The new handbook that’s helping every teacher to be a teacher of SEND

with Erica Wolstenholme, Whole School SEND National Coordinator

As it says in the SEND Code of Practice, Every Teacher is a Teacher of SEND. But far too few come out of Initial Teacher Training courses with the skills needed to support SEND learners. Equally, too many experienced teachers lack the understanding they need to help make the phrase a reality.

It's Whole School SEND's purpose to change this. We hope our newest publication, the Whole School SEND Teacher Handbook, available on the SEND Gateway, will go some way to improving knowledge of SEND in the classroom. One of WSS' National Coordinators, Erica Wolstenholme has written more about the handbook and its aims for SNJ.

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How the Whole School SEND Teacher Handbook aims to help create inclusive classrooms by Erica Wolstenholme

The eagerly awaited Teacher Handbook: SEND is here. As with all our work at Whole School SEND it is co-produced. Whether your child’s school is primary or secondary, mainstream or specialist setting they would benefit from accessing this resource.

Why a teacher handbook for SEND?

We know that one of the most impactful experiences for learners with SEND is having access to high quality, inclusive teaching. The teacher handbook complements the wide range of existing nasen and Whole School SEND resources to support teachers in answering the question: How can we, as teachers, meet the needs of our learners with SEND? 

The reality of classroom teaching is that SEND should be understood from a variety of starting points such as an inclusive environment, implementing reasonable adjustments, having a comprehensive knowledge of the learner as well as teaching and learning. The handbook highlights that mindset is as important as skill set.

The focus of the handbook is on embedding inclusive practice, as we know that a significant proportion of the needs that children experience in the mainstream classroom can be met by high quality teaching. This means breaking down barriers to learning, getting to know and understand individual learners and implementing the graduated approach.

This is an accessible and useful resource for leaders, SENCOs, teachers and support staff. Co-production is central to the content as throughout it emphasises the need for every leader and every teacher to ask for, listen to and act upon the views and wishes of the people at the centre of the SEND system: children, young people, and their families.

It is designed as a resource to use over time, so it is divided into 8 sections. It includes whole school and whole class approaches as well as subject-specific and condition-specific guidance. Throughout each section there are links which provide access to further information and guidance. It answers the following questions:

Teacher Handbook SEND cover

What are my responsibilities as a teacher to children and young people with SEND?

Section 1: Understanding your role

This highlights that every teacher is a teacher of SEND and that it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that SEND learners do well within our school system. Throughout the document the children and young people are referred to as learners; by getting to know your learners and how best to support them, your skills and knowledge as a teacher will be enhanced.

How can I find out more about how my pupils learn?

Pen Green Loop with the child at the centre

Section 2: Knowledge of the Learner

This section covers how we learn in relationship to others and in interactions with our environment, pupil voice, the language we use with families, and working with families It includes using cognitive and thinking skills.

 It provides a theoretical basis of how people learn so that teachers can reflect on their practice and monitor its effects when a child or young person’s learning does not appear to be developing as expected.

What will help the pupils in my classes to access learning?

Section 3: Planning inclusive lessons

This section explores inclusive pedagogies to support high quality teaching for learners with SEND. The value of careful curriculum choices against a clear model of progression is explored. It explains the unconscious and conscious barriers to learning, the importance of the language we use with learners, working with teaching assistants and remote education.

How can the classroom and school environment help learners with SEND?

Section 4: Creating an Inclusive Environment.

This section looks at the positive impact of an inclusive classroom environment which creates a feeling of safety and a secure base from which to learn, through the physical design of the room, the nurturing of positive relationships, the availability and accessibility of resources and the structures and routines for learning.

How do I support learners with SEND in my subject?

Children and a teacher in class

Section 5: Subject-specific guidance

This section provides guidance for both primary and secondary teachers in a range of subjects: maths, English, drama, science, music, art and design, physical education, computing, and modern foreign languages. It includes advice on planning inclusive lessons, utilising resources and creating an environment that supports learning in each subject.

Why is the graduated approach important?

Section 6: The Graduated Approach

The graduated approach is the golden thread that binds each section of the handbook. The classroom teacher is presented as an expert on the learner, and it is the formative assessment that takes place through every interaction that informs their expertise. This information alongside the learner themselves and their families is central to being able to work successfully with SENCOs and other professionals to unlock the learner’s potential.

What are the strategies that I can utilise to help learners in my classroom?

Section 7: Strategies to scaffold learning

These are explored across the four areas of need as defined in the Code of Practice: cognition and learning, communication and interaction, sensory and or physical needs, social, emotional and mental health difficulties, and neurodiversity and co-occurrence of need. Each section provides information on the challenges that learners might encounter as well as strategies to break down barriers to learning.

How do I look after myself when facing professional challenges?

Section 8: Teacher wellbeing

This section provides compelling evidence that a strong belief in a teacher’s identity and a positive attitude to their teaching role can generate a better sense of well-being overall

It is acknowledged that teachers can find their experience of supporting children and young people with SEND in the classroom challenging but highlights the benefits of developing strategies to respond to need rather than react to behaviour, thereby resulting in positive changes to a young person’s learning and the teacher’s own wellbeing.

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Schools need to know about this.

All staff in all schools should use this alongside other Whole School SEND Resources. Join our member community and download the Teachers Handbook: SEND – make sure you select the Whole School SEND options to keep up to date with all our resources and developments.

Spheres of Support with teacher and student at the core and TA and family supporting

Please share this information and the link with your school – the Teacher Handbook: SEND and all Whole School SEND accompanying resources are accessible at no cost from the SEND gateway. This is an essential guide for all teachers at all phases in all settings.

Join the Whole School SEND Community and download the guide here

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