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Volume 53, No. 4, November 2018
Reconceptualising system transitions in education for marginalised and vulnerable groups
Guest Editors: Paul Downes, Erna Nairz‐Wirth, Jim Anderson

Volume 53, No. 3, September 2018
Learner agency at the confluence between rights-based approaches and well-being
Guest Editor: Jean Gordon

Volume 53, No. 2 June 2018
Special Issue: Are Student Assessments Fit For Their Purposes?
Guest Editor: Janet Looney

Volume 53, No. 1. March 2018
Special Issue: Innovative approaches to Continuous Professional Development in Early Childhood Education and Care. A European perspective.
Guest Editors: Brecht Peleman, Bente Jensen and Jan Peeters

Volume 52, No. 4 December 2017
Special Issue: Education for people, prosperity and planet: Can we meet the sustainability challenges?
Guest Editor: Aaron Benavot

Volume 52, No. 3 September 2017
Title: Participatory Design for (Built) Learning Environments
Guest Editors: Karen D. Könings and Susan McKenney

Volume 52, No. 2 June 2017
Title: The Influence of PISA on Education Policies
Guest Editors: Alain Michel and Xavier Pons

Volume 52, No.1 March 2017
Title : Higher education learning outcomes - transforming higher education ?
Guest Editors : Joakim Caspersen and Nicoline Frolich

Volume 51, No.4 December 2016
Title: Governance Dynamics in Complex Decentralised Education Systems
Guest Editors: Edith Hooge

Volume 51, No 3 September 2016
Title : Vocational Schooling and Social Exclusion in the Western Balkans
Guest Editors : Claire Gordon and Will Bartlett

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Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) - Aleksandra Styś

Introduction and background
 
Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), first launched in 2006, is a policy and program, for all children Scotland. It is a holistic, child-centered and evidence-based approach to enabling all children and young people to grow, develop and reach their full potential. GIRFEC aims to change agency cultures, systems and practices, and stresses the importance of joint responsibility of all agencies, including health centers and hospitals, nurseries, schools and leisure centers, family centers, social work services and housing offices, as well as voluntary actors in the community (Scottish Government, 2012). This strategy of early intervention is intended to streamline children’s services records, assessments and action plans based on national practice tools, guidance and electronic solutions to facilitate information sharing across all agents of change (Stafford, Vincent & Parton, 2010). The GIRFEC proposals can be understood in the context of the growing concern of Scottish policymakers about the outcomes for all children and young people over the preceding ten years and efforts to address the perennial challenges identified by successive audits and reviews in Scotland (Stafford, Vincent & Parton, 2010).
 
The introduction of GIRFEC follows on a major reform of the child protection system in Scotland. In 2002, following a major audit and review of the child protection system, the then Scottish Executive published a report entitled It’s Everyone’s Job to Make Sure I’m Alright. The report identified a number of good practices with regard to interagency cooperation and joint initiatives in the field, but also emphasized that not all Scottish children receive adequate care and protection. In addition, in 2004, a detailed review of the Children’s Hearing System, a decision-making lay tribunal called the Children’s Panel (Children’s Hearings Scotland, 2015), was conducted. The review stressed the need for substantial reform of the System, together with the improvement of children’s services in general.
 
            Proposals for Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) were introduced following the review of the Children’s Hearing System. Sutherland and McCulloch (2015) from the University of Glasgow emphasize that there was a drive toward new approaches which encouraged disparate areas of Scottish society to work cooperatively to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people. However, they note that there was recognition among practitioners of a need to learn to communicate with each other through joint assessment meetings and other channels. These meetings gathered a miscellany of professionals including psychologists, health specialists, police, etc. who may have had different perspectives or aims. Bringing these professionals together allowed for a clearer understanding of how different agencies could best work together to support individual children and families. Underpinning these developments was the Children (Scotland) Act (1995) which had paved the way for pupils’ voice to be central to school life. Initiatives such as the Children’s Parliament and a RIGHT blether (2010), a national consultation which provided an opportunity for children to discuss all issues that affect their lives and to take part in a national vote on issues which were important to them, had been launched. GIRFEC reflected the philosophy underpinning these different developments (Sutherland & McCulloch, 2015).       
 
The GIRFEC National Practice Model
 
The GIRFEC approach is compatible with the Curriculum for Excellence, a flagship national curriculum framework focused on both pre-school and school education in Scotland. This curriculum stemmed from multiple efforts of Scottish educators to support learners in a much more inclusive way. It worked in tandem with the Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act (2004, 2009) which recognized that different students may need different kinds of support and at different times. This change in philosophical understanding, as well as terminology, led to previously unrecognized groups of children being offered support, for instance, children whose families were in difficult circumstances, those for whom English was a foreign language or the highly able (Sutherland & McCulloch, 2015). As Forbes and McCartney (2014) point out, both GIRFEC and Curriculum for Excellence require a new form of ‘extended’ professionalism, including the single-, multi- and interagency National Practice Model. According to this model, education needs to move beyond privileging scholarship and academic achievement assessed by examination results towards the promotion of co-accountability in order to address multiple needs and abilities of children, to understand each child’s life experience in a holistic way, together with numerous implications for their well-being and resilience.
 
Shortly after the publication of the original GIRFEC Implementation Plan in June 2006, the Highland Pathfinder initiative was launched to test the GIRFEC principles in practice and help inform future national guidance and best practice. This initiative, which was supported by researchers Aldgate and Rose of the Open University, ran from 2006-2009 and helped shape the National Practice Model. This model provides a generic framework for assessment, planning, analysis, action and review which can be applied by all practitioners and agencies, irrespective of their professional background or service (Scottish Government, 2010b). The National Practice Model is seen as a dynamic and evolving process, to support professionals to meet the GIRFEC values and principles in an appropriate, proportionate and timely manner. It includes the key elements of a single planning process and, as such, is aimed at developing each child’s plan. It can be used as a ‘common tool’ alongside and together with other assessment tools.
 
The National Practice Model includes four key steps, as outlined in Figure 1. The first is related to the use of the Well-being Indicators in the ‘Well-being Wheel’ to record and share information which may be indicative of a need or concern, followed by an early intervention if possible. Second, in order to understand the wider picture of the child’s world, practitioners refer to the ‘My World Triangle’ which, in assessment, is also helpful in identifying needs and risks. The third step, with regard to more complex cases, allows practitioners to use the ‘Resilience Matrix’ which helps them to structure and analyze the necessary information. Finally, when all needs of a child or young person are identified, they can be summarized in the ‘Well-being Wheel’ to design a concrete plan for action (Scottish Government, 2012).       
  
Figure 1         National Practice Model
 

Source: Scottish Government, 2012.
 

Monitoring indicators
 
Two related notions of well-being underlie the rationale behind GIRFEC (Scottish Government, 2009). The first is the UN Convention of the Rights on the Child, according to which education should embrace children’s well-being[1]. GIRFEC has thus developed policies based on cross-sector coherence and integration to promote well-being. Second, as Aldgate (2008) notes, UNICEF’s notion of well-being and welfare also informed the GIRFEC team’s thinking: ‘The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued and included in the families and societies in which they are born.’ Aldgate also notes that GIRFEC team’s perception of well-being is more of a dynamic than a static nature where measuring children’s developmental progress is the major focus (see also Forbes & McCartney, 2014; Scottish Government, 2009). Therefore, GIRFEC, which constitutes a developmental ‘ecological’ practice model, recognizes the importance of addressing the needs of the whole child instead of a single role they play (for instance that of a family member, patient, pupil, victim or young offender). Accordingly, GIRFEC assessments seek to identify all the factors which may have both positive and negative consequences on the child’s well-being in order to find the most effective solution to the problems they may encounter in their life (Scottish Government, 2010b). 
 
            GIRFEC has ten core components, as outlined below in Text Box 1. In addition, GIRFEC is based on a set of universal values and principles which include, among others, putting the child at the center through listening to their views and involving them in decisions that affect them; taking a whole child approach which implies recognizing that a single part of a child or young person’s life may have diverse implications for other areas of their life; promoting opportunities and valuing diversity which stresses the importance of inner diversity and children’s voice in all circumstances; and promoting the same values across all working relationships with a special emphasis on respect, patience, honesty, reliability, resilience and integrity among all children, young people, their families and colleagues (Scottish Government, 2009 & 2012).  
 
Text Box 1     GIRFEC’s core components
 
GIRFEC’s core components

GIRFEC is founded on ten core components, applicable in any setting and in any circumstance:
  1. A focus on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families based on a shared understanding of wellbeing
  2. A common approach to gaining consent and to sharing information where appropriate
  3. An integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention
  4. A coordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, and agreeing actions and outcomes, based on the Wellbeing Indicators
  5. Streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time
  6. Consistent high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland
  7. A Named Person for every child and young person, and a Lead Professional (where necessary) to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity
  8. Maximizing the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks as early as possible
  9. A confident and competent workforce across all services for children, young people and their families
  10. The capacity to share demographic, assessment, and planning information – including electronically – within and across agency boundaries

Source: Scottish Government, 2012.
 
 
            Placing well-being at the very heart of the model, the GIRFEC team identified eight overarching Well-being Indicators, derived from children’s rights and development theories. Well-being is understood as being safe, active, healthy, respected, achieving, responsible, nurtured, included. These eight Well-being Indicators can be linked to the four capacities which it is hoped that Curriculum for Excellence will foster in young people: confident individuals, effective contributors, successful learners and responsible citizens. In addition, the Scottish Government seeks to ensure that children have the best start in life; that they live longer, healthier lives; that there are improved life chances for those children, young people and families who are at risk. These Indicators ‘may not, in combination, constitute a comprehensive measure of a child’s well-being but they do offer a useful and practical way of both gauging the extent to which the systemic changes and the changes in practice and professional cultures are impacting on children’s lives as well as evaluating and monitoring the impact of specific interventions and kinds of support on children experiencing a whole range of different concerns and unmet needs’ (Scottish Government, 2009, pp. 92-93).
 
Each indicator is very broad, encompassing a wide range of potential concerns and needs, which in turn requires interventions from diverse relevant services. This subscribes well to the philosophy of well-being itself which is multi-faceted. Moreover, the Well-being Indicators seem to be mutually reinforcing – a growing body of research demonstrates that the attainment and behavior of children at school is closely correlated with the extent to which they are safe, healthy, nurtured, active, included and treated with respect. In other words, children’s perceptions about school are not solely influenced by their experiences at school per se, but are rather affected by a number of other issues such as what happens at home, the quality of their relationships, their physical and psychological health, the levels of their confidence and self-esteem (Scottish Government, 2009).
 
This inter-dependence raises two major questions for measuring outcomes. First, a holistic approach to planning and providing support should always be complemented by a holistic approach to reviewing and measuring the outcomes. Second, given the fact that diverse inputs and interventions may lead to one particular outcome or, conversely, one input may produce several different outcomes, these kinds of outcome data cannot be used to determine lines of causality between the planned intervention and the outcomes (Scottish Government, 2009). It should also be emphasized that practice has shown that professionals raising a concern or carrying out an initial assessment of the child’s life are likely to break down these Well-being Indicators into more specific sub-domains of needs and concerns (Scottish Government 2010b).
 
Outcomes and prospects
 
Researchers argue that GIRFEC, a model devoted to providing services to all children and young people, is to a large extent an outcome-based model. The outcomes may be simple or complex, but they can be usually measured at different levels. With regard to children’s services, outcomes can be measured at the level of the individual child, their family, aggregated sub-groups within the population, a particular neighborhood or community, a service or agency, a specific local or national authority. Apart from measuring outcomes at three different levels – individual, local and national – child well-being outcomes can also be short-term, intermediate and long-term, at all three levels.
 
Literature in the field shows that it is a common problem for practitioners across children’s services to focus solely on assessments of children’s unmet needs and difficulties they experience. This means that many initial assessments will identify concerns such as poor attendance at school, aggressive behavior toward peers, panic attacks, problems with learning, etc. The GIRFEC assessment, which is multi-agency and holistic, is intended to produce evidence as to why a particular concern has emerged at a given time, and also identify other potential causes for concern (Scottish Government, 2010b).   
 
With regard to the implementation of GIRFEC, the Scottish policy makers pointed out that ‘change will not occur with a big bang but will take place over time.’ One of the biggest challenges of the implementation process has been a practical challenge because collaboration is easy note on paper, but in reality is hard to do. There are different working hours and professions represented, mindset issues, as well as the feeling of frustration and anxiety among teachers due to the perception of a growing number of changes taking place in education, which, in turn, does not always leave them enough time and space to exchange with colleagues. Also, it should be noted that Scotland has 32 local authorities which have different ways of addressing issues, with some schools operating on a much more local level. Yet, these challenges related to the implementation of GIRFEC are likely to be similar to the implementation of any other process or initiative (Sutherland & McCulloch, 2015).      
 
Evaluations of the model conclude that there has been significant impact on child well-being in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2010). Professionals in the field say that GIRFEC has provided them with a sharper focus on the needs of the child and has promoted a culture of shared responsibility among education, health and social work. Also, they stress improvements in communication between services which facilitate rapid responses to beneficiaries (Blane, 2012). Other professionals see GIRFEC as a catalyst for improving multidisciplinary assessment and joint plans focused on all aspects of a child’s life, increasing access to services: ‘One of the kind of mantras that goes with the GIRFEC thing is that it is “one child, one meeting, one plan”... [the idea is] that a child who had complex needs and was muddled up with lots of different agencies would have lots of different plans... Now we are all about trying to bring that together and operate on the basis of a shared understanding with the child’s whole needs...’ (Robertson, 2014, p. 175).  Finally, Sutherland and McCulloch (2015) acknowledge that despite the fact that GIRFEC is still in the fairly early stages of implementation, one of its biggest successes is that it links to the national curriculum guidelines which are threaded though legislation. This facilitates considerably the implementation process for schools and allows them and their partners to address children’s concerns at different levels – in terms of resilience, autonomy, etc. – because all of these are included both in GIRFEC and the curriculum. Indeed, this trend is highly visible in government documents with regard to the national guidelines. The latter stress the importance of a holistic approach which needs to be applied by all stakeholders in order to promote children’s health and well-being. This approach should take into consideration not only the stage of growth, development and maturity of each individual child, but also the social and community context they come from (Scottish Government, 2009a).
 

 
 
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[1] Article 29 of the UNCRC says: 
1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.