Last September, the RSA launched a 12-month project investigating how children most at risk of being suspended or expelled from school – the so-called Pinball Kids – can be better supported to thrive in education.
As the project draws to a close, the RSA has surveyed 1,500 teachers to find out why teachers exclude children from lessons and what could help them do this less often.
More Early Help Support
Amongst the survey’s many very interesting findings, there was one in particular that caught my eye – the fact that 45% of teachers believe that more frequent access to support from early help or children’s mental health services would help them reduce the number of times they remove pupils from class.
This grabbed my attention because the Troubled Families Programme is designed to drive exactly this sort of closer working between the frontline staff who families come into contact with on a regular basis.
Team around the school
For example, in Sheffield, the Building Stronger Families team (their local name for the programme) have used data to identify the schools which have the highest number of children at risk of exclusion and initiated a conversation with the school about what support is needed for those pupils, their families and their teachers. They’ve then built a ‘team around the school’ which includes family support workers as well as specialists in areas such as autism and children’s mental health.
So, rather than despairing of a child’s behaviour until finally it is so bad they need to be removed from the class or even permanently excluded, the teacher and the family are supported by early help teams to identify and resolve the underlying cause – which could be anything from bullying, stress at home, or poor health.
The benefits of such an approach are clear: the child and their family are supported earlier and avoid the situation getting worse, for example being excluded from school; the teacher feels supported to help that family and child; and everyone avoids expensive crisis measures whether that is a place in a pupil referral unit or being referred to children’s social care.
Sheffield is not alone. Across the country there are many other local authority early help teams taking similar approaches. For example, Liverpool have established a School Family Support Service that helps school staff to provide effective whole family interventions using a restorative approach. And Stockport’s ‘team around the school’ approach means schools are part of an integrated multi-agency partnership that offers families early help and support. This is a model that’s being rolled out to other parts of Greater Manchester.
You can find more case studies of better joint working to support families in our annual report. And if you have an example you’d like to share, or any questions, let us know below.
Head of Policy
Troubled Families Team