Enquire is a lifeline for parents who are struggling and need help as far as educational policies and law are concerned
David Carracher, Senior Manager (Inclusion), North Ayrshire Council
As Senior Manager (Inclusion), David has management responsibility for employability, college and employer links, promoting and managing educational inclusion, implementation of integrated children’s services within Education and Skills, child protection, active citizenship and pupil participation, equalities, police and fire service liaison. He also has responsibility for Pupil Support Services. This includes teachers in schools supporting children and young people with the full range of additional support needs. It also includes staff in more specialist provision, like primary Nurture Bases and the secondary Extended Outreach team who work with young people who need support outwith a full time mainstream school.
A rather jam-packed remit! And, as with any senior role, not without its challenges, as David explains: “It is always a challenge to ensure that all our pupils have an educational experience that meets their needs and their aspirations, and where there are barriers to their learning that those barriers are identified and addressed as soon as is possible. Parents are our partners in this. They are the prime educators and can be the first to identify emerging difficulties.
Curriculum for Excellence aims to equip our young people with the skills they will need for learning, life and work, and we understand that doing this will not be something that only happens in schools. The challenge is to better understand and value the contributions of parents, families and communities and develop new ways of working together.”
The ongoing pressures on local authority budgets also presents challenges, but “we’re meeting those by finding new ways to do what we have to do and regularly prioritising and reprioritising where our resources should go. People who work in this area of education are, almost without exception, unbelievably committed to doing a good job for what they see as their children and their families. My personal challenge is to make sure they continue to have the resources they need to do that job.”
Despite his success as manager, David is quick to bestow praise on his hardworking staff: “The people who really make a difference are my colleagues who work directly with young people and their families. My contribution is to ensure that everyone working with our pupils has the resources, training and expertise to do what they have to do, and to support and challenge them to continuously improve.”
Although no two days are the same, a ‘typical’ day in David’s life is long, busy and varied. With a schedule that includes meetings with colleagues, Pupil Support Service principal teachers and head teachers from the authority’s ASN schools, as well as budget review and employability meetings, plus school visits and drafting a report for the Council on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, his pre-9am start and post-6pm finish still barely allows him time for lunch.
So, how did he arrive at his current role?
“After a few years teaching in a mainstream school I took a job with Social Services, which gave me an insight into the disadvantages and challenges some young people and their families have to deal with. Looking back it has undoubtedly shaped the rest of my career.
My next move was back into Education Services when I joined a team supporting pupils with social, emotional or behavioural needs. I stayed there for a few years and ended up managing part of the service. I joined North Ayrshire in 2003 as Pupil Support Service Co-ordinator and moved to my current job in 2008.”
Despite the challenges, the job is also rewarding. The most rewarding aspect for David is “Being part of a team that is genuinely committed to making sure that young people with additional support needs have those needs identified and met. Over the last few years we have seen steady progress in the percentage of those young people who make a positive transition from school into further education, training or employment.
If you were to ask me who of the people I meet regularly impresses me most, I’d have to say it’s the parents of children with severe and complex needs. Their dedication to their children, day in and day out, puts the kind of challenges I face into some kind of perspective. If anything I do helps those people I’m having a good day.”