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Journal

What makes a collaborative planning meeting successful?

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The phrase ‘collaborative planning’ is commonly used in our schools to reflect the process whereby parents, student and teachers work together to develop the best plan of support for the student. ‘Collaborative planning’ also reflects the obligations of schools and teachers under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 to consult with the student and their families about making reasonable adjustments (Department of Education and Training. 2018). 

What does ‘collaborative planning’ really look like in practice? Does a school’s perception of ‘collaboration’ align with a parent’s perception of ‘collaboration’? Too often I feel they do not. Does it make difference? I would argue yes, it makes a big difference!

From a school perspective, collaborative planning meetings and the documentation that goes with it can be a time-consuming process where (with all the best intentions in the world) the driving forces are deadlines and funding. How many Learning Support Coordinators I wonder have felt swamped during Term 2 to have all their many individual plans (at times hundreds) up to date for the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) process? Time must also be allocated to the development and review of other plans such as Personalised Learning Plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; or Behaviour Support Plans. From my own experience I would estimate that everyone 1-hour collaborative planning meeting, there would be a minimum of 2 hours administrative work to draft the plan and then disseminate everyone involved. This is without factoring in a review meeting. When the process becomes highly administrative and labour intensive the real purpose of collaborative planning can become lost.

So what is the real purpose of collaborative planning? It’s more than compliance. It’s a coming together of ‘experts’ to identify the right support for an individual student and to review the success of that support on a regular and ongoing basis. Collaboration implies that everyone involved is an equal partner in this process, that includes the parent and the students themselves as experts. It includes the teachers who may not be able to attend the meeting but who are given the opportunity to have their voice represented at the meeting.

Too often, however, there is a power imbalance at a collaborative planning meeting. The school presents as the expert, leading the meeting, informing the parent of what will happen, the student often absent from the meeting. The power imbalance can be within the school also. The person who has the responsibility for coordinating the meeting and developing the plan may not be the person who teaches the student or who knows the student best. Yet the plan will be given to the student’s teacher/s to implement. This leads to tension and frustration within the school as well as between families and school.

Take a moment to reflect on your own experience of a collaborative planning meeting. When did it work well for you? What were the key factors that made it a successful experience? What didn’t work and as a result what would you do differently next time?

A collaborative planning meeting is a time for everyone to have their voice heard, to feel safe to make suggestions, to discuss the merits of those suggestions and to refine what they will look like in practice. The meeting may not always be comfortable, but it must always be respectful. Make the purpose of the meeting be about building the relationship between student, parent and school with shared understanding and expectation about what will happen next and by who. The resulting documentation will provide the necessary plan for all involved but the relationship and shared understanding will determine how effective that plan will be for the student.

Authentic Parent Voice are interested in hearing your thoughts on the collaborative planning process. Please join our Twitter chat on Monday 3rd September at 12pm and use #APVChat.

Department of Education and Training. 2018. Planning for Personalised Learning and Support: A National Resource. [ONLINE] Available at: https://docs.education.gov.au/documents/planning-personalised-learning-and-support-national-resource-0. [Accessed 13 August 2018].