The general view of SMART was that it aimed to help remove barriers to education, through helping children and families as well as schools, by providing early intervention and preventative work, although there was no single definitive “sound-bite” message. A clear statement of SMART’s priorities may be useful to enable appropriately targeted referrals from schools, although it may be that establishing a very specific focus would stifle the diversity of ideas that team members from different backgrounds contribute. SMART are actively engaged in raising their profile with other organisations, and developing opportunities for joint work. Some schools suggested that they also would appreciate a visit from SMART to outline who they are and how they work, as the team has changed so much since its inception. A need for standardised procedures to keep schools informed about the ongoing progress of cases was evident when talking to school staff. Some schools and families also expressed a desire for more consultation regarding case closure. The extra capacity that SMART provides was clearly valued, and there were many positive reports of casework that SMART had carried out. A few families and schools, however, reported less successful outcomes, and it may be that detailed qualitative analysis of less successful cases would help establish why some cases do not work so well. High turnover of staff was an issue for most people. This has to be weighed up against the extra capacity that is gained from seconding Learning Mentors into the team, and the long-term benefits derived by schools and by the Learning Mentors themselves from such secondments. Furthermore, the high calibre of staff that are recruited to the team means that in the long run they are likely to want to progress their careers further and thus leave the team. The trade-off between highly specialised expertise within the team and the increased capacity provided by staff with more general experience and skills is not an easy one to negotiate. This is a difficult balance to maintain even without the constraints imposed by funding and the uncertain status of the team. Changes within the team structure have tried to address this balance, and it may be that there is scope for extending access to specialised expertise while maintaining capacity within the team for face-to-face delivery. Overall, this evaluation of SMART presented some aspects that could be improved, but also yielded a wide variety of positive feedback from many sources. For a team to demonstrate positive outcomes while undergoing radical changes in structure as well as radical changes in the local political context is no mean feat., for which SMART should be commended.
|Publisher||Cornwall County Council|
|Number of pages||115|
|Publication status||Published - 30 Oct 2009|