As Francis Bacon once said; ‘Great changes are easier than small ones’. In education in general and the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) sector specifically, the last 12 months have been a time of great change, with the inclusion of ‘D’ for disability, the extending of the scope of SEND legislation from 0–25 years and more formal inclusion of health and social care with the creation of jointly commissioned education, health and care plans. Not only this, but the education sector as a whole is now adjusting to a new curriculum and life without levels.
Whilst these changes are designed to improve the education of our children and young people with SEND, experiencing all this change simultaneously inevitably means that different priorities will emerge in each school and setting. Looking at the new curriculum and thinking about how we can assess children and young people differently, through the lens of SEND legislation and guidance, is one of the drivers that has led to nasen wanting to offer its support to the profession, with online support playing a key role in this.
Learning within the online offer will encourage collaboration and reflection. The best possible use of nasen’s material will come through professional partnerships, where teachers access what they need as they need it, try out ideas in their own classroom and bring back their learning to share. When approaches work, the SENCO and the teacher extract the learning, which can be shared with the school community and online as effective practice. Where strategies and interventions don’t work, teachers collaborate and include the SENCO to determine why and take a considered approach to inform next steps. Online CPD is a core part of this approach.
The aim of this online offer is to support settings in achieving high-quality teaching which meets the needs of children and young people with SEND. It will develop the confidence and practice of education professionals and will cover the 0–25 age range and be suitable for all class and subject teachers, as well as early years practitioners and tutors from further education colleges. It will be available from March 2016, with participation running as a golden thread throughout.
As well as practical guidance on teaching strategies, best practice materials and links to further resources, the materials within the offer will be designed to encourage a collaborative approach to professional development, building in opportunities for putting their learning into practice and reflecting with colleagues.
More specifically, the resource will be modular in structure. Modules 1 to 5 will each contain three sections: Knowledge, Practice and Reflect. In the first section of each of these modules, practitioners will be presented with materials that they can either watch, read or listen to. The Practice section will see learners going away to try out something that they have learned. The Reflect section will support learners to think about what they have learnt and how it can be applied, in a sustainable way, to their individual setting.
The final module i.e. module 6 will take the small of a small action research activity, based on Assess, Plan, Do, Review, that will have as its focus an area of interest that has been identified from the previous modules.
While there will be some practical strategies for high-quality teaching, the offer is not designed to be a toolkit but rather, something to help learners develop their practice through both learning and reflection on that learning.
In terms of content, the areas covered will be based on the requirements of the code of practice. For example, development of outcomes will be considered, identifying barriers to learning and so on. The aforementioned ‘golden thread’ of participation and engagement will feature prominently.
The online resource will be personalised and flexible and will support teachers to evidence the extent to which they are meeting the Teachers’ Standards. In this way, teachers can choose to access the suggestions for further reading that are most suitable for meeting their own identified learning needs and interests.
It is important to encourage a culture of evidence based practice by supporting teachers to contribute research and experience to a shared bank of effective practice. Learning is a shared process and it is through this collaborative and reflective approach that teachers will be able to explore the most effective (and feedback on the less effective) methods and provision for children and young people with SEND. Ultimately, we all want to make as much of a difference for our young people as we can and nasen’s hope is that the online offer will make a recognisable contribution.
About the author
Alison Wilcox is an educational development officer at nasen (nasen.org.uk)