A Central Virtual School
- collaboration is the key to implementing high quality remote education.
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by Billesley Research School
Over the past year, the UK has faced an unprecedented event; Covid-19. The nation has had to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and work in ways, which have never been seen before; none more so than teachers and students. At Billesley Primary School, we take pride in providing the best education for all of our pupils and when the first lockdown occurred last March, we wanted to transfer our outstanding teaching and learning from the physical classroom to the digital classroom. We knew this was even more important for our SEND children and their families (which encompasses 20% of our school cohort), as these children need specialist provision (SEND CoP, 2014) to allow them to successfully achieve and close the gap with their peers. In January 2021, a concerning study by Rose et al (2020) found that after the first lockdown, Year 2 pupils, who are classified as disadvantaged, returned to school in September with a gap of 7 months, in both maths and reading, compared to 2 months with their peers. As a large proportion of our SEND children are categorised as disadvantaged, this was an extremely concerning study. Furthermore, this worry was heightened when Ofsted (2021) released a publication showing that ‘59% of parents of a child with SEND said they had disengaged with remote education compared to 39% without additional needs’. As a school, we therefore thought carefully about our offer for our SEND children, as well as thinking about how to support and engage their parents during this difficult time to support their learning.
The first provision we looked at for our SEND students, was our primary, remote learning offer for all students; Google Classroom. Our offer consisted of each day, class teachers from all year groups uploaded a writing, reading, mathematics and curriculum lesson, all of which were differentiated through outcome, model and success criteria. As professionals wanting the best for the children we teach, we insisted that our online provision would be of the highest quality (in line with our in-school provision) ‘as good quality teaching does not just benefit SEND children, but all children’ (EEF, 2020). Scaffolding, advocated by Curran (2021), was also provided for children. Teachers supported learning with the use of visuals (to support the clarification of vocabulary), chunked lessons and through utilizing the screen castify video app, so instructions and modelling were explicitly explained to the child in each lesson. When delivering reading lessons specifically, low stake quizzes were built into lessons, giving instant feedback to all learners, which Ofsted (2021) stated ‘is more important than ever’. In addition to this, feedback given on each piece of work was purposeful. For this to be most effective for SEND learners, we removed the reading barrier, which occurs using written comments, and instead, recorded voice notes using the app ‘mote’ to enable children to access their feedback and improve their learning successfully.
Billesley has an Autistic Resource Base and even though most of our students attended school during the January lockdown, others did not. Our Resource Base staff provided a specialised curriculum for those who did not attend during this time (through google classroom). The NSPCC (2021), highlighted that ‘lack of routine and structure make children feel anxious and upset, especially if they have special educational needs and disabilities.’ and this was an obstacle we needed to overcome across the school. Luckily, our RB students access their learning in school through the google classroom, therefore anxieties were eased for them. However, due to children not having an adult physically by their side, anxieties were still present during lessons. The outstanding practitioners in the base therefore coached their remote learning students every lesson, by having a member of staff on their worksheet whilst they worked. In addition, lessons were adapted, as a result of feedback from parents, to help pupils achieve to their best potential during this time. An example of this outstanding support was seen when a pupil was struggling with a slide and they felt like they couldn’t proceed onto the next part of the lesson. They did not have the tools to overcome this obstacle and therefore became distressed. In depth conversations took place with the RB teacher, parent and student and as a result, lessons were adapted using timers, now and next boards and visual timetables (all of which the pupil uses in school) to ensure this didn’t happen again. Both the student and parents felt happier with the learning each day and thus the child thrived in their learning from then on.
As an inclusion team, we realised that some SEND children would benefit from extra ‘layers of support’ to help them through this difficult time (just like in school through the graduated approach). During the initial lockdown, Billesley Primary School started live, online targeted sessions (through the online platform Google Meet) to aid SEND children who struggled during this time with their learning. It proved to be successful with both parents and students, so when we went into lockdown again at the start of January, we relaunched the programme, however refined our practice to ensure maximum impact. The EEF (2018), also recommended that this type of 1:1 tuition was likely to be a particularly effective approach to closing the gap and carefully planned tuition programmes can boost progress of up to 5 months. 21 SEND children from across the school (including 2 children with an EHCP), who were accessing learning from home, were given the opportunity to participate in the programme. They received two, 20 – 30 minute sessions weekly based on their area of need. Reading, mentoring and speech and language lessons were delivered by the SENCo, TAs, Teachers and Academic mentors on a small group or 1:1 basis. Just like the first lockdown, parent responses to the initiative were positive. Below are just a few of the comments we received:
‘X has received meet teach during both lockdowns. She enjoys seeing her teachers and learning. It has also helped me to help X at home with routines and structure.’
X has grown in confidence and enjoys her weekly sessions with Mr Connolly. It’s given her a boost.’
‘X and Y have meet teach. X has a go first and then Y. It’s good because I can’t help the kids that well.’
As a school we are now considering different ways to build on the success of meet teach and keep it as part of our curriculum to support SEND children.
The first part of this blog has enabled me to reflect on the online, remote provision that we provided for our children during the covid-19 lockdown. We are now looking at ways to improve our in school practice by implementing some of the successes we created during school closure in the classroom. However, as Ofsted (2021) stated ‘Remote education is a broad term encompassing any learning that happens outside of the classroom, with the teacher not present in the same location as the pupils’. When looking at our engagement for SEND children, we realised that these first two approaches to learning did not suit all needs, therefore some children needed a more bespoke package. During my next blog, I will be reflecting on how and why we provided these packages for our SEND children.
Billesley Research School
Curran, H. (2021) ‘Remote education: Supporting learners with SEND (and their families)’ Sed Ed: The voice for secondary education 09 February Available at: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/remote-education-supporting-learners-with-send-and-their-families-coronavirus-teaching-schools-lockdown‑1/ (Accessed: 25 March 2021)
Department for Education and Department of Health (2015) Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/… (Accessed: 25 March 2021).
Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF) One to One Tuition Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/one-to-one-tuition/ (Accessed: 25 March 2021)
Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF) (2020) Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools – Guidance Report Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Send/EEF_Special_Educational_Needs_in_Mainstream_Schools_Guidance_Report.pdf (Accessed: 25 March 2021)
NSPCC (2021) Supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities Available at: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/support-for-parents/coronavirus-supporting-children-special-educational-needs-disabilities/ (Accessed: 25 March 2021)
Ofsted (2021) What’s working well in remote education Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/whats-working-well-in-remote-education/whats-working-well-in-remote-education#keep-it-simple (Accessed: 25 March 2021)
Ofsted (2020) How remote education is working for children and young people with SEND Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/remote-education-and-send/how-remote-education-is-working-for-children-and-young-people-with-send (Accessed: 25 March 2021)
Rose, S. Twist, L. Lord, P. Rutt, R. Badr, K. Hope, C. and Styles, B. (2021) Impact of school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment and socio-emotional wellbeing in Key Stage 1: Interim Paper 1 Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Covid-19_Resources/Impact_of_school_closures_KS1_interim_findings_paper_-_Jan_2021.pdf (Accessed: 25 March 2021)
- collaboration is the key to implementing high quality remote education.