In this blog, colleagues from the MacIntyre Group share some tips based on experience in supporting young people with a person centred transition in and out of educational settings. Read on to explore how you can improve approaches in your context.
Across the MacIntyre Group we talk a lot about a life that makes sense to every child, young person and adult connected to our organisation. What makes sense to my life will be different from what makes sense to yours. There will of course be shared overarching themes of things that are important to us (having a sense of purpose, being known, understood and supported to thrive, being valued and having those people and things that we value present in our lives). But it is in getting the detail right about these things that either means life makes sense to me or really doesn’t make sense.
This is never more crucial than during a time of change – particularly big changes like starting a new school or moving on from education – when lots of things are new all at once and some of the predictability can’t be relied upon. That is why at MacIntyre Group we invest time and resources into making a young person’s transitions in and out of our education provisions as smooth as possible. MacIntyre runs a special school, six children’s homes and five ‘No Limits’ college hubs for 16-25 year olds. Our sister organisation, MacIntyre Academies Trust, runs four specialist academies and one children’s home.
Here are 5 tips from our practice that we use across a wide range of settings.
1. Relationships first! We always start this as soon as possible and definitely before a student’s first full day! During the pandemic, we’ve had to be creative about the way that we make that happen and prioritise the key relationships being established rather than getting to know lots of people.
“I remember getting to know Keith in the holidays before he started with us in September. Keith was very quiet and subdued at the beginning of our trip. Not far into the walk, Keith made it clear that he wanted to leave. I remember at the time we were near a notice board and Keith walked behind it. As I stood in front, I remember seeing his shoes under the board. Each step he took, I did the same. This moved onto Keith knocking on the board and myself repeating this back. Little did I know then that this was
the start of Intensive Interactions. Keith found it funny and we made that first step of communicating with one another.”
2. Keep communication flowing! Two way communication is so important – what questions and concerns does the young person and their family have? What do they need to know that will help them feel at ease? How much can they tell us about themselves about what is important to them and what works for them to help us build a profile with as many of the right things in place as soon as possible. The voices of young people and families are at the heart of everything we do within the MacIntyre Group and we use this image to help illustrate the importance and impact of these relationships, particularly at the beginning and end of a young person’s education journey with us.
In recent years MacIntyre’s educational services have also begun to learn from our experiences of managing very complex transitions from Treatment and Assessment Centres. Clear processes and responsibilities, accessible information packs for young people and families and visits, or virtual tours where these have not been possible, all help make this communication real and relevant.
3. Start early! Starting early can be very individual – it really is important to find out from a young person what has worked well in the past for big changes. For some young people we know too much of a big lead in can create too much anxiety but it is important that this is agreed and as far as possible not rushed! For some of our young people joining our academies, we start the settling in period at the end of the Summer Term so that they have already done a few weeks before the summer holidays – it avoids a build-up of anticipation or anxiety over the long 6 week break.
MacIntyre No Limits operates as a form of transition in itself – as soon as young people start we are thinking about their preparation for adulthood! For example, work experience focuses not on a one off, short experience, but on helping young people establish volunteer or work opportunities that they can continue into the future.
4. Prioritise feelings of belonging and safety! The first phase of settling in is about helping every young person feel welcome and safe as quickly as possible and we maintain that focus for as long as it takes. This is done in partnership with families and can take many months of listening and adjusting to get things right. This can include a wide range of experts in helping us to understand the young person and how to meet their needs safely. The young person and their family are always recognised as the
most important experts in this team.
‘When I first met the support staff I knew I was going to get on well with them. They never pushed me too far. It was all at my pace which I felt more comfortable with. I didn’t talk to them at first. I would only communicate with them by pen and paper. We slowly increased the length of the sessions. I was becoming more happy. The one thing I really did like was that they would always listen and would always try to help. At the end of the first year I finally spoke to (my Key Worker). This was one of my first massive achievements. I wanted to talk to her for ages but I just couldn’t so when I did it felt amazing and I finally had a voice.”
“I spoke to one mum whose daughter joined us last year and she couldn’t believe the progress her daughter had made in just one year. She engages more with them at home, she is so happy and friendly. She said ‘not in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it would have been possible for my daughter to achieve this level of happiness!’”
5. Flexibility and creativity! Creativity is part of MacIntyre’s ‘DNA’ so has always played a key role in the way we support transitions. In recent times, we have had to adjust and discover new levels of innovation to implement these approaches. Changing the times and places that we meet, taking things into a virtual space or adapting our provision to accommodate as much of a sense of familiarity as possible have all become new options in our offer. Having a framework and our guiding principles in our DNA keeps us on track and clear on providing a quality experience to all of the young people who we support.
"The team wanted to include Ellen in the interview process for her staff team, but were aware that she experienced social anxiety. This meant that sitting in a room with the potential candidates was not something she was comfortable with. Thinking on their feet, the team came up with the perfect solution to ensure Ellen could be involved in the process - a video link. This meant Ellen could produce some amazing feedback…and from this, we were able to create a strong and skilled team.”
You can read more about some of these, and other, case studies here:
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