Tania's note: It may seem hard to believe but one day, we will get back to "normal" in schools. The question is, what will this new normal look like? Schools should have been carrying out or updating co-produced (with parents) risk assessments to allow SEND pupils to return, but in many cases, it seems it's just been a check-box on the way to telling parents their children are "safer" at home.
This leads us to the subject of inclusion and how school leaders, teachers and SENCos can improve practice in this area. The SEND reforms, as we know, haven't exactly met aspirations or expectations. So the Department for Education commissioned nasen and Whole School SEND to create tools and training to teach school leaders, SENCOs and all those tasked with delivering SEND education, how to improve SEND provision in schools.
If you read our article from Prof. Geoff Lindsay recently, you'll know that "Parents as Partners" is something thought of as vital as far back as The Warnock Report 40 years ago. Unfortunately, that message was largely overlooked, despite it being at the heart of the SEND reforms.
So if teachers are looking for reading material over the summer, I have something today that will assist everyone in school, from the head downwards, can become more proficient at supporting their SEND cohort in an inclusive (and legally-compliant) manner.
Anne Heavey, the inspirational national director of Whole School SEND, rightly decided "parents as partners" meant these resources needed to be devised with parental input at the heart. I was excited to be asked to join their "Every Leader is a Leader of SEND, Expert Reference Group for the SEND workforce. Resources stemming from this have now been published as part of a suite of tools. They're available for free download. I urge everyone to make use of them, and for practitioners and parents alike to send this article along to their school and colleagues.
Anne Heavey is here on SNJ to tell us more about it.
Up-skilling the workforce to improve SEND provision by Anne Heavey, Director, Whole School SEND
Over the last two years, the Whole School SEND Consortium has been working hard to deliver a contract for the Department for Education to support the schools’ workforce in England, to improve SEND provision in English schools.
As part of this work, we have developed and recently launched several new resources on the SEND gateway. I’d like to introduce three of these to you that can be downloaded from there:
- The Demonstrating Inclusion Tool
- Effective SENCo Deployment Guide
- Condition Specific Videos
Each of these resources was produced by a team, drawing on school-based professionals, unions, parents, specialist organisations and young people. Our name is Whole School SEND – and we believe that without the real input of parents, professionals and young people in the creation of our resources we don’t live up to our name.
For just over a year an expert reference group, chaired by Stephen Chamberlain crafted, tested and refined the Demonstrating Inclusion Tool. SNJ’s Tania provided parental representation for this group. We hope that school leaders will use the five key areas within this document to examine and strengthen inclusion within their schools.
The five areas are:
- Inclusive leadership
- Inclusive teaching and learning
- Drawing on expertise to enrich school experience
- Deployment of resources in an evidence-informed way
- Pupil achievements and outcomes
We’ve tried hard to make sure this tool is relevant to different settings, phases across the sector, and that the tool is sharp enough to be used by busy senior leaders.
Informed by school leaders
Having school leaders from special, alternative provision, mainstream primary and secondary settings was invaluable for challenging us to develop a tool with both breadth and relevance.
Senior leaders are invited to identify evidence from three sources when examining inclusion within their settings:
- Stakeholders (including families and pupils)
We hope that this process will support senior leaders to reflect on the translation of policy intentions in practice and experience in the classroom, corridor and culture of the school.
Expert SENCO (and SNJ columnist), Hannah Moloney also led a team of SENCOs and parents to develop a guide to support the effective deployment of SENCos.
At Whole School SEND, we have been increasingly concerned that many SENCOs are not given sufficient time, resource or status to ensure high quality SEND provision for all children with SEND. This guide will support SENCOs and their managers to construct effective SEND teams, ensuring high-quality provision is built into the fabric of a school, rather than shoe-horned in after the fact.
Five strands of SEND in schools
The guide has the following strands:
- Strand One: The SENCO on the Senior Leadership Team
- Strand Two: The Team Around the SENCO
- Strand Three: Effective Co-production
- Strand Four: Time to Fulfil the Role
- Strand Five: Meaningful Performance Management
It also includes annexes to support decision-making and leadership of SEND across a Multi-Academy Trust.
Both of these documents can be downloaded for free from the SEND Gateway, and are also available in editable word versions.
Educating teachers about SEND
Both of the resources previously mentioned focus on leadership of SEND, which we believe is crucial for improving SEND provision. However, ensuring that classroom teachers are also equipped to understand and support pupils with SEND profiles is also essential.
About 11 years ago, I sat in a lecture theatre on a cold Monday afternoon for the only SEND content offered on my PGCE. I’m going to level with you, it was just awful. As a young carer with an interest in the area, I was not only angry and frustrated but also ill-prepared for the diversity of pupils I would work with, on both my training and in my NQT year. This won’t be the picture on every teacher training course, but all the same, we know that confidence around supporting pupils with SEND is low, compared to other areas for newly qualified teachers.
To provide a place to start, we commissioned the Centre for Education and Youth to create, in partnership with specialist organisations, families and schools, a series of 12 videos. Each video provides an introduction to condition-specific areas of SEND that they might encounter in the classroom.
These videos cover the following areas:
- Acquired Brain Injury
- Down’s Syndrome
- Hearing Impairment
- Physical Disability
- Social, Emotional and Mental Health
- Speech, Language and Communication Needs
- Visual Impairment
They don't aim to cover everything that a new (or experienced for that matter) teacher would need to know. They do, however, provide useful tips, signpost to reliable sources of information and highlight the importance of working with families and really getting to know the individual child.
I wish a resource like this had been available when I started teaching, and we believe that they will be useful to more experienced teachers, not just new entrants to the profession.
We’re really proud of these resources and grateful to everyone who contributed, and hope that school-based professionals find them useful. We know that SEND provision in England has a long way to go, and it really isn’t good enough everywhere yet. We’ll continue to support the profession until we get there.
Anne is the Director of Whole School SEND, a consortium of organisations and individuals who share a commitment to improving education for children and young people with SEND, before taking on this post she was an education policy advisor at a trade union and a secondary school music teacher. She was also a young carer, and is now a not so young carer.
- Distance education resources for children and young people with SEND
- How has special education needs evolved in the 40 years since the Warnock Report?
- SENCO basics: My research defining the role of the modern SENCO
- How the 2020 SENCO Surveys findings could really improve SEND provision nationally
- The role of the SENCO: what do you need to know?
- The devastating impact of the SENCo workload
- The SENCo – parent relationship: Making it work to benefit the SEND child
- SEND children are being “traumatised” by not getting the help they need in schools
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- Introducing Oak National Academy’s new online specialist curriculum - September 11, 2020
- Improving SEND provision: Co-produced resources for the whole school - June 12, 2020