Research School Network: Supporting SEND during COVID-19 Will Cannock, SENCO, Charles Dickens Primary School


Supporting SEND during COVID-19

Will Cannock, SENCO, Charles Dickens Primary School

by London South Research School
on the

During lockdown, schools across the country have employed a range of strategies to enable children to access the curriculum, either from home or for the small numbers of children still on site. Most notably, we have been learning all there is to know about planning and delivering virtual lessons. For children with SEND, we also need think about what additional support needs to be in place to ensure the greatest opportunity for engagement and access.

At Charles Dickens, we have been working hard to find the best ways to support children with a range of Special Educational needs and disabilities. We have used the EEF guidance report (Special Educational Needs in Mainstream schools) to help us to answer some of our most pressing questions.

How can we be inclusive when some children are in school and some are at home?

Recommendation 1 in the Guidance report outlines the importance in creating a positive and supportive environment for all pupils and this holds whether children are at home or in school. Fundamentally, effective teaching and learning requires positive relationships and interactions between teachers and pupils. Many children (believe it or not!) will be really missing their normal’ and routine interactions with their teachers. At Charles Dickens, we have implemented strategies to maintain these interactions.

At the start of lockdown, we quickly developed a virtual school for each year group across the school. Teachers and support staff produce daily welcome messages and video lessons for all children in their class. Drawing from key findings from the Remote Learning Rapid Evidence Assessment’ and giving a platform for peer interactions, teachers are making celebration’ videos sharing videos and photos of work that has been submitted. It has been clear that children really enjoy having the opportunity to see their work featured in a weekly video and to see the work of their classmates. This has had an enormous impact on the amount of work submitted.

Additionally, teachers regularly video-call families in their classes to make brief but personalised face-to-face contact. Parents and children have fed back that this has had a huge impact on motivation, engagement with lessons and overall happiness and wellbeing.

In school, we have grouped children with SEND in small bubbles with familiar adults, following content from the virtual school. 

How can I be sure that children are accessing high quality teaching?

Creating a positive and supportive environment, of course, goes beyond relationships. The guidance report explains that we must ensure all pupils can access the best possible teaching. The Remote learning assessment report reminds us that what we know to be best possible teaching’ remains the same and is more important than how virtual lessons are delivered. At Charles Dickens, the development of the virtual school has been critical to providing access to high quality teaching. All children have access to fully-resourced pre-recorded lessons that follow the same timetable for the normal school day and building on prior learning. Lessons focus on ensuring clear and precise explanations are given, supported by strong modelling and scaffolding.

In addition to the lessons developed for each year group, we have developed an SEND Hub. The SEND hub provides daily welcome messages as well as a highly differentiated curriculum consisting of a daily core activity’ working on a range of areas: communication and interaction, listening and attention, maths and literacy, fine and gross movement and life skills in addition to daily Makaton and reading sessions.

We have found the impact of these strategies to be highly effective. Through closely monitoring engagement through regular, check-in emails and phone calls we have seen consistently high levels of uptake from children with SEND of our virtual school. Parents have fed back that children are excited to access the virtual school and look forward to seeing their teachers every day. We have seen through parents sharing work by email that children are making strong progress and are looking forward to returning to school. 

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