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The "Finding Common Ground" project at 4 and a half months!

I set up the Finding Common Ground project on 25 Sept 2023 and gave it 6 months to see if it was a service that was needed.


Four and a half months in it is very clear that it is needed, that the model works and that it has impact. So what happens now?


Firstly, some facts, figures (and stories)....

  • About 20 days work on the project since it started - roughly the equivalent of a day a week

  • 32 families helped (a few more than once)

  • 39 individuals or organisations have contacted with messages of support, offers of collaboration or requests for input (e.g. webinar, speak at groups or conferences). Organisations range from small charities to large Trusts and local authorities.

  • 16 immediate feedback forms completed with 4 further sets of feedback after several weeks. All very positive - some examples are...

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

    • “..we have actioned two pieces of advice following the conversation”

    • “Thank you for your clear and concise advice/support to assist me to help my son navigate his way through secondary school and to enhance communications with the school in general.”

    • “It was really helpful speaking with you. I was concerned you would say I was in the wrong etc. You didn't you reassured me to keep going and helping me to understand how fines work was absolutely priceless. Thank you.”

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

    • "..I now feel more in control of the situation and am approaching school with more confidence regarding what we are and are not prepared to try. When school push a little too hard or try to move things on too quickly I feel comfortable pulling back without any hesitation. For me, I think that was the most valuable piece of advice you gave - tell school what you are going to do, rather than feeling at risk from sanctions, fines, prosecution etc. 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. Thank you.”

  • There has been a small amount of advertising - just infrequent posts on social media. The biggest influence on uptake was an article on Special Needs Jungle. This showed that the need is there - it depends on promotion.


So what are the next steps? I value comments from anyone on this - to me the next few months leading up to the summer need to include

  • Declaring the pilot project a success (!) and updating the website to reflect a more permanent service

  • Putting my work on Finding Common Ground on a sustainable basis.  I currently work on the project for free - in order to sustain and expand it some payment for time is necessary.  It is essential that it remains free for anyone who needs to access it, but a voluntary contribution would seem a sensible way forward;

  • Propose to schools, Trusts and LAs that they recommend the service as independent advice for their families and build it into their policies and procedures as optional provision.   Develop a funding model for this.

  • Some educational professionals (SENCOs and HTs) have mentioned that they would value a confidential chance to talk through a challenging case - consider setting up such a service as a pilot and work out a model for it

  • Develop ways that those from disadvantaged communities who might not have the confidence to contact "Finding Common Ground", but might have great need of the service, are helped to do so

  • Develop the speaking and training aspect to provide funding to support the core advice work.


Lots of people want to be involved, which is great. Finding Common Ground needs to develop incrementally, demonstrating impact as it goes. That way it becomes sustainable and will have the means to pay others as the work expands.


But it works! I am delighted!


James Harris


As always, please get in touch via www.findingcommonground.org.uk to discuss any of this further.





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