Working in Partnership – Schools 2

On the other hand, schools could lose sight of the strength of influence that they could bring to bear on troubled youngsters. What they often needed was not more criticism but reassurance and support. It was little use holding meetings about young people in trouble at some office miles away from the school, and summoning school staff to them. There seemed to be some logic for meetings to decide whether to prosecute or caution young people to be held at police stations where cases could be most efficiently processed, but in practice this would result either in the school being absent or being represented by one individual who would know nothing about each young person. We had much greater success when meetings were held in the schools, so that we presented ourselves as seeking to help the school with the young person, and could talk with the staff (released from the classroom for just a few minutes) who knew each young person . This also tended to result in a discussion in which the school teacher was as focussed on finding a solution as the other agencies and feeling less need to defend the school from unrealistic demands. Teachers could be creative about how to integrate responses to offending by the young person with the day to day contact they already had with youngster and family. They could also be a real help in judging when more formal court led responses to an offence were needed.

This also was in line with some evidence that positive outcomes for young people in schools were associated not with specialist intervention by a seconded social worker with the young person, but with the provision of that social work support to the school staff. (I can’t now find the reference for this but will look further!)

Putting schools at the centre of meetings rather than police or social work opened the door to a productive dynamic – away from a bunch of professional do gooders telling the school how to do its job, towards a more shared problem solving discussion where specialists could offer support to the school.

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