Nasen is the UK’s leading organisation supporting those who work with or care for children and young people with special and additional educational needs and disabilities. At BETT 2016 it will once again host the SEN Information Point. Here Alison Wilcox, nasen’s Education Development Officer, explains its role at BETT and describes how schools from nasen’s Outstanding Schools Project are demonstrating best practiceAt BETT 2016 the nasen team will be on hand to provide visitors with advice and guidance on SEN topics, along with information on its own range of professional development conferences, which take place throughout the year. They will also be able to answer any questions visitors might have on nasen’s new online offer (of which more below) as well as highlighting how best practice support can become a reality within the classroom.
The nasen Outstanding Schools Project was developed in order to highlight best practices for children and young people with SEND. Case studies were undertaken in 12 exemplary primary, secondary and special schools, in order to help provide a greater understanding of what ‘outstanding’ SEND education is.
Nasen interviewed and filmed each school involved in the Project to help indicate how extraordinary SEND support is achieved and how all staff can provide the best possible assistance for every pupil. Though the methods of each school were different, the common factor was that the needs of the children were always the top priority. Here, we look at how a few of the schools from the project were able to demonstrate outstanding SEN support.
One size does not fit all
Ensuring that provision is personalised is crucial; the needs of every child are different, and some require additional and more personalised help. The best SEND providers are those who are able to tailor support to individual children’s needs. One setting from the Outstanding Schools Project, Finham Park in Coventry, a specialist mathematics and computing college, ensures that when pupils have certain additional requirements, further measures are taken to remove unnecessary pressure.
‘We personalise timetables in certain situations to give children more time to put towards their studies, which can be difficult to achieve during lesson time,’
says Pauline Parkes, Finham’s Inclusion Manager.
‘We can provide children with extra time to spend in the Personalised Learning Centre (PLC) to do any work which is necessary to help students get the most out of lessons, or to help them with homework so that they are supported and can progress effectively,’
However, whilst helping to build independence in children is essential, providing that additional support and time, as well as care and encouragement, is integral to improving the attainment and happiness of children and young people with SEND. It gives them the environment they need in which to grow and realise their full potential. It is this simple concept which is implemented throughout Guiseley Secondary School in Leeds.
Guiseley focuses on the idea of nurturing and ensures this concept of caring support is incorporated throughout the curriculum, so that all pupils are able to foster a positive attitude of independence and self-sufficiency. ‘Nurture groups’ are created to realise the best academic progress for pupils, and are small in size to allow students to better focus and avoid distraction. As part of the nurture provision at Guiseley, staff break down work modules into smaller, more manageable tasks so that students can focus on small steps at a time.
Seeking additional help
Undoubtedly, providing high quality SEND support across a whole school is no simple task. Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs) should therefore not feel uncomfortable in seeking additional, external professional help. One of nasen’s Outstanding Schools, Frederick Bird Primary, receives regular support from external agencies who are educational experts. This ensures that the needs of all pupils are fulfilled, as Assistant Headteacher for inclusion,
Natalie Franklin-Hackett, explains:
‘As a school, we decided a couple of years ago to commission an outside agency to work alongside us, because the local authority could only offer a limited number of hours per term,’ says Natalie. ‘We decided to get support from a clinical psychologist and an educational psychologist who could be here one day every week and become really embedded within the culture of the school.’
The psychologists were introduced to monitor and analyse student behaviour and to help staff ensure the correct procedures were in place to support all SEND pupils within the classroom so that every child is included. Furthermore, this allows the teachers at Frederick Bird to positively use their time in the classroom for the benefit of all pupils.
When transitioning from primary to secondary school, children and young people with SEND often face additional obstacles and barriers to learning and integrating. Swanwick Hall Secondary School in Derbyshire is featured in nasen’s Outstanding Schools Project, and has been praised by parents of a number of SEND pupils for enabling an easier transition. In one video, Lisa, the mother of Nathan, a pupil at the school, describes how her child had an extremely difficult time at primary school, outlining behavioural problems which the school simply deemed as ‘misbehaving’ rather than attempting to provide support for Nathan’s underlying problems.
Lisa describes the negative comments made to her by Nathan’s primary Headteacher about his transition into secondary school, stating that he would ‘never make it’. Believing her child had the capability to succeed, Lisa built a good relationship with Swanwick Hall before Nathan began the following academic year. Lisa says that Nathan was supported from day one, leading to an easy transition into secondary life, demonstrating the importance of schools working closely with parents to provide the best possible start for children and young people with SEND.
This is why it is incredibly important that parents communicate any concerns over their children’s needs directly with schools, as early as possible. However, secondary schools also have a responsibility to liaise with primary schools to get an idea of any children who may have additional educational needs, whether the parents approach the school first or not.
However, even the most talented SENCO may sometimes feel a lack of confidence when it comes to meeting a certain student’s needs, particularly during the transitional phases. As such, seeking help externally and gaining advice from bodies outside of the school is recommended in order to provide the best possible SEND practice.
Significant changes in policy for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have taken place over the past few years. Realising the additional pressure this places on SEND professionals to provide the best possible support for pupils with SEND, in March 2016, nasen will be launching a free online offer of continuing professional development (CPD) for all settings, in order to help embed the reforms in the SEND Code of Practice and continue to develop excellent practice.
This training is being created by nasen, in consultation with a reference group comprised of relevant professionals from the SEN sector, representing pre-school, primary, secondary and post-16 provision. This free training will use existing expertise to share the most effective practice with schools and settings. The material will cover the 0–25 age range and will be suitable for all practitioners.
It will provide learning materials to read, watch or listen to, opportunities to put learning into practice and then give guidance for reflection on this learning. Links to further resources will be given in order to allow learners to explore areas that are particularly relevant to their CPD needs and interests. The training is designed to encourage a collaborative, reflective approach to professional development and will build in opportunities for colleagues to share their learning with others.
The job of nasen is to provide support for professionals looking to better their knowledge, confidence and understanding in relation to SEND provision. Their aim is to ensure that schools are empowered to offer best practice to the people for whom it matters the most: the children and young people themselves. The online offer is one of the ways they will achieve this aim.
BETT 2016 takes place at Excel, London on 20-23 January 2016. Entry is free and visitors can pre-register on the BETT website. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter @Bett_Show, and join #BettChat fortnightly on Tuesdays at 4:30pm.