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Why should schools and professionals advertise "Finding Common Ground" to parents and carers?


To many professionals in schools hearing about "Finding Common Ground" they might assume that it is about finding new ways to criticise them! This is really not the case.


I am a teacher - I still teach for the majority of each week. I was a headteacher for years. I know the feeling that you can never do enough for the young people in your care and whichever way you turn you are criticised. I get it.


Finding Common Ground is about reducing the stress and conflict that comes about when parents/carers and schools are in disagreement about meeting the needs of the child. Parents/carers quite rightly want the best for their child, but "working effectively with parents can be challenging and is likely to required sustained effort and support" (Education Endowment Foundation (EEF))


As the EEF also said, in the same report, "Parental engagement has a positive impact on average of 4 months’ additional progress. It is crucial to consider how to engage with all parents to avoid widening attainment gaps." Finding Common Ground aims, in some way, to assist that engagement so that young people thrive in secondary school.


I know, from experience, that some families have an unrealistic expectation of what a mainstream school can provide or the flexibilities that may or may not be possible. I understand the constraints of timetables, groups, facilities, staffing., budgets, but many families do not. I understand the pressures and responsibilities of safeguarding, attendance, academic performance that weigh upon schools. I understand the issues of performance tables and inspection.


I also understand, from personal experience, what it feels like to work effectively as a parent with a secondary school. It worked because I knew how the system operated and what was reasonable to request or expect, but I also knew what my children needed.


So I suggest that it would be useful to advertise Finding Common Ground to parents and carers if you are finding that an independent voice would be useful to take some of the "heat" out of a situation. The website is www.findingcommonground.org.uk and all the contact details are on there.


Someone who was helped by the project recently said "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." If that young person now begins to thrive in secondary school then that is a job well done.


As always I am happy to discuss anything in this post with anyone - advice@findingcommonground.org.uk or for information about the project see www.findingcommonground.org.uk.


James Harris


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