Partnership Model - Between Specialist Agency, School & Local PCT

Image in Action, a voluntary sector specialist SRE agency with 23 years' experience of working with pupils with learning disabilities through partnership projects in special and mainstream schools, supported Springhallow special school in Ealing with their SRE over three academic years. This long-term investment was possible because of funding from Ealing PCT and support from the Teenage Pregnancy Unit (at DCSF).

How it began
The need for support with SRE delivery was identified by teachers working with a group of senior pupils (aged 14-16); some with high-functioning autism and some with Asperger's syndrome. The school PSHE education coordinator had heard of Image in Action through local healthy schools training and set up a meeting to explore possible collaboration. It was agreed that Image in Action would deliver 30 SRE sessions to the identified group of young people over the course of the next academic year.

During the summer term, prior to the start of the sessions, the trainer from Image in Action met with some of the staff and pupils involved. This enabled the trainer to assess the ability and maturity of the pupils and start to get to know the two teachers and the teaching assistant. A second meeting with the staff team allowed more detailed discussion of the resources to be used, the learning methods and individual needs of pupils. This was important because the staff involved were not trained or experienced in SRE.

In September, the trainer met with the parents of pupils involved. This was an important opportunity to build trust in the external agency. As an experienced SRE specialist, the Image in Action trainer was able to lead the meeting, focusing on the resources to be used and the session content, handling questions from parents and encouraging individuals to stay after the meeting if they had questions more appropriate to ask one to one.

The trainer also met with the full school staff group, so that they could be introduced; would know about the practicalities of when, where and how the sessions would be run; and would understand their role in ensuring the smooth running of the programme and a consistent approach to support pupils' learning.

The SRE sessions were led by the trainer with full participation and support from the staff team, for example with small-group work. Every session was monitored through a feedback form, which fed into a termly report for the school and funders and an update for parents. The trainer also gave short updates at school staff meetings - thus keeping the full school community involved.

Lasting impact
Towards the end of the 30-week sessions, the trainer increasingly shared responsibility for planning and leading the sessions with the staff. In the next academic year, the two teachers and teaching assistant delivered the SRE programme themselves using the trainer's lesson plans. The trainer provided ongoing support by meeting them once a month after school to discuss progress and any specific issues. In this way, staff received peer support and could ask questions as they arose.

The staff led the group entirely on their own, except for two sessions in the summer term when they invited the local Healthy Schools worker to come in to do sessions on contraception, STIs and information about local services - that the staff felt would be better coming from an outside agency.

The programme now continues in the school as a regular part of the curriculum and has run independently of Image in Action since September 2007.

Success factors
• Image in Action have specialist skills that were of clear benefit to the school at their stage of development of an SRE programme.
• The school committed a significant amount of staff time, facilitated communication with parents and was prepared to be flexible about programming the sessions.
• The combination of funding from the PCT and commitment from the school enabled Image in Action to deliver their 'ideal' model of support, which involved building relationships and staff skills to have a lasting impact.

More information on this theme can be found in the the Sex Education Forum resource 'External visitors and sex and relationships education'.