In recent years, dramatic changes in both policy and attitudes to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have taken place, putting additional pressure on SEN professionals to provide the best possible support for pupils with SEND. At this time of transition, with children across the country anticipating the move to secondary school, there is an additional focus on ensuring that children and young people with SEN are nurtured throughout the changeover.
As we approach the time of transition from primary to secondary, pupils everywhere are getting excited about what lies ahead. However, what is exciting for most is a cause of great stress and uncertainty for many children and young people with SEN, as well as their parents. Understanding how this transition can be achieved to bring about positive change in these childrens lives is something which nasen care very deeply about and was one of the reasons we established the Outstanding Schools Project. The idea behind the project was to demonstrate best practice in SEN education, and provide SEN professionals with a number of exemplar schools who demonstrate best practice in their respective schools.
Nasen interviewed and filmed each school involved in the Outstanding Schools Project to help indicate how extraordinary SEN support is achieved and how all staff can provide the best possible assistance for every pupil. Though the methods of each school are different, the common factor is that the needs of the children are the main concern.
Transitioning 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 SEN pupils for enabling an easier transition.
In one video, Lisa, the mother of SEN pupil Nathan, 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 real 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 young people with SEN.
Communication 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, the 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 or not.
Jill, parent of student Jack at Swanwick Hall, describes the struggles her son faced in carrying out ‘daunting’ new responsibilities such as following timetables and moving from class to class, which caused Jack to exhibit behavioural problems and get in increasing amounts of trouble. Jill arranged an initial meeting with Swanwick Hall following her son’s repeated detentions, where the school determined that things would change immediately.
The staff at Swanwick Hall are committed to promoting positive behaviour, and work to ensure that appropriate additional provision is in place where necessary. This includes a personalised approach for children who need it, enabling those with more challenging behaviour to get the extra help they may need.
Jill states that following the initial meeting, things quickly improved for her son, highlighting the importance of tailored support for students with SEN, and the need for on-going communication between parents and schools, which helps create a partnership approach to SEN provision.
Personalised provision It is important to understand that the needs of every child are different, and that some require additional and more personalised help. The best SEN providers are those who are able to tailor support to individual child needs. One school from the Outstanding Schools Project, Finham Park in Coventry, ensures that when pupils have certain additional requirements, further measures are taken to remove unnecessary pressure.
Pauline Parkes, Finham’s inclusion manager, said: “We personalise timetables in certain situations to enable children to have more time to put towards their studies, which can be difficult to achieve during lesson time.
“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.”
Nurturing pupils Caring for and encouraging pupils is key to their attainment and happiness at school, giving them the opportunity to grow in an environment in which they can realise their full potential. It is this simple concept which is implemented throughout Guiseley Secondary School, in Leeds. Guiseley focuses on nurture 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.
Garry Freeman, director of inclusion and SENCO at Guiseley, said: “That way, they can experience success before moving onto the following task, then have success with that one before moving onto the next. It’s a very structured approach which we feel works tremendously well for building self-confidence and self-esteem.”
Seeking additional help Providing high quality SEN support across a whole school is no simple task. 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, elucidates.
She said: “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 us a limited amount 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 educational psychologists were introduced to monitor and analyse student behaviour and help staff ensure the correct procedures were in place to support all SEN pupils within the classroom so that every child is included. Furthermore, the method allows teachers at Frederick Bird to positively utilise time in the classroom for the benefit of all pupils.
External help In another nasen Outstanding Schools Project example, Camberwell Park Primary seeks outside help from a physiotherapist who works with SEN children with special physiological needs, and helps train staff on how to best cater to these pupils.
Even the most talented SENCO may sometimes feel unconfident when it comes to managing a certain student’s needs, particularly during the transitional phases. As such, seeking help externally and gaining recommendations from bodies outside of the school is recommended in order to provide the best possible SEN practice. Our job at nasen is to provide support for professionals looking to better their knowledge, confidence and understanding in relation to SEN provision.
CPD events such as nasen Live 2015, or our Leadership Conference on 19 May are designed to bring together everything that school leaders and SENCOs need to know in relation to providing outstanding SEN support. Our 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.