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No longer just a pilot project!

So, based on the success of the pilot, the Finding Common Ground project now becomes a ongoing service!

I am now working on the next stage in its development and, as part of that, I am clearly stating what the project stands for and what it provides. Many, many thanks to everyone who has contacted me so far and expressed an interest, talked things through, given me ideas and offered to be involved - I hope that you find the progress encouraging and, if you can see yourself as part of the project going forward, please keep (or get) in touch...

The Finding Common Ground project

This project provides independent advice leading to significantly improved relationships between families and schools in the best interests of young people. Outcomes include improved attendance, improved school provision and significantly strengthened relationships between families and schools.  This approach can lead to a reduced need for EHCP applications.

The Finding Common Ground project offers

  • Independent advice and support to parents and carers to strengthen relationships with the school and enable issues to be resolved. 

  • Advice and training for school staff on working constructively with parents and families, particularly of children with additional needs or where the children are failing to thrive in school

  • Confidential, experienced support for senior school staff when facing challenging conversations with parents and carers, particularly around provision for children with additional needs.

What does it cost?

  • The independent advice and support to parents and carers is based on voluntary donations so that provision is available to all who need it;

  • Charges for staff training and advice, webinars and speaking to groups and conferences available on request.

Further information


  • Anyone who works in education knows that a significant number of children are not thriving in our schools - particularly at secondary level.  Nationally there are significant increases in mental health issues, student absence, applications for SEND provision and families opting for home education, particularly in some of the country’s most deprived areas.

  • Parents and carers are often frustrated by the school system which they consider doesn’t meet the needs of their child. Schools are reporting significant rises in vexatious complaints and anger from parents and carers.

  • Schools are subject to very significant external pressures relating to funding, staffing, resources, results and accountability.


Finding Common Ground offers a model for a way forward - intelligent collaboration between parent/carer and school so that each child thrives.  Schools want to give their pupils the best possible chances for the future.  Parents/carers want the best for the children.   Building a positive relationship between family and school is essential for all, but particularly when the young person may have additional needs and is failing to thrive in school.

A positive relationship is built on a shared understanding of what is possible.  Finding Common Ground offers independent advice to parents and carers so that they can engage positively with their child’s school.  This advice draws upon a deep understanding of the ways in which schools work, the pressures upon schools and their staff, current best practice and lived experience of working with children with additional needs.  As examples of the variety of the work, recent discussions have included explaining possible ways forward with a Year 11 who is refusing to go to school, possible reasonable adjustments for a child who is awaiting an autism diagnosis and the reasons why it may not be necessary to apply for an EHCP.

The advice is independent - Finding Common Ground does not take sides - as the name says we provide knowledge and understanding to enable positive, constructive conversations and strong relationships to be built between school and family. This advice complements and signposts the work of other agencies and charities. 

The pilot project has been running for the last few months and the outcomes are extremely positive - improved attendance,  reduced unnecessary applications for EHCP,  improved provision in schools and  improved parent/carer attitude towards school.  

“It has shifted the balance and I now feel we have an equal partnership. My child is attending the school premises on a regular basis now. We still have setbacks and difficult days but they are happening much less. The atmosphere in our house has changed for the better.”

“..given me guidance and knowledge I didn’t know previously. I now feel more confident in approaching the school in the right manner”

“Thank you so much, its really helpful to speak to someone coming from a different perspective and understanding both sides”

The project has attracted considerable interest from parents/carers, charities and professionals across the educational spectrum including a large number of people wanting to help. Recent articles about the project include those posted by Special Needs Jungle and the Inclusion Quality Mark.

Finding Common Ground now moves onto a secure footing as a permanent service and is looking to expand its work through further links with schools, Trusts, local authorities and charities.


The practicalities are simple.  The project is advertised through its website (, social media and word of mouth.  A parent/carer contacts the project through the relevant email address (  A half-hour initial conversation is arranged and takes place online or over the phone.  Sometimes further information is provided by email and some families return for further discussions as appropriate.  A voluntary donation is suggested, but the service can be accessed for free so that cost is not a barrier to access.  

In addition to the core advisory work the project provides confidential support, advice and training for school staff as well as speaking to groups and charitable organisations. A charge for these services is made to enable the core advisory work to be free to as many families as possible,

Lots going on!

James Harris

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