I have trained Youth Offending Team staff in Hidden Communication Difficulties, across the country for over a year now. I have learned a great deal about how they support vulnerable children and young people. I have come to the conclusion that many YOT staffs have more knowledge, skills and strategies for working with children/young people with Hidden Communication Needs than some teaching staff in High Schools. This is not to discredit staff in schools - not enough support and training is provided to help teachers recognise the complex needs of some children and young people. More training and information regarding diverse and complex needs plus, understanding the implications of behaviours that are exhibited, will ensure some young people avoid a route in to the Youth Justice system. With shared knowledge of SLCN and Hidden Communication Needs, school staff/other agencies can prevent some pupils from becoming excluded, thereby increasing the opportunities for accessing vital services to support assessment, and provide appropriate interventions. Many youngsters either opt out or are excluded from the education system due to their “behaviour”. Behaviour is seen, but often not understood.
The Communication Trust training for Youth Offending Teams is good and needs to continue, but we need some joined up thinking. Training needs to be provided to a wider group eg Magistrates, the Police, plus all services working with Children, Young People and Families. We all need to be skilled, knowledgeable and consistent in our approach. When key messages are consistently given by Youth Workers, Health Practitioners, the Police, Court Officials, Teaching Staff etc - we can achieve a united front for the benefit of Children and Young People.
One practical solution I will promote is that Sentence Trouble training materials could be included in SENCO training. Liaison between SENCOs and their local YOT/Secure Children’s Estate is highly desirable to support young people’s transition back in to Education. High School staff and Key Stage 2 staff would benefit from viewing the film but also undertaking Day 1 of the YOT training (or the equivalent). There are numerous excellent resources and materials available to support SLCN – the YOT training materials provide another perspective.
I firmly believe that when working with children and young people, we need to support the development of their language and communication skills.
Contact Dave Mahon to give your support.