Youth and Authority 10

The experience of working with these issues, therefore, in a social work agency, has made me think about the way in which organisations are managed and structured to cope with the effects of stress and to sustain the level of consistency and attentiveness to those with whom they work that is needed. Some of the research that has been done in school settings speaks to this issue. Some of you may be aware of research done in Sheffield in the late1970’s where it was found that different schools had massive differences in their use of exclusion and suspension from school. Some schools seldom if ever felt the need to use these sanctions, whilst others serving similar catchment areas, used them frequently. It was not the case that the schools with the most socially disadvantaged pupils tended to exclude or suspend the most pupils, nor did those schools with low exclusion or suspension rates only achieve this at the expense of the conforming majority. Relative success in examinations did not seem to relate to the practice of the schools in relation to exclusion or suspension. This therefore, must say something about the capacity of different organisations to cope with the stress of dealing with the issues about which we are today concerned. I have no doubt that if similar research were done into the probation setting, similar variations could be found depending on the quality of staff supervision, support and management provided.1 In Milton Keynes, I am particularly aware of the stress and strains placed on staff by the process of growth and change that inevitably occurs as the new city grows. In these circumstances, do we manage our organisations to encourage stability and consistency, and to support and develop staff with minimal disruption to service delivery?

1Work done at Texas Christian University over recent years has highlighted that organisational functioning has a far greater impact on effectiveness of service delivery than any other factor.

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