‘Interweaving MATs’ – EP work across schools in a multi-academy trust
This short article reflects our journey, as EP and MAT Strategic Inclusion Lead, in seeking ways to work successfully, efficiently and ethically across school staff, families and children.
Amanda (MAT Strategic Inclusion Lead) and Anita (Educational Psychology) have worked together for 8 years, initially in a large inner city primary school, which was the first school in a multi-academy trust. The trust has grown over the years and now includes five primary schools.
Representing the various ways EPs work
As the MAT has grown, there has been a growing need to recognise the needs of each individual school whilst simultaneously recognising the benefits and cost efficiencies that come from working across schools. To this end, we have adapted the ‘Currie matrix’ from the Review of Educational Psychology Services in Scotland in 2002 to support staff in evaluating the impact of the EP work.
Although dated, Currie (2002) offers a useful framework for EPs when reflecting on their work. It draws on MacKay (1999) who highlighted the main levels of EP work:
- individual child or family
- school or establishment
- local authority.
In relation to each of these three levels of work EPs have five core functions:
Amanda and Anita discussed the Currie matrix and used it to support the Lead Practitioners for Inclusion in each school to reflect on deployment of EP time in schools. This included adding ‘group’ and amending LA to MAT. The diagram used is shown below;
In order to illustrate cost-effectiveness, a crude arrow was added showing the cost and relative impact of the work commissioned. This was simple and arguably reductive, but it enabled Inclusion Leads to reflect on the very immediate issue of cost-effectiveness and impact.
The table was populated with examples of work to illustrate the kind of work that had taken place in the past year. We did this to help staff reflect on the work they had commissioned, who it was for and so identify work that could be shared across schools within the MAT. This proved to be more difficult for certain types of work however most importantly it enabled discussion about the functions of work, and what these mean.
Planning and reflecting on EP work
Amanda initially introduced the above diagram with an information sheet to the Inclusion Leads to support them in planning the work for Anita in their school. This facilitated a more organised and structured approach to EP work in each school.
The revised Currie diagram was re-visited after half a term to consider the costs involved in the commissioned EP work. This enabled reflection on work being commissioned, as sometimes Inclusion Leads were asking the EP to work on individual cases where the background information or history was missing and/or there was lack of clarity on the purpose of Anita’s involvement. Additionally, it allowed discussion of the function and intended outcomes of work with children with EHCPs (where this was considered traditional EP work), rather than considering impact. Through these discussions, it was evident that Inclusion Leads benefited from being able to reflect on the cost and purpose of EP work to make best use of time available.
Subsequently Amanda and her team started to consider the range of work they were asking Anita to be involved in across the schools and the potential of distributing the range of work across the revised Currie diagram.
The school teams discussed priorities for work across the MAT, including the removal of Anita from statutory work unless there was a clear purpose. The model provided a framework that each Inclusion Lead could apply to support their thinking and planning. This had a positive impact on the way the Inclusion Leads planned for Anita’s time as they had a much better understanding of the cost of work versus the effectiveness.
Using the revised Currie diagram also supported the autonomy of Inclusion Leads in planning Anita’s time as it gave them a tool with which to feedback to their Head of School or Senior Leadership Team (SLT) about the reasons for using the EPs time in particular ways, and the impact. This reduced the instances of reactionary work where members of SLT insisted that an individual case be prioritised.
Working at a whole-systems level
After a term of working in this way, Amanda and her team started to consider how they could use Anita’s time across the MAT in a more streamlined way to maximise impact. Thinking about the MAT as a whole led to a termly coaching session for the Inclusion Leads. Here they have been able to develop group approaches to issues across all of the schools such as:
- how to respond to staff requests for support that don’t have very much detail attached to them
- engage in additional informal training sessions with Anita
- problem solve as a group and so provide support to each other.
In addition optional training sessions were offered through the MAT professional development offer to target areas of concern that came up frequently across all schools. Working in this way meant that the MAT was able to commission Anita to deliver an accredited Speech and Language training programme for all Inclusion Leads and two Inclusion Teaching Assistants. This has meant that we have been able to increase the skills of our Inclusion Leads, thereby increasing their capacity to support staff in school.
At the end of year meeting, each Inclusion Leader was asked to reflect on the work Anita had done over the year and to plot it on the revised Currie diagram. Each Inclusion Leader had a go at this task with some finding it easier than others. Some found that they couldn’t remember what they had asked Anita to do over the year, sometimes that purposes weren’t clear and that it had been a busy year!
The revised Currie diagram was highlighted as a beneficial planning and evaluation tool. It has been used to plan for Autumn Term work, starting with the work that would have the most impact. Moving forwards it will be re-visited every half term during our Inclusion Network Meetings to ensure planning for maximum impact.