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posted 7 Mar 2017, 00:04 by James Dorey   [ updated 7 Mar 2017, 00:05 ]

Back in the 70’s when I was a young girl (WOW a long time ago now!!!!!!) my mum worked as a midday assistant for what was Woodlands, now Columbus. I can even remember the name of the kitchen cook. I also remember taking some of the pupils out for days to the beach; there were no minibuses and the staff transported all the pupils in their own cars. My dad has a red transit van that we used to take about six pupils with us.

I can remember being on Walton beach with pupils and staff, it was one big happy family day out.

Now here I am!!!!!! Working with the same passion and empathy for the pupils and families of Columbus that my mum felt all those years ago.

I have been at what was Woodlands (now known as Columbus) for 13 years and I still feel as passionate about my job now as I did on the first day I started.

I worked firstly as a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) gaining knowledge of all the pupils’ daily needs and education.

In 2011, I took on the role of Family support Advocate full time and now cover all key stages on both School and College Campus.

I am so proud of all the pupils across both campuses and to see them achieve their goals is truly amazing. Knowing how profoundly we collectively (as a BIG FAMILY, just like the days at Walton beach back in the 70’s) improve the lives of our pupils, students and their families to reach their aspirations and full potential is an amazing feeling.

The Columbus Advocacy team works on behalf of young people with disabilities and their families to get the needed support and services required to promote a good quality of life and to promote their wellbeing and achieve positive outcomes. Parental influences have a powerful effect upon children’s and young people’s attitudes, achievements and life outcomes.

My role of the Family Support Advocate is to support and empower families by working in partnership with families, parents, carers and outside agencies, to get the most of out the educational/social opportunities and specialist services and other agencies that are available to them.

My daily tasks often include:
  • To establish positive relationships with all pupils and families 
  • To develop and enhance parental and carer engagement with the school and other agencies 
  • To work with parents and carers to develop parenting skills and promote children’s wellbeing and emotional and social development 
  • Signpost families to the support and advice needed 
  • Signpost to the Children with Disabilities Team (CWD) team. 
  • Signpost and refer to the Short Breaks provisions 
  • Liaise with health care professionals 
  • Liaise with Benefit advisors. 
  • Liaise with Housing Associations 
  • Signpost to various charities 
  • To be a point of contact for both telephone and face-to-face enquiries from parents/carers and outside agencies 
  • Attend TAC (Team around the Child) meetings, CP (Child protection) meetings, CG (Core group) meetings, CIN (Child in Need) meetings, professionals’ meetings, medical appointments and Annual Reviews/ EHCP meetings 
  • To work collaboratively with professionals from a range of agencies supporting the child/young person and the family 
  • Opportunities to meet other families via our Parents Social events 
  • Attend the Columbus Parent Consultation Committee meetings 
  • To provide advice regarding referrals to other agencies 
  • To produce reports for reviews and meetings as required, gathering information from teaching staff as necessary 
  • To liaise with other professionals and gain any relevant information on new pupils/students 
  • To work with individuals or small groups of pupils for nurture work 
  • To support pupils’ pastoral needs including help with emotional, social, welfare, care and health matters 
  • To liaise with parents and staff regarding pupils’ pastoral concerns 
  • To meet with parents to gather up-to-date information on the parents’ views in preparation for an EHCP meeting 
  • To attend relevant training and take responsibility for my own development
Personally, I like to spend time with my family, I love going to the theatre and spending the day in London. I’m not too good at keeping fit if I’m honest - a yoga class once a week is enough for me! Oh yes, and not forgetting those family days at the beach in the summer.

Tracy Gilson

Family Support Advocate