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Guidance on partnership working between allied health professions and education

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5. LEADERSHIP

"Leadership takes place every day. It is neither the traits of the few, a rare event, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. … Every time we face a conflict among competing values … we face the need to learn new ways."â€' Heifetz (1994). Leadership without easy answers.24

"Leadership is central to improving performance, redesigning services and securing better outcomes for the people of Scotland." NHSScotland (2007) Better Health, Better Care: Action plan.25

Personal responsibility

Partnership working requires leadership at all levels and across services. In order to make partnership working effective, leadership needs to be the responsibility of everyone. To overcome the challenges involved in partnership working, all professionals take personal responsibility for continuing to focus on the purpose and outcomes of partnership working. The purpose is to deliver better outcomes for children and young people with additional support needs by working together to ensure they benefit fully from education.

The purpose of partnership working is to combine human and material resources to achieve more together than can be achieved alone. When all staff are clear about this purpose and act in a way that achieves it, then they are exercising leadership. Those within organisations who have positions of authority have responsibility for creating a context and an ethos where staff can work together well. In turn this also means recognising each others' leadership role rather than relying on job-titles and positions of authority.

Relationships, communication and interpersonal skills

Creating an ethos of respect and mutual understanding between different professions and parents is a pre-requisite for partnership working. In practice then, leadership is about focusing all activities on delivering an effective service to young people. In order to do this, excellent communication is required from practitioner level to the strategic planning level. This includes communication across agencies and with service users, particularly parents. Effective communication helps develop good quality relationships which reflect a genuine regard and respect for each other's contribution to supporting children. Different professional interests are put aside when partnerships are working well. Constraints and challenges are understood and responsibility shared in a way that is solution focused.

It is essential that all practitioners take into account an individual child's or young person's communication needs and that they are aware of the most successful way of interacting and supporting children and young people to express their views.

Stirling Council Education Services and NHS Forth Valley speech and language therapists have a shared understanding of the differing communication approaches that children and young people with communication difficulties may be using. By referring to a communication resource information booklet ( CRIB) the children's preferred and optimum means of communication are clearly recognised and implemented.

More information is available from: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Education/Schools/welfare/partnershipworking

"What you said…"

Good leadership skills and a can-do attitude really help. Then we can give a pro-active rather than a reactive attitude to such challenges as early intervention, transition planning and school placements.

(Local authority)

I think we need better leadership to be able to change our traditional ideas of what we are here to do and how we can best help children.

(Allied Health Professional)

Issues to consider

1. Where are the greatest challenges to effective partnership working?

2. How can the challenges to partnership working be addressed by effective leadership and shared vision?

3. What are the interpersonal skills which lead to effective partnership working?

4. What is effective communication in the context of partnership working?

Signposts for improvement. Education and allied health professions can improve the quality and effectiveness of their leadership by:

1. Taking account of the importance of good relationships and interpersonal skills.

2. Understanding and respecting the roles of parents and of each professional and the demands of that role.

3. Ensuring there is a consistent and shared vision about what partners want children and young people to achieve.

4. Developing good communication across agencies at every level.