Engage in Education update from a Communication Advisor

It’s hard to believe we’ve been delivering the Engage in Education programme pilot for a whole year. As with any similar programme 2011/12 has been full of changes and developments, with some challenges thrown in for good measure.

Communication Advisors (CAs) have delivered training to their locality teams of key workers, volunteers, local project coordinators, and teachers. This has focused on improving their awareness of and ability to support young people with hidden communication needs who are at risk of exclusion. This includes using communication supportive strategies (such as visual information and simple language) in 1:1 and small group sessions. The teams have also been encouraged to share good practice through caseload meetings. Other exciting activities have been support with parent groups in Manchester and recruitment of Communication Champion volunteers, who support the CAs locally with various tasks – from supporting young people to feedback on how their communication skills have improved to carrying out focus groups.

In addition each local Communication Advisor has worked with a number of schools. They’ve delivered awareness training followed up with targeted support to selected groups of subject teachers around their use of communication supportive strategies. This support has involved joint learning walks with staff, getting pupil feedback on the teachers’ use of strategies and workshops to help teachers identify how they can build on existing good practices. One of the most important things about this has been supporting school staff to think about not only what they will do differently, but why they are doing it, and how they will be able to tell that they have made a difference. This work will be evaluated after a term by repeating learning walks and student feedback, and by reviewing the evidence gathered by staff.

We are continually reviewing and updating the way we do things. Being a very creative team with a strong background in speech, language and communication has been important for this. Also key has been regular opportunities at our team meetings to reflect on what we have been doing and whether it has been effective or not.

We hope to take on new schools in September 2012 in each locality, to continue growing the programme. The Department for Education (DfE) funding for the programme was reduced in March 2012 with a view to us becoming self-sustainable. This will be done by trading our services to schools, some of whom will be contributing already from September 2012.

If you want to read more about I CAN and the work we do, check out our website on www.ican.org.uk.  If you want to read more about Catch 22 and Engage in Education, go to http://www.catch-22.org.uk/Engage-in-Education