5 top tips to use one-page profiles in schools

Tabitha SmithWritten by guest blogger Tabitha Smith, then SENCO and Deputy Head at Norris Bank Primary School, Stockport

I’ve worked in education for over 20 years and 18 of these have been in Stockport. It was whilst teaching at Norris Bank Primary school in 2008 that I was first introduced to one-page profiles. Helen Sanderson is the mother of one of our old pupils and she came into school to talk to us about Laura’s progress. She introduced us to a single sheet of paper which communicated perfectly what people liked and admired about Laura, what was important to her and how best we could support her. This was the beginning of something huge; our personalisation journey.

We immediately saw the value of the one-page profile as a means to improve communication, learn about the individual requirements of each child, celebrate their gifts and talents and therefore teach and support them well.

At first we introduced the profiles to years two and six. We wanted to use them to help pupils in the transition from infant to juniors and from primary up to secondary. We had decided early on that this was not a tool to be used just with the children that had been identified as having ‘special educational needs’ as our belief is that all children have special or individual requirements and that each of them would benefit from using a one-page profile.

The children were incredibly excited about and receptive to creating their profiles. It wasn’t the first time we had asked them to tell us what they needed to work well but it was the first time we had introduced such a positive way of capturing this information, of embedding this culture deep into the roots of our school. We soon realised that we needed to give every child the opportunity to create their own profile and so we made this commitment.

I won’t lie and tell you that it was easy. It wasn’t. We have 340 pupils at Norris Bank and the coordination of communication between pupils, parents and teachers as well as the administration that was required, was enough to cause even the most committed of professionals a few sleepless nights! But we did it. In 2009 we achieved our aim or arming each child with their own one-page profile and setting a system in place that means that each year they re-work their profiles in time for their move to the next class.

We now know what each child needs to be supported well. This could be something as simple as how they like to be encouraged, what type of classroom environment they thrive in or whether there is any equipment the child needs to aid their communication or learning. Our parents are able to share with us the things that they love and admire about their child and we can celebrate this together – bridging the gap between home and school life. We have a point of reference for every parent’s evening and a detailed introduction to new teachers of each and every pupil. And crucially, our pupils feel valued and empowered to tell us what is important to and for them.

This year I accepted a Headship at a new school and I will be taking my learning of one-page profiles and the power of personalisation in education with me but I wanted to share with you five top tips to successfully introduce profiles in your school. I said before that it wasn’t easy – but as we have been through the process, we have learnt what works and what doesn’t work and now have a system that is absolutely achievable for schools – and believe me, the results are well worth the effort!

Using one-page profiles in a school setting:

  1. Understand their worth: It is important that the people making it happen (the teachers, pupils, parents and admin staff) understand how a one-page profile can benefit a child in school, how it can aid their learning, improve communication, highlight the need for new measures of support and celebrate their gifts and talents. We did this through training sessions, but also having resources like this blog site is a great way to share the ‘power of the one-page profile’!
  2. Give yourself time:  It takes time to achieve a task of this scale and giving yourself an unrealistic time frame will only de-motivate you. Think first about the practicalities of training people about one-page profiles, producing them, involving parents, capturing and storing the information then base your time scale on this.
  3. Keep it simple: We learnt early on that trying to type up each and every one-page profile and store them electronically wasn’t for us! We now send post cards out to parents at the end of each school year and they add the section about what they like and admire about their child. The children then return the cards to the class room and work through the sections ‘what is important to them and how best to support and encourage them in school’. Pupils personalise their postcard profiles with colours and drawings which further capture their personalities. The cards are then kept in a plastic flip wallet by the teacher and can be taken out and looked at or added to at any time.
  4. Involve parents: The benefits of a child having a one-page profile far transcends school and involving parents in the process early by getting them to add to the profiles is a good way of introducing them to the tool. We had an army of volunteers helping us when we first rolled out the project and although now we have streamlined it, we don’t need this administrative support, we still involve parents and are able to capture their rich insight into their child.
  5. Walk the walk: Capturing information isn’t enough. It is how you use it that will make your introduction of one-page profiles in school a success. We adapt our teaching style to our pupils based in what they have told us. We make decisions about their support based on what we know about them. We share this information with parents and with their new secondary school because we believe it is of vital importance. We see each or our pupils as individuals and whilst they may all be taught the same curriculum, we do it in the way that best suits them.
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Breaking down preconceived ideas

An example of how one-page profiles can be used to introduce the person rather than the diagnoses.  Alfie’s dad talks about how his son’s profile has helped people get to know him and all of his positive traits rather than just his diagnoses of Aspergers.

Alfie's one-page profile

Alfie’s one-page profile

Written by Damien Nolan, Alfie’s dad

Alfie is our ten year old son who has had a formal diagnoses of Aspergers Syndrome since he was three years old. Alfie is a great boy with a big heart and loving demeanor.  He is very cuddly in an innocent kind of way. His friends and family are incredibly important to him and he is obsessive with all things transport related.

I decided to help Alfie produce a one-page profile after attending a person-centred approaches course run by Yvonne Linton, Family Footings Facilitator.  I thought it would come in very useful to show to teachers, doctors and people new to Alfie, so that they could gain a quick understanding of who he really is as opposed to seeing him only for his diagnoses.

Alfie and I talked through his one-page profile. I wanted him to be happy with the picture that his one-page profile would paint and for him to feel that I had got his traits and passions correct. He also chose the photos to be included which he really enjoyed.

Since making the profile we have used it at every opportunity. It has been particularly useful at school when meeting with new teachers or teaching assistants that might not have worked with Alfie before. Alfie likes to be included in class and gets upset if he feels left out. He needs a lot of encouragement at PE and he needs to know well in advance if there will be a change to his timetable. As well as communicating this vital information, Alfie’s profile has helped his new teachers get a good feel of who Alfie really is (all his lovely traits) and be at ease in terms of how to support and interact with him.

Has having the one-page profile made a difference? Well I like to think so. It’s nice to involve Alfie in how the world will see him and hopefully break down some preconceived ideas that people might have about a boy with a diagnoses of Aspergers.

Most recently I used the one-page profile at a Transition meeting with a SENCo from Alfie’s new secondary school which he starts in September. I don’t think she had seen one before and she took it away with her which was great. Especially as it was the first time she had met Alfie and it gave her some points to talk to him about, ensuring they got off to a good start. Once Alfie starts secondary school I will make sure that all his new teachers take a copy.

My hope is that by using the one-page profile more and more, the people who come into contact with Alfie will quickly get to know the ‘boy’ rather than the ‘label’ of Aspergers.

You can find more examples of using one-page profiles and other person-centred thinking tools in a school setting from this website www.personalisingeducation.org

Important conversations to support school pupils well

An example of how a one-page profile can be used in schools to support children well. Alice has difficulties with memory and communication and has specific needs that her mum, the school and her health team needed to understand in-depth and from her perspective in order to support her well.

Written by Tabitha Smith, SENCo

Alice oppAlice is a delightful 6 year old, currently in Year 2. She has a twin brother, with whom she gets on well; more so now that they are in different classes. Alice loves getting involved, being in the ‘thick of things’ and enjoys knowing what is going on. She is popular with adults and children as she always has a smile on her face.

Alice’s difficulties began to emerge when she was in Year 1. Having had speech therapy for her speech sounds, it became increasingly apparent that her difficulties went deeper than just her expressive communication. Alice was not making the progress that we would have hoped, and the main concern was the real difficulty she had in recall. With increasing concern, her mum ensured that her hearing was clear, arranged for an appointment with the paediatrician, and requested the involvement of the Educational Psychologist.

We knew that Alice’s needs were very specific, revolving principally around her difficulties with memory. Recently, she has become more self-aware that she cannot remember things, and this is upsetting and worrying her.

As a team supporting Alice and working with her on a daily basis, we felt that a detailed one-page profile would ensure that all adults had an empathy with Alice, as well as being given useful advice on how to support her.

Initially, we had a ‘Team Around the Child’ meeting with class teacher, SENCo, mum, Educational Psychologist (EP) and a trainee EP. We decided that the best course of action was to undertake a full assessment of Alice to establish exactly her areas of strength, as well as those areas to support. Once this assessment had been carried out we met again to pull together information for the three areas of a one-page profile. The draft was sent to the EP who carried out the assessment, as well as to mum and the class teacher. All suggested slight changes to clarify the information contained within the profile.

Alice’s one-page profile is kept in the register so that supply teachers will know how to support her well. The Teaching Assistants working in the class have a copy. At the end of each academic year, the profile will be handed on to Alice’s new teacher to ensure a deep understanding of her needs and how best to support her. It will be kept up to date through review meetings held twice a year, in addition to the parents meetings held twice a year.

Having a one-page profile has made a difference to Alice, and to the adults around her. The process of creating the profile is extremely valuable; important conversations took place to really understand Alice and how we can meet her needs. Alice’s mum feels listened to, and her teachers and those around her have a clear ‘road map’ to support her learning. Both teacher and mum say ‘the process of information gathering and in-depth discussion is so valuable. It gives everyone a chance to share concerns and to create a sensible way forward to support Alice and to ensure that all those around her are fully aware of her needs.’