From School to Resource Centre: A Comenius 1 School Development Project
Year One Report
European Resource Centre Model
It would be easy at this point to say that a special school seeking to extend itself into a national resource centre should concentrate on developing the core services identified through the study visits and questionnaire. Perhaps in some nations with immature services that would be correct. However, in other places this would inevitably lead to the duplication of services and, in many countries, this simply would not be possible due to financial restrictions. The challenge is to produce a model which delivers the core services, without service duplication and which can be implemented without having too great and impact on current budgets.
The following model of a special school resource centre aims to meet this challenge. The structure put forward does not necessarily require the development of new facilities, but aims to make more effective use of the existing services as well as highlighting areas where new provision is required.
Model of Resource Centre Delivering Core Services
Process: All enquiries to the special school resource centre are registered appropriately to enable monitoring, evaluation and planning processes. The inner circle is divided up into 4 sectors to represent the services available under this core model. The dashed rather than solid lines used to define each sector show that the services are not necessarily separate and unique from another. The box around the circle keepings the services together represents the knowledge base held by the special school. This acts to push each of the sectors together into the form of a virtual resource centre.
Knowledge of the services that are available locally and nationally is the key to developing the resource centre. The special school acts as a central contact point for enquiries related to the education of a pupil with a visual impairment, regardless of his/her school placement. The special school records the request and then, using the knowledge base, decides how to best deal with the enquiry.
Some enquiries may be dealt with by the services which already exist within the school. Others may be referred to outside agencies. A special school with a highly specialised role, as in the Czech Republic, may be in a position where it can only deal internally with enquiries for one core sector at the most. However, it will know how and where to refer the other requests. The school will record the enquiry and then direct it to the appropriate agency. For a special school with greater resources and ambitious expansion plans, more of the sectors may be delivered internally. If any of core services are not available nationally then the special school should work towards ensuring that it is established.
Central to the success of this model is the administration structure required to ensure that the enquiries to the resource centre are recorded correctly and referred appropriately. There should also be a follow up system to ensure that enquiries have been dealt with satisfactorily. As for the knowledge base, much of this information already exists within the school. It is the knowledge and expertise built up by staff working with children and young people with disabilities over the years. The challenge of implementing this model would arise in recording the information on a suitable database and ensuring that the data is kept up-to-date and useful.
Once all of the above core sectors are in place, the special school can look towards extending its knowledge base and introduce new services into the resource centre structure.
An example of how inclusion of three additional services would develop the model is shown below. However, the model retains the same structure with a single entry point which involves the registration of all enquiries and a series of services held together as a single unit by the knowledge base of the school
More Sophisticated Special School Resource Centre Model
The above model highlights the seven most important services which a special school resource centre should provide. How these are delivered at national level is very much down to political and financial circumstances as well as current service levels. An ambitious and extremely well funded school might attempt to develop all of these services internally. Other schools without the same resources or operating in an environment where other agencies have already developed similar services would be better recording the knowledge base of services and developing an efficient one-step enquiry processing system.