How can we create a school every child enjoys attending? This was the premise of the #SENexchange discussion on the 2nd June 2021. Below is a write-up of the discussion about creating the school of joy. You might also enjoy reading this book by Action Jackson. Whilst not SEN specific the book captures the ethos of this discussion. The following graphic taken from the Happy school manifesto is useful for visualising the process. He very much focusses on the whole school community whereas this SENexchange looked at the children only. So let’s have a look at what the contributors thought would be effective in creating a school of Joy for children with SEN.
Update September 2021: Following this discussion I launched “The School of Joy Approach” as a set of 7 core values and beliefs for organisations or individuals to follow. It includes teaching and leadership pages as well as a short training powerpoint. The key element is the pledge form to show people how many educators, parents and others passionate about SEND share their viewpoint. Please take a minute to check it out and sign up!
What brings you or your child joy?
- The beach – Rachel
- Outdoor Learning – The freedom, the risk taking ‘safely’ – no rules as such. Exploration and enjoyment. No pressure. – Teach PMLD
- Play – Georgina D
- Choice is a huge factor. I was in a classroom today where the students could pick what type of movement activity to start the day with. They all voted for a dance from go noodle and they were so excited and focused once it started. – Chris Moore
- Trampolining, climbing, swimming, but most of all being outdoors – Rachel Bohannan
- Sensory play.
- Physical activity
- It can be really effective just to recognise the child’s attempts to communicate, however they do it.
- Show the child you value them, this will increase their enjoyment of anything.
Which activities at school currently bring the most joy to the day?
- Students really enjoying time with their friends
- Forest school, learning in the community again etc.
- It’s amazing to be planning things like proms / sports days again
- Dance therapy, music, soft play, forest school, sensory story, rhythm and rhyme
How can we ensure school is a place of joy for all children?
The opportunity to play can bring the most joy, to explore in their own time and space. Often forgotten in this catch-up narrative. In general and particularly in mainstream education that we need to get better at valuing play and increasing play at school. We also need to recognise and celebrate the different ways of playing I.e. autistic children lining up cars. (Susan Griffiths)
I think stepping back and really observing students…how they engage with activities/resources / stimuli….what motivates them….personalisation…1 size fits 1 (Alistair)
Communicating with parents to learn about each child’s strengths, interests and motivators. Being able to incorporate or reference these in activities and daily routines can help children to feel kept in mind and valued – Dr Chris Moore
Listen to them. Be there for them. Create safe boundaries & have fun!
Celebrating every little success, sharing interests and sense of humour, keeping that sense of fun alive
Make everything accessible
What are the highest impact interventions to facilitate enjoyment of education?
Storytelling with props and sensory resources is a really powerful way to engage children in a joyful lesson
By using the child’s interests Yep yep yep! Interests are often the way in and can be shared with peers to encourage friendships and shared experiences
Sensory play, outdoor learning, animal therapy, choice, flexible approaches, intensive interaction, creative activities – Ms Barnsley
Intensive interaction, Sherborne and TacPac
Trusted relationships, consistency, listening, reflection and doing ‘with’ not to, or for. (Elly Chapple)
Accounts, Resources and Ideas to create the school of joy.
Whole School SEND
The SEN resources blog.
My thanks to the SENexchange community without whom there would be no discussion. If you are on twitter look us up! If I have missed your contribution or not credited your input just DM me!