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Evaluation of group supervision for Children’s Centre teacher

Group supervision has been available to Children’s Centre teachers in Birmingham on a voluntary basis for the past two years, since 2008. It was initially introduced in a Children’s Centre teacher training day and a group was set up within the heart of Birmingham (HOB). A second group was set up in Birmingham East and North (BEN) after the success of the first group and to keep travel minimal and numbers of participants within the group below 8.

Questionnaires were emailed to all Children’s Centre teachers who have attended the Children’s Centre group supervision sessions in Birmingham. The responses were either emailed back or sent by post. 11 responses have been received out of a possible pool of 14. The questionnaires have been analysed for this report.

Geographical location within Birmingham

There is one group with heart of Birmingham (HOB) that is attended by approximately 7- 8 regular attenders. There is a second slightly smaller group in Birmingham East and North (BEN) that has 4-5 regular attenders and 2 additional members who attend when the date is suitable. I attempted to establish a third group in South Birmingham but informal feedback indicated that the South Network of Children’s Centre teachers acts in this way and is sufficient and therefore group supervision is not needed.

Attendance at group supervision

There is a core of attendance at both groups, with most Children’s Centre teachers opting to maintain involvement after they start attending, and sending apologies if they cannot attend in order to receive the email notes and details of subsequent sessions.

Outcomes of group supervision

The model of group supervision used with Children’s Centre teachers in Birmingham, and has a tradition of being used with Headteachers, teachers in special schools. It is therefore used with professionals who may find themselves in a potentially isolated position. At a personal level I use this approach on a 6 weekly basis with a number of groups of Family Support Workers, Area SENCos and Children’s Centre managers.

It builds upon traditional models of vertical supervision whereby the supervisor could be viewed to be in a position of power, whereas this model of group supervision represents horizontal supervision with power is being distributed equally within the group. Hawkins and Shohet (2006) draw upon Kadushin’s (1976) work on social work supervision and suggest that there are three main functions or roles in supervision:

  • Educative
  • Supportive
  • Managerial

With regard to the supportive function where the group supervision sessions should respond to the supervisees’ emotional response and reaction to their work and this help reduce stress and the incidence of ‘burn out’. Within the questionnaire this was explored through the use of the descriptor supportive, cathartic and empathetic. The results from this survey demonstrate that the group supervision sessions are viewed as strongly supportive with 8 of the 10 rating group supervision at 10 on this descriptor, and are shown by the following quote:

“All members truly support one another and generally care about one another’s well being”

However the sessions were less likely to be seen as cathartic and this appeared to be related to the stress levels of the participant, and one participant did note the cost on time was high.

In addition the group supervision sessions appeared to form an important function linked to networking as shown within the additional comments, and reduction of isolation as shown by the following comment;

“Being a CC teacher can be a very isolated position and it really helps to meet other people doing the job and talk about what you do and are we all going in the same direction. I can see it helps colleagues who are not working with other teachers where the expectations others have of them can be challenging.”

In relation to the educative function, the group supervision sessions are intended to develop the skills, understanding and abilities of the supervisee, through reflection on and exploration of the supervisees’ work. Within the questionnaire this was explored through the descriptors informative and reflective. The educative function was rated positively at 9-10 by 9 of the 10 participants. The opportunities for gaining information are valued as shown by this comment:

“Excellent way of information sharing and keeping up to date with current changes and developments.”

The opportunity to reflect was also valued and is demonstrated by the following comment:

They allow you to look at things in a positive way and most importantly they provide time and space to reflect effectively!”

With regard to the managerial function which contains the quality control aspect of the supervision, which ensures that work is appropriate and maintains ethical standards. Within the questionnaire this was explored through the use of the descriptor challenging.

Ground rules for group supervision

The descriptors confidential and equitable were used to examine the effectiveness of ground rules. The descriptor equitable was linked to whether all participants felt they had an opportunity to speak and was rated at 8-10 by all participants. The issue of confidentiality was important to most Children’s Centre teachers with 8 out of 10 seeing this as part of the ground rules. It was also rated at 8-10 by all participants in the survey. There was a great deal of consistency in the understanding of the ground rules with many overlaps in understanding demonstrating that the group ground rules are understood in a similar way by all.

The suggested ground rules can be utilized by being collated and used as the basis for all future sessions. The ground rules would then be:

  • Any topic, feeling, experience can be discussed and confidentiality is maintained at all times with the exception that if there were real concerns about an individual/setting in terms of safeguarding then there is a duty to report back about.
  • The group to help and be supportive by talking through problems and enabling others to think of possible solutions or formulating a plan of action if that is what the person would find helpful. The idea is to provide a support network to assist colleagues in finding their own way of coming to terms with their issues or concerns or finding a personal way of coping or improving their current practice.
  • Non judgemental
  • Give everyone a chance to talk and engage in open minded listening.
  • Open honest dialogue, showing sensitivity to colleagues and having a professional outlook
  • Allowing others to just listen if they want to
  • All queries and questions are allowed even if it sounds silly

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 Positive aspects of group supervision

This seems to be linked to the following:

  • Open informal structure
  • Chair to facilitate
  • A space for CC teachers alone
  • An additional opportunity to network
  • Problem solving and/or supportive forum
  • Reflective time
  • A chance for CC teachers to reflect with other teachers as the CC teacher is generally the only teacher in the environment

It appears to offer something different to the CC teacher network meetings through the structure, space and chair.

Negative features of group supervision

This was linked to time and distance to travel with suggestions to run a session earlier than 4pm. This has been taken into account with future planning.

Cost-benefit analysis

82% viewed the benefits of the group supervision sessions to definitely outweigh the cost on time, with 9% viewing the cost and benefits as equal and 9% giving no answer. This would support that CC teachers see the sessions as valuable. This finding was supported by additional comments where all commented that they would like the group supervision sessions to continue, with many offering high praise.


  1. Sessions to continue in the same format
  2. Timing of sessions to be reviewed to possibly start earlier on alternate days of the week
  3. Continue to offer the service in the two areas rather than in one group as this would increase travel difficulties

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