Getting back to learning

In her regular column for Education Today this month, independent Specialist Teacher and Assessor JOANNE GLADDERS considers how to address the gaps in learning and missed opportunities for specialist intervention that have occurred as a result of lockdown.

By now you will be in the throes of a new term; a term of uncertainty and a new ‘normal’. I do hope that your young people have settled back into school well and that you had a restful summer break. As we establish the new norm, we consider how to address the

gaps in learning and missed opportunities for specialist intervention that have occurred. It is important to give our young people an opportunity to settle into the new normality and to have an opportunity to immerse themselves in learning once again prior to any assessments that are outstanding. As an assessor, I firmly believe that, prior to any assessment being carried out, such opportunities are given to re-engage with learning. This will enable the bigger picture to be established again which is imperative for a fair and reliable assessment to take place. However, if a young person is unable to wait for an assessment please do put their needs first. The Department for Education in their guidance does give the

green light for Specialist Teachers to engage with young people. I am sure that you will want to ensure that all young people’s individual needs are met but appreciate that, initially, priority will be given to ensuring that all young people and staff are comfortable and settled with the new arrangements. As we come out of a new way of learning, having spent the best

part of a term and a half online, have you considered asking your specialists to engage in this way of working? Although we can’t carry out full assessments in this way we can teach using online platforms! I have had the privilege of continuing to work with some of my students in this way during the course of lockdown and it works extremely well. Any online platform can support this work and it is more than

feasible for the young person to engage in and to actually take control of the screen to demonstrate their understanding of taught concepts and develop their knowledge further. It is enjoyable and worthwhile even if the young person laughs at their specialist who is pointing at the screen to show a point despite the fact they cannot be seen! (Can you tell I have done this often!) In addition, consideration could even be given to working in this way within the school building, utilising technology to enhance our work and to record the young people’s work rather than being reliant on the use of workbooks. In this new era, I think it is important to challenge how we have

done things previously. Then we can select the practices we cannot be without but also harness new opportunities to work in new ways. The priority, as always, is to move our learners learning forward regardless of the constraints placed upon us. I challenge you to consider your practice and to value the opportunities and not to be restrained by the constraints.

September 2020

A new term and new challenges for SEND pupils

Regular Education Today contributor KATE SARGINSON, Deputy Headteacher and SENCO, this month examines how school leaders can ensure pupils with SEND are prepared, protected and included as the new school year begins.

The new academic year will consist of many challenges for every child and member of school staff, and full reopening has required additional consideration for 12% of school children in England with special educational needs. Never before has the health and safety of the school population been as crucial to the running of a successful school. What are the considerations around the implementation of the new normal and how can school leaders ensure pupils with SEND are prepared, protected and included? For children with Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP), individual

risk assessments would have been completed during the closure, and can be referred to and updated for the new school year. Pupils with EHCPs may need a much more detailed and individualised programme to aid transition back into school and help them adjust, particularly if they have not been in school for many months. Increased hygiene requirements in schools are not unwelcome, but

may pose difficulties for some children. The sensation of hand sanitiser and running water on the skin could be unpleasant and something to avoid. Conversely, hand washing could be something that children love the sensory feedback from, and become distracted by wanting to repeat at the detriment of learning and other activities. Once grasped, the new routines could become very rigid in some children’s minds and concerns about germs and illness could impact on mental well-being or impact negatively on peer relationships when others might forget the rules or flout them. Social distancing has been a difficult concept for many children. Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder might find it difficult not to bump into peers or be too close to them if they struggle to gauge their body position in relation to others. Pupils with visual impairments may not b able to see as far away as 2 metres, and also find navigating new implementations such as one way systems challenging without close adult support. Having new levels of discipline to now have to wait after previously doing things freely, and the increased need to queue patiently could be challenging for children with a diagnosis such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. At the time of writing, face coverings were only required to be worn in

corridors, communal areas and school transport for secondary aged pupils in Scotland and outside of education, people with disabilities are exempt from the requirement in shops and public transport. Many disabilities are invisible and therefore might risk public questioning, to justify not wearing a mask challenges a person’s right to disclose their needs. The fabric and fit of masks may feel additionally uncomfortable for those with sensory needs, the physical barrier covering the mouth will make lip reading impossible for those with hearing impairments and being understood will hold greater challenge communicating by those with speech difficulties. Many pupils will have found the lockdown socially and emotionally

challenging. School staff need to be mindful of how this combines with SEND and acknowledge that additional support with understanding new routines through explicit teaching and flexibility with approaches may be required, so that the gains made with inclusion are not lost due to the pandemic. 19

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