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Keyworkers and schools: meeting the needs of children and young people with disabilities

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Across the world countries are advocating the education of children and young people with disabilities in mainstream schools. There is also increasing interest in developing effective coordination of the specialist services pupils with disabilities receive from different agencies. This is accompanied by growing recognition that such care coordination can positively influence the experience of inclusion for children and their families. However, while the literature of care coordination generally includes education as a core provider, there is little evidence on involvement of education professionals and the outcomes for children and schools. These issues are addressed by the findings reported here on the role of key workers in care coordination and their relationship with schools. The findings draw on interviews with professionals from seven key worker services across England and Wales, parents and carers who were recipients of these services and teachers in schools serving children supported by key workers. These interviews are part of a wider multi-method study exploring the effectiveness and costs of different models of key worker services for disabled children. The data reveal the range of education and school issues addressed by key workers and the factors influencing their work with teachers. The benefits for children, families and schools of key worker involvement are identified and the implications for schools explored. Consideration is also given to the advantages and disadvantages of teachers themselves taking on the role of key workers. It is argued that key workers can improve home-school relationships, facilitate the contribution of teachers in inter-agency working, enable mainstream schools to better meet the individual needs of pupils with disabilities and improve their inclusive practice.

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