Effective communication is very important. It helps develop positive relationships that benefit the children and allow them to participate and learn within the setting. It is also important in many other ways; It prevents misunderstandings that can lead to bad-feelings and/or bad working relationships. It can help engage and involve parents/carers in their child’s learning. If we model effective communication skills the children are more likely to follow and to understand what is acceptable. It means important information will be passed on to the relevant people e.g. If a child has a medical condition such as asthma and needs an inhaler at certain times. All staff who may work with the child must be made aware of this. Positive relationships don’t just exist, they must be built. In order to communicate effectively you must think about the way you relate to others.
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Communication is more than just what you say. Often non-verbal communication speaks the loudest yet it is that that we are least aware of. The main forms of this are body language, facial expressions, gestures and posture. For example, you are talking to a new parent about how their child has settled in and you say “She is doing very well and has made lots of friends” but you stand with your arms folded, avoiding eye-contact and frowning. Instead of being re-assured the parent is likely to feel upset and worried. Principles of relationship building
Eﬀective communication – This is the most important point and should go hand-in-hand with all other principles. Showing respect – Listen to and respect other people’s point of view. If you show respect to others it is likely they will respect you. Being considerate – Be understanding about possible factors behind people’s behaviour and don’t be too quick to make judgements. Remembering issues which are personal to them – A good way of building positive relationships is to show an interest in things that are important to others.
Be clear on key points – Nods of the head and repeating words/phrases show that you are clear on what is being said. When you are giving information ensure that the other person understands. For example, if speaking to a young child ask them to repeat what you have said.
Active listening – Listening is a skill and requires a certain amount of self-control. You have to ignore your own needs and focus on the person speaking. You must pay attention to what is being said and follow it closely. Make eye-contact and keep your body open. Sometimes you need to adapt the way you communicate depending on the situation; Different cultures
Some cultures have different norms on what is offensive or polite. It is important to understand this but ensure you do not assume or stereotype. Where possible you should try to have an awareness of the culturally acceptable behaviour of the person you are communicating with and adapt your approach accordingly. For example, if it is not acceptable to them to have eye-contact do not keep trying to do this. Also be aware of language barriers. You may need to use other non-verbal forms of communication to ensure they understand. Social and professional contexts
You should make sure you use the appropriate language and behaviour dependant on the situation. For example, if you were in a meeting with a parent and other professionals you would speak a lot more formally than you would in the staffroom at dinnertime. You should also remember other factors such as your body language and the way you dress. Other forms of communication
Non-spoken forms of communication can be mis-read. Be sure to be clear and prompt when responding to e-mails or phone messages. If you are unsure of the message ask questions or para-phrase. It is often useful to make notes as you may need to pass the message on or refer back to it at a later date. Skills needed to communicate with children and young people
Children learn how to communicate by example and by the responses of others. All children should have the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions and be listened to. You should ensure you give them sufficient time to do this. Just saying you are listening isn’t enough. You should show that you are interested in what they are saying by giving them your full attention. It is important to show you are approachable. Use positive body language and facial expressions. Speak to children on their level and repeat key words to show your understanding. It may be necessary to question them further, if this is the case give them time to answer. Children may lack confidence and may need to be prompted. Adapting communication for children
Some children may have difficulty communicating; thought should be given to individual needs. You may have children who have a speech impediment or have English as a second language. You should give them plenty of time to speak so as not to make them feel pressurised. Some children may not be given time to talk outside of school and may feel anxious. Others may lack confidence. Gently prompt children to join in discussions, ask them open-ended questions and encourage children to take turns in speaking and listening. Always be mindful of the age and/or stage of the children.
You will need to adapt your vocabulary and the way you respond. For example, older children may be offended if they think you are speaking to them ‘like a child.’ Although it is important to develop positive relationships through communication you should ensure that you remain professional. When the children are on task you should try to prevent interruptions and keep the conversation to do with the activity. In other situations give the children time to talk freely but always maintain boundaries.
Communicating with adults and children/young people
Adaptations for children/Young People
Maintain carer to child relationship and remain formal.
Maintain eye contact
Communicate what is expected of them.
Respond to what is said
Ensure they understand.
Positive body language
Don’t encourage physical contact.
Give praise and encouragement
Sometimes you may encounter adults who have different communication needs and will need to adapt the way you communicate with them accordingly; Hearing impaired – Face them and maintain eye-contact as they may need to lip read. Use hand gestures to enhance what you are saying. Write down important information. English as an additional language – You may require a translator. Sometimes if the child is older they can translate messages. If there isn’t a translator available speak slowly and clearly. Visually impaired- Often schools send out letters and forms to parents. These may need to be in large print or Braille or you may need to speak to the parent/carer directly. Disagreements
Disagreements are often down to miscommunication. There may have been a misunderstanding with a member of staff, information may have been perceived wrongly or it may be differences of opinion. Sometimes disagreements occur with parents. This could be due to information not being passed on, a lack of time to talk at the start/end of the day or different views to how situations should be dealt with. It is important that any disagreements are resolved as quickly as possible so as to maintain positive relationships. Children pick up on negativity and it makes an uncomfortable environment for all. You should talk only with the person involved and find a way forward. Do not ignore the problem as the longer it is allowed to go on the more difficult it will be to resolve. Confidentiality, data protection and the disclosure of information All adults that work in a school environment should be aware of the legislation regarding confidentiality and data protection. Data Protection Act 1998
It is essential for schools to hold certain information so that children can be cared for effectively. This may include; Health or medical records Records from previous schools Records for children with special educational needs Any organisation which holds information on individuals needs to be registered with the information commissioner. This is designed to ensure that confidential information cannot be passed on to others without the individuals consent. The eight principles of practice are that information must be: Processed fairly and lawfully
Used only for the purpose for which it was gathered
Adequate, relevant and not excessive
Accurate and kept up to date where necessary
Kept for no longer than necessary
Processed in line with the individual’s rights
Not transferred outside the European Union without adequate protection As a teaching assistant I have access to a wide range of information about the children in my care. I ensure that I keep all information confidential unless otherwise necessary and if I am unsure I speak with my line manager. Sometimes when people think of passing on confidential information they think of to other adults outside of school but it involves professionals, other parents and even other children in the school. Any of these would be a breach of confidentiality.
In some instances parents may be wary about giving out private/personal information that the school needs. In this instance every effort should be made to reassure them about confidentiality and that the information will not be passed onto anyone else without their permission. Each school should also have a confidentiality policy that can be referred to. Sometimes you may attend meetings with other professionals. Parental consent should be gained before any information about the child/family is shared unless the child is ‘at risk’ or there is a legal obligation on the school to disclose such information. You must be mindful of students, helpers or visitors in the school and what information is revealed in their presence.
Some information must be passed on such as if a child is asthmatic or has an allergy but the majority of information should be on a need to know basis. It is always important to remember there may be a situation where you will need to tell others. If a child confides in you about certain issues and you suspect child abuse or that the child may be ‘at risk’ you should ensure the child knows that you cannot keep the information confidential. You must pass the information on to the delegated person. In cases such as this you should makes notes on what the child has told you and allow them to speak freely but do not push them for information or ask leading questions.