PLCs – sharing knowledge and experience
Got something to share? I CAN Communication Advisor, Amanda Baxter, highlights the benefits of joining a professional learning community.
There is a saying: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ recognising that parenting is a shared responsibility – a communal affair. A key part of I CAN’s Place strategy is that we believe it takes communities to enable children to learn to talk, make friends, be confident and make progress at school. This is why community is at the heart of what we do – whether that community is family, a school or nursery setting or a workplace.
One of the ways we have been working with schools and settings is by supporting professional learning communities (or PLCs). PLCs formed out of the school systems as a way of enabling staff to support each other, share knowledge and skills and move practice forward. We have come to find that PLCs may also have a specific focus such as speech, language and communication.
Research shows that having a sense of shared leadership and shared values is important in sustaining these groups and helping them move forward, so this is central to the way we work. For example, in West Somerset we are attending early years hub meetings to discuss issues around speech and language support. We are also supporting ‘Boost’ practitioner groups to share ideas, problem solve and innovate around their delivery of Early Talk Boost. In Derby, we are working with the local research school and supporting their newly formed early years oracy PLC.
Speech and language network meetings are a useful way for practitioners to come together, share ideas for supporting language and also find out about developments and good practice. A recent awareness raising session on developmental language disorder (DLD) in Barking and Dagenham enabled practitioners to find out more and to discuss ways of identifying and supporting children; they were also able to find out more about support available locally.
In Knowsley and Derby, groups of practitioners and policy makers recently got together to discuss interim findings from a national review into speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). This provided an opportunity to share information that has been gathered across England and present potential solutions for better identification and support for children with SLCN. It also re-ignites awareness of the issue and commitment to meeting children and young people’s needs in this area.
In some of I CAN’s Place locations, the idea of having a ‘Communication Champion’ in different communities such as schools and early years settings is gaining traction.
PLCs can also be virtual: In West Somerset we are exploring options of online groups so that staff have more instant access to ideas and don’t have to wait until termly meetings. This would enable the group to work collaboratively online and access support when they need it, as well as circumventing any geographical barriers.
PLCs are a way of developing practitioners, schools and settings capacity to support children’s speech, language and communication. We are working with local groups and networks to enhance sustainable ways of moving forward.