This post on the design and delivery of an inclusive remote learning strategy for all our children is published in response to the latest Government lockdown. Many schools remain open to vulnerable and critical worker children. However for a significant number of children there is no on site access to education. This may be due to them self-isolating, bubble closure or parental or child anxiety. It may be that there provision cannot host them in school. Blended learning for SEND learners is additionally difficult. It is difficult for parents, carers and the child. It is a test of teacher’s skills, creativity and passion for their children to succeed.
As the NEU union have very kindly linked to inclusiveteach.com I thought I had better share the system and questions we used at my school to plan the blended learning strategy. As I said to the teachers in my school in our first meeting about blended learning. “No one is an expert on blended learning for SEND children”. As a school leader who has not developed or delivered it I can try and support but I will not dictate or judge. We are in this together.
This is a link to the initial powerpoint on blended learning. This formed the focus of our discussion (photos removed). If you would like click on make a copy or download and feel free to use. Below I outline the questions we sort to answer.
Define What Blended Learning is for your School
I initially went with “An added dimension to learning in partnership with home that is as close to school provision as possible”. I hosted an SENexchange discussion in partnership with Oak National when they launched their specialist curriculum provision. There was so much input from parents, teachers and ex-pupils that informed the putting together of this approach.
A low stress and wellbeing focused strategy that acknowledges the challenges faced by families. We do not want to cause distress to a child for whom the pressures of school activities will not be tolerated in the home environment. We need to acknowledge that MS Teams or Zoom into people’s homes may be seen as an invasion of privacy. We also need to acknowledge that teachers working from home may have children or partners also trying to work or play. For this reason live lessons or video calls are at the teachers discretion only.
How to enthuse them to learn? We need engaging activities not twinkl worksheets.
How to maintain connection and relationships? The key to success for SEND is the bond between pupils and pupils and staff. Can we maintain and enhance this? Primarily with the thought to the transition back into school.
Our Staff Team
How an we build skills and confidence? New technology, training, workload! All these factors of blended learning need to be considered. It is important to acknowledge these will evolve over time.
What can we do to support with workload? Blended learning should be efficient but we need time to assimilate our new approach.
How are therapies going to be delivered? Speech and language and occupational therapy interventions are essential parts of SEND provision. How do we do these remotely and even how do we do them safely in school?
How do we engage them to feel that remote learning is something we are doing with them not to them? Covid-19 has stretched school/parent relationships. Especially given the DfE guidance that often forces headteachers into difficult situations. Without parent engagement any blended learning is doomed to failure. This is a key learning point for schools. Do we supply high quality training to parents and carers? Do they understand PECS? Have we offered Makaton training? Get these up and running if they are part of the child’s communication needs.
Resources for Blended Learning
How can we design learning to utilise existing resources? If children have a laptop at home who says learning has to be via a screen (see ideas below)?
What does that child need and how can we deliver these? Clever fingers, OT equipment and sensory circuits all need adapting to utilise limited materials people may have at home. What does this say about the support available to parents/carers to create therapeutic spaces at home – these spaces are expensive. I know children would benefit from access to these resources at weekends and holidays but they are out of reach of schools let alone parents.
These links are to some of the resources I made specially for home learning for PMLD and SLD pupils in March and April:
Who, how, when and why? I was very cynical about any training provider offering remote learning training. So when have you used that then? This is where twitter and teacher forums came to the fore. The sharing of successes and failures between teaching staff has been brilliant. A team effort!
Key Elements of Blended Learning
- Show it has Value
- Maintain Connections
- Ensure Accessibility and low pressure
- Communicate regularly
- Staff skills audit – Who wants to do videos? Find your storytellers.
- Family consultation
- Plan for each learner
- Low/High tech delivery options
- Feedback & Assessment Process
Schools and teachers will get better and better at blended learning. It would be nice to see this continue and change the experience of those children who cannot be in school due to school based anxiety “school refusers” or those with medical issues who have low attendance do to illness or ongoing complex issues. We need to question the pressures carers and parents are put under to have the child physically in the building and what benefits blended learning could have for so many SEND pupils who may not have school places or who cannot access education with the system as it is.