Supervision within Schools and Early Years Settings. Do we require this approach?

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I am currently working with a Special Needs School in Derby around implementation of a Supervision policy. With the growing need for Schools and Early Years settings to support outside of the normal educational remit, I have been able to demonstrate how we go above and beyond for child centred outcomes through a supervision model.

You might be thinking, what is supervision? and why would a school get involved with this process? I define what is meant by ‘supervision’ and demonstrate the case for implementing this supportive reflective activity within education and early years. I also show how implementing such a strategy within a school can influence reflection, inform practice for child and person-centred outcomes.

What is Supervision?
“Effectively managing and supervising staff to support effective practice and good conduct and supporting staff to address deficiencies in their performance.”
(General Social Care Council Handbook, 2016)

The concept of supervision is firmly established within Health and Social Care professions where the focus is on ‘helping and supportive interventions’. By doing this, practitioners may require the time and space to reflect on their practice in a facilitated exchange between a supervisor and supervisee. The purpose of supervision in this context is to:

  • Be able to develop best practice through reflection
  • Manage the emotional impact of the role
  • Ensure stress levels are recognised, acknowledged
  • Reduce time taken away from the work place with stress-related illness
  • Improve retention of staff through a support model
  • Develop competent, confident and autonomous practitioners
  • Ensure that pupils continue to receive a quality education experience

(Reid and Westergaard, 2013).

The supervisor is not a mentor but can encourage the supervisee to find effective ways of developing their practice. Supervision is not a counselling session, but emotional support can be offered. The supervisor’s role is to ensure that the work and discussion within the supervision, are within the parameters of the organisation, statutory guidance and the law. There can be written notes made which forms a contract and many aspects of the supervision remain confidential but remains the property of the organisation.

Supporting the Practitioner
Important role of ‘critical friend’/supervisor/manager/mentor/ peer to:

  • support practitioners
  • help maintain focus on the needs of the child
  • support process of analysis
  • Both supervisor and supervisee to reflect on scrutinize and evaluate the work carried out, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the practitioner and providing coaching development and pastoral support
  • Supervisors should be available to practitioners as an important source of advice and expertise and may be required to endorse judgments at certain key points in time.

Supervisors should also record key decisions within the child’s case records.
“All those working with children in need or at risk of significant harm, whatever their agency or role, need someone who is not directly involved in the case to help them deal with the complexities and challenges of the work and to make sense of what they are seeing, hearing and feeling.”
(Gordon andHendry 2010, p8)

Reflective Learning Cycle
There are a number of cycles that can be used, I feel that Kolb’s cycle is able to demonstrate the reflective robustness that Supervision can provide.

Why Supervision in School or Early Years Settings?
Supervision is deemed to be a safe and reflective space that can take place within Schools and Early Years Settings. It can be approached within the context of outcomes for children, maintaining the continuing support for children and young people who are at risk of harm or the school is providing an element of family support. The supervision process can allow for a genuine reflective opportunity within one’s own practice, care and support for the supervisee and also an opportunity for maintaining the focus on the child.

Starting with a Supervision Contract.
Effective contracts have three elements:

  • Administrative: frequency, location, recording
  • Professional: purposes, focus, principles, accountabilities
  • Psychological: motivation, commitment, ownership, investment


  • Reflects the seriousness of the activity
  • Positive modelling of partnership behaviour
  • Responsibilities and roles of both parties are clear
  • Demonstrates quality of supervision offered
  • Demonstrates use of supervision for on-going development
  • Agency can demonstrate to service users, the quality of supervision and the outcomes moving forwards.

The best contract is:

  • Arrived at through negotiation
  • Addresses issues and how they will be managed
  • Co-signed and dated
  • Copied for both supervisor and supervisee
  • Reviewed at least annually

Headteacher Ivy House School , Mr Gary Coffey tells us why?

“The context of safeguarding within schools is an ever evolving matter. The complexities of individual children’s circumstances and the ongoing support required to safeguard and promote children’s welfare is at the forefront of educational offer at Ivy House school. As an Outstanding Special School, we are already supporting a number of families and children to secure positive outcomes in not only educational progress but, in developing the holistic child. However, we are very mindful that more work needs to be done both locally and nationally to ensure that we are constantly learning and evolving to meet a range of new and challenging circumstances in the work of best outcomes for children, including child protection, short breaks and family support.

It is for this reason that we were keen to work with Aaron Bradbury to implement a structured approach to safeguarding supervision. As with all schools we had systems in place to support our Designated Safeguarding Leads in working with children and families. However, these were often informal, in nature, and crucially lacking in effective systems to evaluate and monitor a positive impact that we were having in our work. For example, weekly safeguarding discussions, through a multi-agency approach were ideal for informal supervision and support. We now have developed this to include, formal supervision, once per month for all DSL’s. Following Aaron’s training and support, the leadership team are aware of the importance of a child centred approach and in establishing supervision that provides opportunities for self-reflection and peer challenge. The leadership team have worked closely to establish a supervision agreement that meets the key points of effective supervision and belongs to the school in the interests of the children. Supervisors and Supervisees are committed to ensuring that the supervision process is effective and meets the rationale outlined in our new Supervision policy.”

Ivy House School Policies

“We understand that supervision will allow for DSL’s to actively seek further support and clarification in regards, to, individual case work and prevent drift, which can occur in difficult situations. This will enable interventions to be implemented more quickly, resulting in improved outcomes across the school for children, young people, families and staff.”

Get in touch and let me know how you are implementing Supervision in your schools. You can reach me via my ‘Contact’ page.
If you require training or a discussion on implementing supervision I am able to help facilitate this.

Bimrose, J, & Wilden, S. (1994). Supervision in careers guidance: Empowerment or control? British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 22(3), 373–383.

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