘Implementing Multi-Disciplinary Teamwork in the New Child Welfare Policy Environment’, Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. 14 Iss: 2 pp. 11 – 17: Emerald Publications
Glenny, G. (2005) ‘Riding the dragon; developing inter-agency systems for supporting children’, Support for Learning Vol. 20 4 pp. 167 – 175: (eds) Partnership Working Reader
Goodman, R. L. & Burton, D. M. (2010) ‘The inclusion of students with BESD in mainstream schools: teachers’ experiences of and recommendations for creating a successful inclusive environment’, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, Vol. 15:3, pp. 223-237: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
JIT (2009) ‘Barriers to Partnership Working’, Briefing Notes for Practioners & Managers. [online] at https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:2fEk6ihnbTEJ:www.jitscotland.org.uk/downloads/1250518249-Chapter%25204%2520-%2520Barriers%2520to%2520Partnership%2520Working.pdf+joint+improvement+team+chapter+4&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiUdOrN6KrSQ66CrHDX1qU9rKSq6rBjZ-TPIufGxwsL9LhdUpxizVuiBRiCA6t9WhmAamFvu5cpSSN61fkFUZtfgknghCQQAjXL-jygk7GfAyDgRBIJe98Ea44eJXYyZbFU91iP&sig=AHIEtbQPrQevS-EOfbRjnP4wir2Gym_8VA Accessed on 3/6/2012
MacAulsan, E. (2006) ‘Partnership Working’, The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health Vol. 126: pp. 160: Sage Publishing
Pinkus, S. (2003) ‘All the talk and no action: transforming the rhetoric of parent – professional partnership into practice’, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs Vol. 3: No 2: pp. 128 – 141: (eds) Partnership Working Reader.
Pinkus, S. (2005) ‘Bridging the gap between policy and practice: adopting a strategic vision for partnership’, British Journal of Special Education Vol. 32, No. 4: Working in special education.
Treseder, J et al (2003) ‘Report of a Multi-agency Action Research Project to Improve Service Delivery to Families with Complex Needs’, University of Nottingham Publications.
Tunnard, J. (1991) ‘The Children Act – Partnership With Families’, The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, Vol, 112, pp. 240: Sage Publishers