The SEN Code of practice states that “every teacher is a teacher of SEN” yet this is not mirrored in the training that many of us teachers had when training to become a teacher.
I am in the fortunate position that my role as SENCO allows me to see how students are supported, in a number of different lessons across the school, to overcome their barriers to learning and see how we, as a brilliant staff team, help students regardless of need make progress in the subjects they take. I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the practice of staff at our school.
- Creating a positive and supporting environment for all students, without exception – it is our job to make sure that we are as inclusive as possible and that means removing any barriers that students may have with regards to learning and participation. In MFL Vickie Smith was using direct questioning to ascertain students’ understanding of the tasks, however she also used scaffolding to support the students in the form of sentence builders. Many of the students in the year 7 class, including those with a SEN, were able to participate in the questioning but were also able to complete the tasks that they had been set. Similarly in Jordan Burgess’ computing lessons, again a class heavily loaded with students with a SEN, although you wouldn’t know that it was. All students were getting on quietly and calmly, using the appropriate scaffolding that he had set out. Jordan’s use of Amber Rudrum (the TA) was fantastic, helped by the fact that she had a strong knowledge and understanding of not only what was being taught but also what her role was within the classroom.
- Building an ongoing, holistic understanding of the students and their specific needs – spending time in Jess McConville’s maths classroom with a class that were struggling with the concepts that they were being taught was a brilliant example. Jess was using the mini whiteboards to continually assess all students in the class, Jess then asked questions of specific students to gain a more in depth understanding of their knowledge of the concept/skill, her questioning allowed the student to be in the “struggle” zone, which is where they needed to be. Lauren Chaitow was carrying out some fabulous work with her tutor group, working with parents to make sure that they fully understood the support that was available to their child and also making sure that she was building up a clearer picture of the student.
- Working effectively with teaching assistants – We all know that if all the adults in the room know what their role is, that the students will have benefit from this. Megan Lamper and Sarah Hadfield are prime examples of this. At all times in the lesson it was clear that Sarah knew what her role was in the lesson, which students she would be focusing on and what this would look like in terms of work, the students saw the adults in the room working as a team and treated them as such. It also allowed those students who needed more bespoke intervention and support to get this. Tom Ferns knew what his role was in the supply history lesson – showing that there were clear routines in place in the history lessons. It avoided him not knowing what he needed to do, and the students benefited from the well laid out expectations of the class
What has been evident is the understanding that every child is different and so a blanket approach to support doesn’t work. In my lesson pop ins I see varying interventions to support students with their different needs. Several students with ADHD traits were not treated the same in the lessons because the way they presented were so vastly different. We all know students in classes that we teach and support where one strategy would work but for another student, with seemingly the same need, it would not, and it is important that we continue to adapt how we support these students based on their unique need, because ultimately we are there to support them to make progress both academically and socially.
By Kate Blight